My first yoga workshop
Any day now I’m going to cry in yoga. I’ve been having this thing happen to me where I’m holding a position and I’m sure I just cannot do it anymore and I have that emotional release that happens when you cry only I don’t cry. I stay in the pose, and it is amazing. Today I had that same feeling but only because I kept falling out of poses that I know I can do and it was so frustrating.
Last week, I had a class that was really frustrating. I didn’t seem to have my balance. Poses that I had felt strong and successful doing in the class before were a struggle. I was annoyed with myself. I already mastered this! Why do I have to deal with this again? Lying there on my mat in shavasana in between poses it occurred to me that this is life–having the same struggle over again even though you mastered it before.
I go to yoga for the workout, not the philosophy or the life lessons. I tend to avoid studios that make a big deal about the philosophy or life lessons. And yet they seem unavoidable. I realize how much fear of falling out of a pose prevents me from moving deeper into it, so I push through the fear and move deeper. Sometimes I fall out, but I got further. One day, I pictured success in the poses I find difficult before the practice began and I actually was better able to do the pose. I felt more like the pose was working me than I was working it.
Yesterday I went to my first yoga workshop — a two and a half hour bikram class in a hot studio led by John Salvatore. It was structured like a 90-minute class where each pose is done twice with John giving pointers in between the first and second time for each pose. The one thing that I walked away realizing is that in bikram, every single pose is held by the whole body working every muscle at once. Like plank. I did a 31-day plank challenge a couple years ago, in September 2015. The thing I learned was that plank is a whole body workout. Every asana in bikram is the same way.
Today I went to a ninety-minute class. After yesterday’s class, I thought I was set. Ready to go into each pose better than I ever had before. But I really didn’t want to stay in the room. I had to fight to commit to each pose. But after yesterday, I was working harder in each pose, because I knew that each pose was like plank, a whole body workout. Unlike in vinyasa, there is no stretch and relax pose — ok, the very last pose is a stretching pose, but still not even really a relaxing pose. Vinyasa moves through quickly, but also stops and let’s you stretch and relax muscles. That’s not happening in bikram.
A friend told me yesterday that when she read my first yoga post of this year she couldn’t tell if I loved it or hated it. I’m torn. I feel stronger. I am learning things. Every single pose involves elements I could work to do better. I like this challenge. I also like that yoga resists the notion that you work on yourself in order to be a better investment for the market. In a world of instrumental thinking, I like when teachers remind us at the end of class to honor ourselves and our commitment to doing something just for ourselves.
But it’s really hard. Almost makes you cry kind of hard. I do not mean that figuratively. I’m pretty much certain the next class is going to be the one where there are tears. At this point, I’m certain of that before each class. Also, I know that bikram yoga is trying to get you out of your head by forcing you to think about a million little adjustments. I appreciate that. My most recurring thought in class is, when will this be over? Salvatore repeated the line that when you want to leave that’s when the yoga begins. Like I said before, the yoga begins pretty early in for me. But sometimes I really don’t want to think about anything. When I run, I let my mind go. It is the one thing I do where I actively cultivate allowing thoughts to just occur to me. I don’t really try to think through something. Ideas come and go. I need that kind of activity in my life. I think I experience running as more meditative than yoga. But then I started to wonder just this week if competitive runners are thinking about their running throughout their run the way that I have to think about yoga throughout a bikram class. Then I thought, is it possible for there to be things in life that we just do to do and not to get better doing? What would yoga look like if I wasn’t trying to get better? That’s probably where the practice really starts.
Photograph thanks to Max Pixel.