A few years ago, after committing to living healthier, I started doing yoga at home with DVDs. I wasn’t really into it. In fact, I remember describing it as “goofy.” So I gave up my home yoga practice and joined a gym, opting for a weight-lifting class and an occasional trot on the treadmill. After a bout with tendonitis, I wanted to try something different, and decided to give yoga another shot. My gym offered classes that fit my schedule, and despite thinking it was going to be too hard, or “goofy,” I went to my first yoga class and hid in the back corner.
This time, I loved it, and it stuck. I’m not sure what clicked inside of me on this try. Maybe it was the classroom setting, with live people around me. Maybe it was that my mind is more settled now than it was a few years back. Or maybe I was simply tired of lifting heavy weights while being screamed at through a headset mic. Whatever the reason, I started to take the class twice a week, and wish I could go more.
I love that the room is quiet, calm, and peaceful, despite being packed with people. I love the challenges of the movements combined with the focus on the breath. I am grateful as a beginner that poses can be modified, and that yoga is considered a “practice” that continues to develop class by class. In my weight-lifting class, as I pushed the bar my mind was either racing with outside thoughts (“what are we going to make for dinner later”) or whining with internal strife (“oh my god I think I am going to die if I have to lift this bar one more time”). On the treadmill, I did everything I could to distract myself from the way my body felt–watched television, read my Kindle, listened to my iPod. In yoga, I am working on keeping my focus on my body and my breath, connecting my mind to my movement, shutting down outside thoughts. Little by little, the more I learn about yoga–the philosophy as well as the physicality– the more I enjoy it.
Two awesome people alternate teaching the classes: Chaturanga Man and Stretchy Woman. Chaturanga Man is a talker (a “chatty”- ranga man, haha). We hang in forward fold or bend in downward dog while he tells us about prana, and lotus flowers, and our perfectness. He walks through the room, weaving around mats and body parts, touching and adjusting us. He reminds us to breathe and lectures about how important the breath is to the practice and to life in general. Physically, he’s challenging. We sweat and move and salute the sun. We chaturanga like crazy people. (Note: A chaturanga is like a tricep push-up. Your elbows are in close to your sides and you lower yourself to within inches of the mat and hover. Or, if you are like me, you put your knees down and do the best you can.) His class is difficult, but fulfilling, mentally and physically. You always leave feeling good about yourself, newly inspired, and recharged.
Stretchy Woman approaches class a little differently. As her nickname suggests, we do a lot of stretching and twisting and reaching. She does the poses with us, in the front of the room, up on the teachers’ platform where we can see her if we need to. Occasionally she comes down into the class to correct someone, but for the most part, we are on our own. We aren’t moving as much, but we are holding and deepening poses, which is quite a challenge. Stretchy Woman isn’t much of a talker, either. She describes where we should be in a pose, but rarely reminds us to breathe, and doesn’t mention much about the philosophy of yoga. However, the quieter aspect of her class allows us to really focus internally resulting in a meditative, personal experience.
In yoga and in life, it is nice to have people around you who advise you, and challenge you, and push you like C-Man. But it can also benefit to have someone lead by quiet example and let you do your thing, like S-Woman. Sometimes you need people to guide you in the right direction, and other times you need to figure things out on your own. While it is wonderful to be inspired by other people’s words, it’s also fulfilling to come to your own conclusions.
Maybe being a good friend is figuring out whether you need to be a C-Man or an S-Woman. To listen well enough to decide which approach to take. To know when to give tough love, and to recognize when to offer quiet support. Sometimes people want advice, and sometimes they don’t. If we have the words that can help and inspire, it’s nice to share. But if we don’t, we can still help by listening and offering a safe place for them to communicate and disclose.
I love yoga because what I learn in my practice translates to life, in general. I can’t say the same about stomping on the treadmill while watching Cash Cab, or doing bench presses to “Superfreak.” While it’s all fun, and good, and healthy (Cash Cab is pretty great, as is the song “Superfreak”), the meditative aspects of yoga call to me, and instead of dreading going to the gym, I find myself looking forward to my classes.
Just thought I’d share! Thanks for reading- and Namaste!