Tag Archives: Yoga

Not quite how I imagined it.

3 Aug
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What I thought I’d look like. (Clearly NOT me.)

I tried aerial yoga for the first time this week. I’ve been practicing regular yoga for almost 15 years, so I didn’t spare a thought for how challenging aerial yoga might be. It’s especially easy to under-estimate because the prop basically looks like a hammock. I envisioned myself doing a few Cirque du Soleil tricks, then basically taking a 45 minute nap, swaddled in the folds of silk.

Alas. I couldn’t have had it more wrong.

For starters, it’s PAINFUL. With the exception of when you’re in corpse pose (when you actually ARE all cocooned in it), your silk is almost always gathered up so it functions more like a rope than a hammock. And since you’re hanging from it, climbing up it, or twisted in it, that rope feels like a boa constrictor, hungry for its next meal. In fact, the day after my first class, I woke to find a series of purple bruises across my hips and around my shoulders.

Also? If you’re not precise in following instructions, there is a good chance you will end up toppling to the floor, breaking your nose or knocking out your teeth – or at least that’s what I kept imagining. The instructor would take us through these complex maneuvers to ensure we had the silk wrapped around our arms and legs in a way that would lock us in, then tell us to basically let go and topple face-first toward the floor. It felt like bungee jumping with a rig that had been prepped by a carnival worker.

I never quite trusted that I’d gotten the wraps correct, so I’d cautiously lower myself into position, despite the instructor’s admonishments to, “Let go and fly like Peter Pan” or “hang like a bumblebee!” But then, even if I did it correctly, the scarves would be cutting into my legs/arms/hips to such an extent that I’d try to walk myself back up to a place where I wasn’t in pain – but exiting the pose was often more complicated than entering, so you could probably characterize that portion of my effort as “general flailing.”

In fact, that’s probably the best way to summarize my foray into aerial yoga: general flailing. Had it been a Cirque du Soleil performance, they might not have had to issue refunds to the audience, but they may have had to offer counseling after.

So of course I’m going again.

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Well, that was refreshing!

23 Mar

At my yoga studio, they wrap up every practice by spritzing us with lavender mist while we are relaxed in savasana (also known as corpse-pose). It’s one of the small touches that makes the studio feel a bit like spa.

Being environmentally-minded, they also provide a natural apple cider vinegar solution to spray on our mats to clean them after class.

So I suppose it was only a matter of time before a substitute teacher got the spritzers mixed up. The other night, I was lying there peacefully in savasana, waiting for my smell-triggered mental image of Provence’s rolling fields of lavender – when suddenly it smelled more like I was in England surrounded  by newspapers of fish and chips doused in vinegar.

Before I could connect the dots, I heard the hushed whispers of the instructor, apologizing to the first two people she had sprayed. Compared to the gentle mist of the lavender pump, I’d have to imagine it felt like they were blasted in the face with a SuperSoaker.

Fortunately, that harsh wake-up call helped her catch her mistake so the rest of us were spared. And those first two people might not have been relaxed – but they sure smelled clean. Namaste? 

It’s not a logic class, dude.

30 Nov

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I finished Thanksgiving weekend with a yoga nidra workshop. Here’s the conversation Alan and I had when I told him I was going:

“Yoga nidra? What kind of yoga is that?”

“Yogic sleep,” I told him.

“So you just go there and take a nap?”

“Kind of. Except you’re really not supposed to fall asleep. If you do it right, you get super-relaxed but don’t actually fall asleep. But some people do.”

“Hmmm.”

“They even snore sometimes.”

“Hmmm.”

“It allegedly provides the same benefits as eight hours of sleep.”

“Hmmm – wait. How is that even possible?”

“I don’t know.”

“I mean, isn’t the PRIMARY benefit of sleep, rest? So how would 90 minutes of yoga nidra provide you with eight hours of rest? It’s mathematically impossible.”

“It’s not a math class. And besides, I said ‘allegedly.'”

“I’m not buying it.”

“Who cares? It’s very relaxing.”

“Why do they offer it in the evening?”

“So you can relax more.”

“But then how do you go to sleep when you get home?”

“You’re just so relaxed, it’s easy to fall asleep.”

“But you’ve just allegedly gotten the equivalent of EIGHT HOURS OF SLEEP, right? Therefore it stands to reason that it should be hard to fall asleep.”

“Nope.”

“What do you mean, nope? This makes NO SENSE.”

“Namaste.”

“Gah!!!”

 

 

Tidbit: Les Mis + Yoga

22 Mar

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In my 10 years regularly practicing yoga, today was a first: I was kicked in the head by the guy on the mat in front of me as we lifted up into Warrior 3. 

All righty then. Here’s to new experiences!

Tattooed (in 100 point cursive font) on his left leg was a quote from Les Mis:

To love another person is to see the face of God.

Fair.

And now he knows what you see when you kick another person: My Face. Slightly less serene than that of God.

Can’t wait to see what he has tattooed on his right leg in our next class.

There was no Kool Aid to drink.

18 Mar

I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately. It’s one of my new year’s resolutions. Last year, in my quest to swim 50 miles, I got a bit lazy about yoga since I didn’t have a regular studio. And while people claim that swimming is a great whole body exercise, I found that I lost strength and muscle tone that I’d built in yoga. So this year, when it came time to choose between a gym membership (for pool access) or a yoga studio (for, well, yoga), I decided to spend the money on yoga.

I know, some of you are scratching your heads asking why the two are mutually exclusive. Two reasons: time and money. Satisfied?

To help kick off my recommitment to yoga, my friend Betsy and I went on a yoga retreat at Yogaville in February. Yogaville is an ashram on 800 acres of wooded land outside Charlottesville, Virginia. If you google it, you might become a bit worried that it’s possibly a cult. I’ll admit – that was one of my concerns as we headed into a weekend.

It didn’t help that when we arrived, the people greeting us were all wearing white flowy clothes and had names like Chandrani and Vishnu, despite the fact that they looked like they were probably originally baptized as Mary and John. While we had an option to sleep in the “dorm,” we opted for a private room and private bath. The only wall decorations in our room were a photo of the late Swami G, founder of both the ashram and the integral yoga movement in the United States, and the ashram’s symbol, which looked like this:

Yogaville Symbol

Yogaville Symbol

At first, these decorations did little to convince me we weren’t about to become indoctrinated into a cult. But as the weekend went on, I began to realize that if Swami G had been a politician, his platform would have focused on creating peace among all world religions.

Cult concerns aside, the weekend-long immersion was a great way to kick-off my yoga commitment. We rose at 5:30 for a 45 minute meditation led by a monk, then attended a 90 minute Hatha yoga practice followed by breakfast in the communal dining room. A hike to the LOTUS shrine, then lunch. Then a yoga nidra practice before dinner, followed by satsang, which is their Saturday night celebration.

A word about satsang:

Imagine a small auditorium with three musicians on stage, all in flowy white robes. For the next 45 minutes, they will play variations on the same song while singing chants in a call-and-response format. The chants are based on the Hare Krishna mantra, so you revisit your cult fears and wonder if you are surrounded by Hare Krishnas.

Then you wonder what that means and realize your knowledge on this entire subject is a bit vague. Are Hare Krishnas are the bald people who hand out poppies at airports and drive little cars? Or are those Shriners? Are Shriners associated with a circus, or have you made that up? Have you made up the bit about little cars? Are the poppies handed out by people honoring dead soldiers?

As your head begins to explode from all you do not know, you realize that behind you, some of the younger members of the audience (guys in their 20s) who presumably live at Yogaville year-round, have become so moved by the chanting and music that they can’t contain themselves. They are dancing, running and kicking up their heels in a way that seems a bit over the top. You want to be happy for their joy, but instead you think, “These guys just need a beer.”

To help pass the time, you sing along, realizing that you can subtly change the words for your own amusement, which will explain your Sunday night tweet: “Spent the weekend at an ashram. My main take-away is that when chanting Hari Om you can say, ‘Hidey Hole’ instead without people noticing.”

A word about meals:

The cafeteria featured only vegetarian and vegan meals. The volunteers in the kitchen did a good job pulling together meals that provided a good variety – as an example: borscht, sautéed kale, lentils, vegetable curry, fresh fruit and a salad bar. However, we quickly learned that if you don’t arrive right at the start of the meal, odds were good that the best items would be heavily picked over.

When I say “best items” I’m actually talking about potatoes. Rosemary potatoes for breakfast and cinnamon sweet potatoes for lunch? All cleaned out by the time we arrived. And that’s when I knew beyond a doubt that I couldn’t live communally. I’m fine honoring the quiet hours from 10pm to 8am. I’ll even chant with you on Saturday nights. And I won’t whine about giving up meat or wine. But taunt me with something I’m actually excited to eat – and demolish it before I get a portion? We are done.

funny Hare Krishna

Sunday we wrapped up with another Hatha practice before hitting the road and returning to DC. It was a nice escape from the city, but I won’t be packing my bags and changing my name to Ganesh any time soon.