“Doing anything with attention to how you feel is doing yoga.”
– Jean Couch
To all readers who clicked to read more after scanning the opening quote. Yes, I’m going to be that guy. About to mansplain some yoga (while tongue firmly planted in cheek). If you haven’t cringed from the humor and audacity that a heavyweight can offer an opinion beyond strength training or hitting things, I applaud you.
My simple claim is yoga is more than the Lulu-lemon sponsored hour of stretching, capped off by a nap. Well, it does have those elements, but I can now admit after a year of what you can call dedicated practice. Yoga has proven to be an effective method to practice meditation and to combat my lifestyle choice of working through lunch everyday.
I am essentially parroting the same thing most type-As claim after their first “chaturanga”, however that doesn’t make it any less true. With that I will disclose my greatest benefit from adopting a regular yoga practice instead of doubling down on Olympic lifts has been gaining the ability to challenge what goes on in our own minds.
This week began with me recovering from the toughest yoga class I’ve ever been to. I am still convinced that it was held in a hyperbolic time chamber, disguised as a studio. Arriving for a fabled Saturday class that I’ve put off for a long time the easiest part of that class was unrolling my mat. That too was difficult once I stepped in I became intensely aware the AC was off and half a dozen large windows lining the room, welcomed the Florida sun. In that instant, maybe it was the sticky thick air of the room, but the urge to escape the room welled up inside me. Only being able to gulp down my fear of things to come I proceeded to roll out my mat. I was betraying my instincts! The source irrational thing I’ve trusted that’s kept me safe my entire life. But, today it was time for ‘power’ yoga and greet this feeling of different and not run away.
The class was different, to put it simply, my mind and body had to quickly adjust to the pace the instructor; as she had a cadence and emotional tone I would describe as religiously empowered, I mean ‘WooWoo’. Teaching yoga or performing the role of yogi was was obviously important to the instructor and I believed it was to the class as well, so why rock their boat if self mastery was one of my sub objectives for sticking with yoga for as long as I have? Because my instincts had scored a half court 3-pointer when I walked in.
As a life long athlete summer heat is manageable; capriciously long positions/holds are tolerable; but apparently when the phrases “surrender” and “center your heart/mind” are used when my rationale mind is hanging on to understand every bio-mechanical benefit and use of this class, that is my flash point. My instincts drew a new picture for me. And it is this one moment that made all worth it. helped me paint a new picture: I was terrified of getting injured; either because my joints and muscles weren’t ready for a class like this or the instructor genuinely lacked empathy and respect for the individual (two people leaving before the half way point of the session of the heat/frustration).
Come on brain why would you think such a mean thing as that? An instructor put a lot of care in to performing expertly do positions with esoteric jargon, issuing verbal cues to push for advanced poses than demoing an adequate regression, “The temperature feels fine to me.” the reply to a red in the face student.
Either my months of previous yoga has been homogenized by corporate overlords and the mantra of play it safe, or I’ve gotten myself into enmeshed with an instructor I didn’t want, but could make the best of it.
Each time I perceived a micro-aggression: breath through it (towels were handed out to everyone but me). Hearing the request to surrender into a pose, don’t cringe. Ask myself at what pace can I do each movement, instead of just copying the pace of the manic pixie in the front of the room.
Is this the secret to yoga? Quieting the monkey mind and all that jazz? Because it has a lot to offer a hyperactive person that traditional meditation can’t do as effectively.