Tag Archives: Yoga

The next time you feel like judging: A cautionary tale

15 Dec
This is what #winning should look like in yoga - if at all.

This is what #winning should look like in yoga – if at all.

The other night I went to yoga. I know it’s not supposed to be a competitive sport – it’s all about you and your edge. In fact, most teachers encourage you to make modifications so the practice is your own. That said, for a Type A person, it’s hard to not look around the room and judge assess people.

As shameful as it is to admit, my thoughts are often along the lines of:

  • Bet I’m stronger than her.
  • Wow – bold move wearing those shorts!
  • Eww – no pedicure? Hope that’s not a communal mat!

Tacky, I know, and I’m constantly working to turn off the judgmental voice in my head.

The other night was a good reminder. I was one of the last people to show up, so I tucked my mat between two women who were stretching before class. I began stretching as well, and in doing so, noticed that the woman to my right had an incredibly hairy shin. Hairy enough that I did a double-take on her face to make sure she wasn’t a man.

Indeed, it was a woman.

Once I confirmed that, I thought, “Well, it *is* Movember. Maybe she’s not shaving as part of the whole prostate cancer solidarity thing.” (If you’re not familiar, that IS a real thing. Check out this link.)

And to be fair, I’m lazy so my legs are lucky if they see a razor more than once a week. Even so – let’s note that I felt totally fine judging a stranger for her leg hair. (I am really a horrible person.)

So class starts. We do our sun salutations, our downward dogs, our vinyasas.

And from the corner of my eye, I’m watching my mat-mates, confirming that I’m executing the moves better than they are in some way. Building myself up because I’m the best in my row. Because yoga is a competitive sport, as it turns out.

About half-way through class, our instructor shifts gears and we go into balancing poses. “Tree,” she announces, and everyone shifts on to one leg, lifting the other to demonstrate balance.

The hairy-legged woman to my right drops to the mat and relaxes in child’s pose, not even attempting tree. Feeling victorious, I balance and extend my arms. Then – doing what I’m not supposed to do – I shift my eyes away from their “fixed point.” This move is guaranteed to make me wipe out. But I can’t help it, because I’ve just noticed something as my mat-mate shifts from child’s pose into her own version of tree: she has one leg.

Yes. I’ve spent half the class competing (in my own mind) with a woman whom I’ve judged for not shaving – and now I’m realizing that she is missing part of her leg and has a prosthesis lying on the floor next to her.

Image Source: http://images.elephantjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Screen-shot-2010-12-14-at-10.42.34-PM-500x346.png

OUCH. I’m such a dumbass.

While it was fresh in my mind, I was quick to write down a few lessons:

  • Careful how you define “winning.”
  • Question your motivation to compete in the first place.
  • Ask yourself if you’re putting others down to boost yourself up.

Oh. And never forget the old adage that you can’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. Or on her prosthesis. And also? She was clearly better at yoga than I was. 

Giving thanks for humility this year. Thanks, universe, for reminding me we’re all One.

 

 

I blame the lateness of this post on the time change.

21 Nov

Daylight Saving Time baby meme

Unlike most people I know, I get excited on both ends of Daylight Saving Time. In the fall, I gain an extra hour of sleep and the mornings are brighter to wake up to. In the spring, I lose an hour, but it means than I have an extra hour of sun to prance around in on my way home from work. Overall, I’m not complaining.

But not everyone is onboard with the plan.

As an example, a few weeks ago I went to yoga over in Georgetown the Sunday morning following the clock roll-back. My instructor usually teaches yoga at 10 and pilates at 11:15. I showed up at 9:57 and the classroom was empty, except for my instructor’s mat at the front of the class. I settled in, kind of glad that she took her sweet time to show up.

Another student arrived and rolled out her mat. “Weird that the instructor isn’t here yet, right?” she asked.

I nodded. Usually, the instructor was a bit regimented in the whole thing. “At least her mat is here…”

About 10:10 she finally strolled in, and told us she’d been hanging out in the sauna. “So nice on such a cold day,” she said. There was no urgency indicating that she was 10 minutes late to class. In fact, she sat on her mat at the front of the class and began chatting about Halloween and asking if we’d dressed up.

It was weird, but I was also feeling lazy, so I didn’t mind that she was burning up some minutes that would normally be sweaty. Finally she said, “Well, looks like it’s going to be just us, so let’s go ahead and get started.”

We started. The initial sequence was a bit different than usual. Instead of downward dogs, we were doing 100’s. (If you’re not familiar, a 100 is where you’re basically doing a sit-up/crunchie and waving your hands to a count of 100. It’s a classic pilates move.) As the minutes continued to tick by, I kept wondering when we were going to transition to the aerobic part of the class and stop doing core work.

Quick meme - Batman & Robin - Pilates vs. yogaThen it hit me – she was still running on old time. She’d probably shown up for yoga at 9am (thinking it was 10) and thought that she had no students. So she went to the sauna and chilled – until it was closing in on pilates time. Having formed that hypothesis, I was curious to see if the rest of the class would support it.

Also? Pilates is a pretty intense workout if you’re not used to it. The other student in the class was an older woman who I’m pretty sure had never done pilates in her life. She kept shooting me glances that were more like questions. I suppose I could’ve interrupted the instructor and clued her in that we were there for yoga, not pilates, but it was sort of like a game of chicken. I wanted to see if the other woman would cry uncle.

As it turns out: no. So there we were, the first day of standard time. One extra hour of sleep under our belts – and an hour of pilates. Not the worst pay to enter hibernation if you ask me.

Some ecards - pilates

Yogis who look like bodybuilders are not to be trusted.

29 Apr

Based on the number of posts I’ve written about yoga, you might think I fancy myself a real yogi. I don’t. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost ten years, but my body is still stubbornly inflexible. It’s odd since gymnastics then diving carried me through my school years. There’s no trace of that body left.

Last night I found myself lying on my back, eyes covered, relaxing before a packed Flow class at my gym. The door was thrown open so forcefully that my eyes flew open, just in time to see a guy who looked like Tony Danza smiling broadly at everyone. “I am ok,” he began, in what I assume was a Spanish accent. “Last week I popped my tibia out of joint during class. But I was able to pop it back in and I am fine now.”

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Everyone tittered. Except me. I was thinking, “Wait. What? Exactly what happened in class last week that you dislocated your leg? And are we going to do it again this week? Because that’s not what I signed up for…”

Yup. That should’ve been a clue for the level of workout I’d inadvertently signed up for. It was a punishing hour-long practice with lots of chair-pose, push-ups and side planks.

When we finally collapsed into corpse pose with our eyes closed at the end of class, the guy on the mat next to me wasted no time dozing off. His snores were straight out of a cartoon.

As a result, instead of relaxing, I spent my final five minutes lying there, eyeing the guy next to me, wondering how the hell he could fall asleep so quickly. I mean, seriously – the guy snored as soon as we were instructed to close our eyes. Who does that?

I may not have achieved the zen-like state that typically comes with an hour of yoga, but – on the other hand – I also didn’t pop my tibia. All told, I’m considering it a win.

 

 

 

Trend-setter. That’s one word for me.

17 Feb

What’s the word for athletic pants where there’s essentially a pantyliner sewn into the crotch so you can wear them without underwear? You know what I’m talking about, right?

Well, whoever invented those should be shot.

I was half-way through yoga yesterday, doubled-over in a forward fold, when I noticed that the seams on my pants looked odd. “Hmmm…” I wondered, “Did I put my pants on inside-out?”

Normally that’s not cause for alarm because I have three pairs of reversible yoga pants. Unfortunately, it turns out this was a different pair, which I confirmed with a quick reach to feel for a tag. I had not only one but two large tags flapping on my butt, announcing “M” for anyone who wanted to check my size.

I sighed and continued my vinyasa, thinking, “Meh – not a big deal.”

It was about ten minutes later, when our instructor told us to put our feet on the outer edge of the mat, then slowly lower into a yogic squat, that I saw the problem. I was in the front row, facing a mirror, and there – winking back at me – was a bright white triangle of cloth between my legs. I quickly lowered my hands from prayer position so I looked more like a catcher to block the cotton blaze from view.

Of course, I also started quietly snickering, finding the situation awkward but also hilarious. It only got worse when the instructor asked us to sit on our mats, extend our feet in the air in front of us, grab the bottom of each foot and open into a seated “V.”

This is what we were supposed to look like:

Image Source: http://www.betterhealthliving.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/boat-pose-yoga.jpg

Which Alan says is comical regardless of your pants.

At this point, I just muttered a, “Oh hell no…” and flopped back on my mat, silently laughing as I watched everyone else go spread-eagle.

While convulsing, I decided that before I wear those pants again, I am going to take a Sharpie and either draw a big smiley face or write “Namaste” in the center of that real estate. That way, I figure at least it would look like I’d deliberately worn them reversed if it happens again – right?

Actually, I think that’s such a great idea that I’m encouraging everyone to go to their drawers and search out any pants with a while cotton liner, and draw a smiley face on them. Because you never know. And trust me – there will be a day when you thank me. Even if it’s just when you crack yourself up every time you tug your pants down to go to the bathroom.

Image Source: http://jezebel.com/5799608/are-you-wearing-pants-this-chart-will-help-you-answer-that-question

So this is what the 70’s were like…

11 Dec

Image Source: www.someecards.com

I must be a sucker because I’ve continued to explore the class schedule at my new gym. I even went back for a second BodyPump class – once I could walk again.

My biggest adventure from this past week was walking into what I thought was a regular yoga class. I set up my mat and began stretching, anticipating a mildly sweaty, aerobic workout. Then the teacher arrived and – after surveying the room – said, “Is anyone here not familiar with Kundalini?” She was looking at me.

Two of us raised our hands. “Well,” she continued, “If you came expecting a vinyasa class (meaning a lot of a movement and flow) then you need to reset your expectations.”

She wouldn’t define it beyond that. I asked, “If it’s not a vinyasa class, what can we expect?” She looked around and got  a smug smile, then said, “Oh, we call it yoga for stoners.”

Meaning what? I can just lie down on my mat and you’ll bring me brownies?

I soon found out. Here’s the nutshell: Kundalini yoga is all about cultivating energy and awareness, and you do that by breathing “fire breath” while executing various poses for four minutes each. Hint: Fire breath is just code for hyperventilating.

After our second four-minute pose – during which we were curled up in crunches hissing out fire breath – I got a charley horse in my esophagus. I’m not even sure how that’s possible, but it suddenly felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I looked around, mildly panicked, to see if other people were experiencing the same thing. Apparently not – they all were smiling tranquilly.

I will say: when your breathing muscles seize up, you certainly cultivate a new level of awareness. Fortunately, the charley horse passed fairly quickly, so I was able to hop back in for the next poses.

Things were going along smoothly until I realized that my leg was falling asleep. Almost everything is done seated, so it seemed somewhat natural that I’d lost circulation. Since everyone had their eyes shut and was hissing loudly, I straightened out my legs to provide a bit of relief. BIG MISTAKE.

I’m not sure what a pinched nerve feels like, but that’s my best guess of what happened in my leg, because as soon as I straightened it, I had shooting pain up the side, from my ankle to my hip, unlike anything I’d felt before. I began writhing around on my mat, trying everything I could think of to loosen my leg and provide some relief.

My reaction must have been normal for a newbie, because the instructor didn’t skip a beat, despite the fact that I was essentially break-dancing on my mat.

Eventually – two four-minute poses later – I was able to get things under control and rejoin in time for the final few moves.

At some point during the class, it occurred to me that this might be what non-yogis think all yoga actually is. Which made me imagine taking my mom to a Kundalini class, simply to watch her reaction. My mom doesn’t go in for anything remotely “new agey,” so I could picture her looking around the room, sizing up the situation, then declaring, “Well this is just bullshit,” and leaving.

That thought gave me the giggles, which was unfortunate, because apparently it’s traditional to close the class with a song. I was teetering on the edge of laughter, when a more Chipmunky-version of this song started play and everyone sang along:

By the end of class, I had a serious case of giggles and tears streaked my face.

I assume that’s why they call it yoga for stoners?