Tuesday, October 22, 2013

7 Lessons After 7 Yoga Classes

I started a yoga journey on October 2, 2013.  It seemed that for many months I had been searching for some way to help myself feel better mentally and emotionally.  What I was doing wasn't working and every time I turned around, someone or something was whispering (or hollering) YOGA!  Finally, I found myself walking in the door of a local yoga studio, having paid for a month's unlimited class membership.  I was terrified and excited. Intimidated and proud.

It was beginners class - beginners HOT yoga.  I do not like heat.  I have not enjoyed the minimal experience I'd had with yoga to date.  I was (and still am) terrifically out of shape.  But I introduced myself to the owner/instructor, 'fessed up to my beginner status (like that wasn't going to be obvious in the first five minutes), and did what I have been dreaming of doing without even knowing what I was dreaming of - turned inside myself, surrendered my head and my body to the process, and let my focus remain on what was happening on my mat for that hour.  And the heat was glorious.

First lesson - I have been longing to do something just for myself, that honors my physical self in this moment, as the miraculous gift it is.  I want to say "lesson learned" but this is very much a work in progress - remaining grateful for my body as it is right this minute.

I did four beginner's classes to start.  I learned that some days things are really hard or even impossible and another day they might not be so hard.  I learned that I can fall out of a pose and shake it out and try to go right back into it.  I learned that I can go through an entire class and really have no idea who else is in the room with me.  And there I am in my yoga capris and tank top (it is just too hot for anything else), just being.  Beautiful lesson two.

Next was the regular class - at 5:15 a.m. class.  If I hope to make this a regular part of my life, it has to stay out of the way of my time with my kids, so I learned that if I go at 5:15 a.m., I am home just after the kids' alarm clock goes off for school and can jump right into the morning routine.  And I did OK with the regular, non-beginner class too - so a success all the way around.

Then, since I had a few days off, I decided to try some other class offerings.  The first was High Intensity Interval Training yoga.  Oh my hannah.  I have a nagging tendinitis in my Achilles tendon which flared up on about jumping jack number 5 and had me hobbling for 2 days afterward.  And many of the interval activities were way beyond my strength level, so I was modifying as we went along and felt very unparticipatory.  But my heart rate was up and I was working hard, so that was when lesson three lasered into focus - it is not a competition, with yourself or anyone else, it is about doing your best and honoring your strength, however it manifests itself on a given day.

Lesson four - when you are aching and tired and sore, don't let yourself skip yoga.  It will make you feel better.  That was the 5:15a class the morning after HIIT.

Candlelight flow yoga was Sunday night.  I so wanted to find a peaceful end to the weekend/start to the new week.  This was the largest class I've attended and with the extra bodies, including a couple men for the first time, I had the experience of trying to do a downward facing dog (I'm tall, so have to have my hands and face close to the end of my mat on one end, in order for my feet to have all the way to the other end of the mat) with the feet of my neighbor passing in front of my face.  Disconcerting.  Didn't help that she was a bit of a "flailer".  And I know that the proper breathing means bringing "texture and sound" to our exhales, but the grunting and groaning of one of the men was becoming very annoying.  And then lesson five came to me - remember back to lesson one about focusing on myself and what is happening on my own mat?  Yeah, lesson five was that I have to free myself of being impacted by what is happening on other mats in the room and not letting that create friction for me. 

This morning I went back for 5:15a class.  I was tired and stiff and have a twinge in my back and a sore knee.  Physically, class didn't go well for me at all.  I couldn't hold much of any pose.  But I kept at it and got through it and glad that I was there.  Lesson six - loving myself and honoring myself, even when I am imperfect and life doesn't go the way I want it to.  I also gave myself a pat on the back for even showing up when I am so achey and tired, and to keep at it even when it is hard.  And the heat was lovely.

It is becoming apparent to me (here's lesson seven) that the old mantra of learning of love yourself is one of those phrases that is so easy to say and even claim, but not so easy to actually practice and own.  But I'm doing it.  My "intentions" for yoga include concepts like: I am not invisible.  I am valuable.  I am a miracle.  I am grateful for the person I am, right here and right now.