28 March, 2013

Yay, Yoga!

Hey, Readers!

As usual, there seem to be several topics I'd like to blog about now... Maybe I really should start trying this "scheduled posts" thing. I haven't covered all the subjects I told you back in February I wanted to get to (measuring progress, sex magick, magick and mental state, prejudice reduction, and more), and as I go on living, more and more important topics come up. But this time, I'm going to talk about a very recent topic.

Sneak peek! Still from a video I'll be uploading on
cutewitch772 in a couple days!

Last night, I went to my very first Yoga class. My experience with Yoga the past several years has been learning poses completely on my own (I recently learned that something I used to do in elementary school is actually Eagle Pose!), or being taught certain stretches in theatre or dance classes, but not being taught them AS Yoga, in a Yoga setting. So while I have done Yoga in theatre and dance, I'd never taken a class specifically in Yoga.

The studio is literally a minute from my Grams' house, where I live now. The sign by the road says "Opening April 7" so I didn't worry about it, but I finally checked out their website on Tuesday night and found out the sign is from a previous year, and they've been having classes all this time! So I looked at the descriptions, decided that I'm at an appropriate level for the "Beyond Basics" class (I already have knowledge of basic poses and sun salutations but probably am not ready for full Vinyasa), and went to the class last night. The first class is free, and new students get a discount on the next three classes, so I paid nothing last night and learned a lot.

There were only three of us in the class, plus the teacher, who is probably not much older than me herself. She was very helpful, and the small class size is perfect for one-on-one attention. I told the teacher when I arrived that I've mostly been teaching myself Yoga for years, so I think I'm at what they consider an intermediate level, but I really want to find out where I am since this is my first formal practice. She was so helpful! When doing certain poses, I was able to ask her if I was doing the pose correctly, since I usually either have to feel it myself or check my reflection. So it was great to get instant feedback--"Great form!" "Lift up a little more here," "Good adjustment," "Can you straighten that knee? Good!" There is a LOT to remember within one pose, and if you concentrate on fixing one thing, you may forget something else you had gotten right before.

The biggest difference for me in this class was that in theatre and dance, we're taught to do certain stretches and if you can't do them, you reach toward it and hopefully your body will work up to it through continued practice. So for certain things, I would do a stretch or pose as I best could but hold back certain things because I knew I couldn't stretch that far yet (I'm very out of practice...). However, in Yoga, the emphasis appears to be more on having the right body position right now, whatever way you have to get there, rather than just stretching gradually and building up to it. I had never used any props before, because I'm used to just working my own body and that's all. But in class, the teacher was quick to place blankets, bolsters, blocks, or anything we needed in order to help us reach the right pose.

Seated on floor.
Seated on rolled up towel for support.
In the above pictures, my straddle width is only improved a small amount by sitting up on a prop, but my back alignment is changed a lot. It's hard to see in two pictures, but if you could toggle back and forth between the two photos, as I can in my Pictures file, you would be able to see that sitting up on the towel does help my back remain straighter. I never even knew I had a problem with that, because the back is not the focus of this stretch in theatre or dance, so no one pointed it out.
It was unusual for me to use props to help a pose, instead of just making myself DO it. But I can see why it's more beneficial to have the correct body alignment while practicing and still work up to maybe doing it on your own, as opposed to practicing with the wrong alignment and possibly not getting the same benefit. Even the teacher sat on a bolster for many poses. The students are all at different levels of practice, have individual strengths and weaknesses, injuries and health problems that prevent certain things, and yet they can all share the same, very small classroom. Yoga doesn't require you to be flexible immediately, nor to be strong or perfectly balanced or spiritually developed. Yoga is a practice just like so many of the things we do. Anyone can start, everyone can benefit, and things develop over time. I made a few personal improvements in just one 1.5 hour practice. All it takes is determination, willingness to learn, positive attitude, and a suitable environment to support your own progress. The extra set of eyes from a trained teacher helps, too. I learned poses on my own and will always practice at home, but there are little things a teacher can really help with. Someday I'd like to teach one or all of the practices I personally do, because I want to help other people the way that great teachers have helped me.

Om. Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. (Brings back memories of being in HAIR.)


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