Tuesday, March 29, 2005


I’ve been taking yoga classes fairly regularly since 1993. You might think that that means I’m an expert yogi who can do advanced poses like this. Well, I’m not. I'm just not into the pretzel thing. Unfortunately, ever since yoga got so wildly popular in the late 1990s, the various yoga classes I've taken have developed this sort of competitive element. I see so many people brutishly force their bodies into inversions and arm balances that they don't have the strength or flexibility to do correctly. To many people, yoga is all about pushing your limits and many of the trendier styles of yoga (Ashtanga, Bikram [debatable whether Bikram is yoga at all--I think not]) cater to that. Yoga is meant to be a philosophy/religion after all--not a sport.

It's becoming harder and harder to find a yoga class that I can enjoy. It's not like I just want to sit in lotus pose and do an hour of breathing and meditation, but I would like a class without a lot of backbends and inversions. I can do a handstand and a headstand, but I don't think they're good for me. They leave me with broken capillaries under my eyes. That can't be good. And yet, the pressure's always on when everyone else is frantically flailing about (incorrectly, I might add) trying to catapult themselves into a handstand and then failing and crashing back to the floor with a jarring thud. Who wants to go to a yoga class and have to worry that a 200+ lb guy--who was so hellbent on getting into a handstand that he's up there with his teeth clenched and his face red as a tomato--is going to keel over any second and take out a row of teetering yogis like a line of dominos? Om. Shanthi. Not!

I find it rather galling when 15-20 minutes of class time are devoted to these kinds of poses. That’s kind of a big chunk of time to sacrifice. I take yoga classes mainly because I don’t want to lose my flexibility and so I that in my golden years I won’t be stiff and shriveled and have an enormous dowager’s hump to contend with. Of secondary importance, I think a good yoga class should be relaxing. It’s really nice to be able to clear your mind and actually think about getting in better touch with your body. I tend not to ever think about my body--yet I expect quite a lot of it, so I’m sure it’s good to keep working on developing a sense of how it’s moving through space.

Today, I went to Anusara yoga class that I’ve taken only once before. Anusara yoga, it turns out, is very much about alignment and awareness of the dynamics of movement. The class is a bit low-key and slow paced for me, but I like the teacher very much. She’s got this wonderful, subtly enthusiastic, yet soothing, way of explaining things and she just exudes positive energy. (What a gift to be able to do that! I sometimes fear that I exude negative energy.) In addition, she’s very sincere and liberal with praise, which I find both amusing and gratifying. It’s sort of hilarious to be told that you’re doing a really good job of just basically standing at the end of your mat. There’s more to it than that, obviously, but on the face of it, it doesn’t seem like something worthy of a compliment. Still, I have to admit, I’ll take praise of any description--anytime!

I’m not sure how often I will go back to the class. Apart from not focusing enough on poses that require deep stretching, it’s at noon, which is just a terrible time for a yoga class, really. It shoots a gaping hole in the middle of my most productive hours. Plus, after taking a yoga class in which I spend an hour and a half trying to stretch and lengthen muscles and reverse all the damage and compression that comes of sitting in front of a computer all day, it’s a real bummer to have to come back home and plop myself down at my desk.


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