“Just being low down in a room tends to clear the mind. maybe it’s because being on the floor is so foreign to us that it breaks up our habitual neurological patterning and invites us to enter into this moment through a sudden opening in what we might call the body door.”
–Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are
My New Project: To attend 100 classes of yoga and write about them. For now, I’ve started where I am, at the classes at my gym, which are many and already paid for. I plan to branch out. I have many friends who practice at smaller studios. I want to see where word of mouth might send me. At first, I thought the 100 classes should be over 100 consecutive days, but it’s thinking like that that has killed a number of other “brilliant” projects I’ve dreamed up, so I’m being more laid back about the WHEN of the 100 classes. Although, early insight is…the more you practice, the bigger the revelations.
My Starting Point: Even trying to identify a starting point would probably make a good Buddhist laugh (calling someone a “good Buddhist” would certainly make a good or bad Buddhist laugh), but I’ll try anyway. Because my yoga class attending has been very spotty, I would call myself a beginner…a little grasshopper. In my life, I’ve probably taken fewer than fifty classes. However, that means I know some things about it AND I’m somewhat flexible.
My Reason: Mostly, I’m curious. What will happen to me and my body and my life if I were to really focus and develop a yoga practice? While my tendency to dabble has given me a breadth of experience in many activities and lotsa props, my refusal to go deep into any one of them is what’s keeping my golf score over 100 and my awkwardness in yoga alive.
Why Yoga? (1) Yoga instructors say the darndest things. I’m trying to record these things as I complete the classes. I’ve already let some really golden quotes escape me, so for classes 11 and on, I’m going to keep a little notebook with my shoes in my cubby so I can write down quotes after class. (2) Yoga instructors touch you. I like these adjustments to my shoulders or hips or spine or head, etc. I feel like I’m actually being taught.
Below I’ve listed the official titles of the types of yoga classes I’ve taken, the day and time of day, a great quote when appropriate, and a couple observations after each class.
1. Multi-level (Saturday am) “Find the availability in your elbow.”
Like that. See, no one is going to tell you at the doctor’s office to look for such availability, availability that I don’t see highlighted on my Google calendar. My elbow is available at 4 today if anyone is interested.
2. Hatha Flow (Monday lunch) “Chicken with your breath.”
She actually said, “Check in with your breath.” I don’t know if it was because I was going to yoga instead of eating lunch or because I wasn’t totally paying attention.
3. Vinyasa (Wednesday pm) Yoga beside a friend.
Yoga at the end of the day…really relaxing. Tough class — sweating like crazy. Feel challenged (usually means I fall over) in many of the poses. I put my mat beside a friend. We grunted and giggled.
4. Multi-level (Thursday pm) It’s Good to Be Reminded
My shoulders keep squishing up near my ears. My legs are obviously desperately in need of stretching. The teacher reminds us. At the end, she sprays us with a little lavender water when we are resting in Savasana.
5. Ashtanga Yoga (Monday am) “So maybe we soften the heart.”
The teacher says that Ashtanga is a challenging form of yoga and that it attracts driven people. Then she says, “So maybe we soften the heart.” On a Monday morning, with a quick image of my long legal pad list, and a constant eye on the advanced yoga student beside me, I hear her.
6. Multi-level (Saturday am) “Didn’t you have triplets?”
Ran into a woman who knew me from my old job. She confused me with another woman who had triplets. No, it wasn’t me. This woman is devoted to this teacher, though. It is my third class with her in two weeks, and I’m starting to see why.
7. Multi-level (Saturday am) Coercing friends into yoga.
A friend was headed for the elliptical machine and I talked her out of her cardio plan and into my yoga class. When I heard her tell the teacher that she had injured Achilles tendons, I was worried and felt guilty. She had to take it easy with all the downward facing dogs.
8. Yin (Monday pm) “This is juicier.”
In this class, you use more props (we used both blocks, the bolster, a blanket and the strap) and you hold the poses longer. People grunted much more and when demonstrating different variations, the teacher would point out the “juicier ones”. One person snoring. One fart. Yes, I keep track of such things. Yes, there is yang yoga.
9. Multi-level (Saturday am) The Substitute
The beloved Saturday morning teacher was absent. The sub started with an apology and hoped that we might find something in her teaching that morning that would work for us. That was awfully humble and polite. I used to sub in the city schools and I never started a class on such a sweet (bare)foot.
10. Multi-level (Monday am) “Woe is me Monday.”
This morning we were doing a seated forward bend, and the teacher said, “You can look back at your navel.” I did. I saw my belly. I saw my fat rolls. Then she said, “You can feel sorry for yourself right now if you want to. Woe is me Monday.” I wondered how she knew what I was up to.
So, I’m a tenth of the way into my project. I’m glad I ran into a friend who keeps asking me about it, which is sometimes the only reason I keep going to class. This weekend I checked out two books from the library. I want to do some of the poses on my own, at night before bed. I want to read these Sanskrit words I keep hearing. I want to study this a little.
Note: All of the above classes were offered at ACAC (Downtown location) in Charlottesville, Virginia.