Over the past several weeks, ever since I started making a conscious effort to go further and deeper into my yoga practice-on and off the mat-I have noticed what seems to me is a very weird and very uncomfortable trend. People talk about yoga for the workout. Full stop.
Oh, they also mention that it’s ‘super relaxing’ and they ‘feel so good afterwards’ which is awesome. I think if people can use that hour to destress, that’s a great thing to savor. But when people only go to hot yoga classes and then when they end up disappointed that said class didn’t kick their ass the way they wanted or desired it to be kicked, that just makes me sad. Because I really like All-Levels classes and Beginners classes. Sometimes I like them even better than the Power ones in the heat. I know, BLASPHEMY, right?!
I’ve had two revelatory moments this week in yoga and both times they were in a somewhat ‘easier’ class. I do not say this lightly because honestly one class I took was an All-Levels but it would qualify as a light Power class anywhere else, and the other class I took was a Power but it wasn’t the kind of heavy flowing, crazy vinyasa, ‘I am so tired I just want to die’ class that I pushed myself through last year. That wasn’t what was going on at all. That’s the point.
On Monday I wanted to attend Toby’s hot Baptiste style Power yoga class at Samadhi but it was a 6PM practice time and I needed most of the evening to be spent towards working on finishing up my paper for Homeric Epics. I decided to take her 4:30 All Levels class instead, which is still a pretty good way to sweat! After hopping on the elliptical for about 20 minutes, I sailed into class after shoving a protein bar in my mouth.
We flowed to music from the Juno movie soundtrack and we did a small Namaskara B flow to “Galileo” by The Indigo Girls. If you know me at all, you know that “Galileo” is probably my favorite song of all time, so when that came on I was thrilled. At one point Toby came over to me while I was in DDog and said “Are there any WRITERS in the room?” Nothing like cracking up while your head is upside down.
It was a peaceful, stretch-loaded class and I left completely at peace and centered. You don’t need to get your ass kicked to feel good about a yoga class.
Tuesday was my night shift at the studio and I decided, since I had taken the All-Levels on Monday, that Tuesday would be Power with Alysse. Alysse does a lot of strength work combined with some vinyasas, and after a pretty wonderful flow that wasn’t too fast we did one of my favorite poses, Tree. Alysse suggested that in order to really test our balance, we should focus on our hands in namaste across our hearts, then slowly lift them to fully extend the Tree, while still focusing our eyes on them. It ended up being a very peaceful yet kind of difficult challenge, and everyone got very quiet while they concentrated on their hands. It was so peaceful. Then we did a small Warrior-esque flow to Florence and The Machine, which pretty much made my entire week. I love Florence!
Then yesterday, Thursday. Thursday is the day I usually take my friend Sarajean’s class at 6. Sarajean teachers Power Kripalu Yoga and is also an Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist, so she fills her yoga classes with special poses to emphasize the different workings of the seasons and their effects on the body. Again, her class usually leaves me in a puddle of mush on the floor, especially this time of year when she does classes that focus on ‘cleansing’ the body of winter sluggishness. However, Sarajean is at Kripalu this week taking lectures for her Ayurveda Consultant Certification so her class was subbed by another friend of mine, Lani (Lani reads the blog. HI LANI! Kiss your baby boy for me!).
Again, it was not the brutal asskicking that most people today seem to crave when they go into a hot Power class. It breaks my heart when people leave Power classes and they seem disappointed or even angry they aren’t dripping with sweat or shaking from involuntary muscle spasms from 5 minute Downward Facing Dogs or Warrior 3s or whatever the instructor decides to put in. Do not get me wrong: I LOVE those classes. They’re awesome. But it isn’t the only way one can do yoga.
In Lani’s class I got a hard, but extremely peaceful flow, with lots of emphasis on hip opening, something I seriously needed now that I’m back to running once or twice a week. Lani, who sang in school, let us out of savasana with an amazing vocal that began with “Return to the home of your soul.” Oh, I did. It was phenomenal.
After class Lani and I got to talking and I told her that I really appreciated her style of class, because it showed me something I had been thinking for a while. And it’s what I’ve said for the past few weeks in my head, but never really expounded upon vocally.
When you’re in a Power class, or at least the kind that I take, you fly. You’re going a thousand miles an hour. Upward facing, Downward facing, up on the balls of the feet, bend the knees, fly to utanasana, utkatasana, jack-knife, plank, chatarunga, Upward facing, Warrior One, Two, Reverse, Chatarunga etc…rinse, repeat for about thirty times. I can do Suryas A and B in any kind of weather now.
But the biceps and ab muscles I’ve gotten from my yoga classes are just a side effect of the peace and mental unity and overall World Appreciation I’ve also acquired. I know I’ve said this a thousand times, but yoga made me a better person.
I am a better daughter, friend, sister, student, teacher, writer, and future wife/partner/mother because of all the things yoga has given to me. Yoga ended years of bingeing and destructive eating. I am grateful for all of the sweat on my mat.
But you don’t have to sweat to find peace within yoga. That’s all I want to put across.
Have a wonderful Earth Day! 🙂