But, in the spirit of seeking balance – both literally and figuratively – I gave in and tried it. For the last few Sundays, I’ve gone to a yoga class at the Y. It’s an hour and a half long, and I guess I can’t say I’m a newbie any more, but I definitely don’t feel like I know what I’m doing.
Fortunately, the instructor does the same routine each time, so I’m starting to get the hang of it. Or, at the very least, I can follow his cues a bit better. That was one of the hardest parts, on the first week: just following instructions when you can’t see the instructor. I’m used to following the leader in all the other group classes. Sometimes, I follow the person next to me (hoping I didn’t pick the dumb kid to cheat off of). But the thing I’ve found with yoga is that the smallest change in movement matters, that you have to be super aware of all parts of your body, so you can’t just do what your neighbour is doing and call it yoga. You have to pay attention.
In my first class, the paying attention was the hard part. Oh, you meant MY left foot. Right. Okay. That makes a difference in the whole pose. Face the window? Which window? How do I know what I’m doing if I’m staring at a ceiling tile while you’re lying on the floor an entire room length away and I can’t see you? Holy crap, you want me to put my hand WHERE and hold that position for HOW long? Synchronized breathing, in on the way up, out on the way down, and wheeee now I’m dizzy and ready to pass out. In then out. Steady as she goes. Gee, this is a lot of work for something that looked like it was slow and relaxing.
Speaking of relaxing, at the end of each class we spend about 10-15 minutes in savasana.
I had to Google that to get it right, because to me it’s “lying very still on a mat.” Oh, wait. It’s also called the corpse pose. Well, it all makes much more sense, now. It’s the adult version of playing Graveyard. First one to move is out.
The first week, I thought it was nuts. I got cold. All I could think about when the instructor told us to pull the ball of light through our bodies and release the tension from our inner organs was “don’tlaughdon’tlaughdon’tlaugh.”It seemed … ridiculous. How do I relax my liver? Come on.
The second week, as I lay there and at least tried to relax each body part as he named it, all I could think was “don’tfartdon’tfartdon’tfart.” I didn’t. But I also didn’t relax.
The next week I really did relax, and I might have thought “don’tsnoredon’tsnoredon’tsnore”except I’m pretty sure that I was half asleep and once or twice I did. Snore, that is.
This past week I think I finally got it. I gave in, stopped fighting feeling foolish, and pictured the darn ball of light going
through each part of my body. I can’t say that I was able to consciously relax and release the tension from each part. I just … pictured it. In my head, I was performing an exorcism as I went: “Tension! Be Gone! I banish you.” I’ve heard that cancer patients use this technique, this visualization method, to find ways of mentally targeting their cancer. Like an x-wing fighter jet flying through the veins, blasting away cancer cells, I pictured a little tension monster being chased out of each body part by a ball of light. Toes, ankles, calves, knee. Some things are easy to focus on relaxing, when they have muscles obviously attached. Arms, thighs, neck, shoulders. Those, I can FEEL. I can’t distinguish my kidney from my spleen, let alone control the tension built up in them.
But, you know what? It was the first time all week that I wasn’t clenching my jaw. Something worked.
I like this. I like feeling all relaxy-like, even if it doesn’t last past Sunday night. I wonder if visualization would work as well on fat? “Burn, you fat cells!” as I slowly roast them on a stick over a fire like marshmallows for S’mores. No? Okay. Not giving up cardio and strength training just yet. I’ll be including yoga into the weekly routine on a more regular basis, though.
Because the thing I didn’t understand until I did it was that yoga is not just about stretching and flexibility. It takes strength, it works your muscles (at least, I’m more sore today than I am after squats and deadlifts), and it requires balance and concentration. I love lifting heavy things. I like slamming and punching and wailing on stuff. That’s like therapy for me; it’s a form of spirituality, too. But Yoga requires mindfulness. It takes strength to slow down.
I finally figured out just how important to health, fitness, and weight loss it is to slow down and be still.
Now the hard part will be to keep up the practice. And to not laugh, on occasion.
Leonard: "How'd she get you to do yoga?"
Sheldon: "I thought she said Yoda."