Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Mysore: the class you take by yourself

Last night I got home from work and, since I'd had a lie-in that morning, still needed to run. I was scheduled to do an interval pyramid that would have had me running, for intervals, about 5k, plus the warmup, cooldown, and recoveries. I cut it short and only did about a half hour total in the interest of getting home before 8:30. I had snuck in and tried to get in-and-out without waking the dog since I think it's kind of mean to come in, take him for a walk, then put him back in his crate right away. I won't do that again - he was quiet the whole time I was home but apparently started howling shortly thereafter, and Meg could hear him from the end of our lane (200 yards or so)! Serves me right for lazing about yesterday morning, though.

Then this morning I was off to yoga. Katie had me start on the next pose, ardha baddha padmottanasana (half-bound lotus intense stretch posture). I am in serious need of some chest opening, as I couldn't even grab my elbow, let alone the toe of my foot! With practice all things will come, I guess. Still also working to get my hand flat in parivritta trikonasana (is it spinal flexibility or tits in the way?) reach the floor in utthita parsvakonasana (will I ever get there?), skipping parivritta parsvakonasana (see: spinal flexibility, arm length from above), and requiring a little help through the utthita hasta padangusthanasana series (though so do many people much further along in the sequence than I am, I think it's just a really tough one). In a hurry, I managed to quicken my breathing to do my practice in 35 minutes today, yikes!

I was thinking about my relationship with yoga this morning. It's been something I do, off and on, since I was in high school (see also: running). I started, when I was about 15 and living in a small backwoods town, by trying to learn yoga from a book and practicing on my own in my room. I took a class one semester in college, but it was really of the 'advanced stretching' kind and I wasn't engaged or challenged enough to stick with it - it just fulfilled a PE requirement. I took vinyasa classses semi-regularly in graduate school and after, through my gym, until I met Meg (I even got her to take a few with me while we were 'wooing' but once we moved in together that was all over - now she does what she calls 'no-ga'). When we moved to New York I found a studio nearby and took some classes from them. I struggled a bit because either I wasn't regular enough or the classes weren't regular enough to ensure that there was always one at my level - sometimes I'd go and not get the workout I needed, while other times it would be so far above my abilities as to not be enjoyable. I never found a teacher or class I really clicked with, and we were so broke at the time that for something that wasn't exactly perfect it just wasn't worth the money. I bought David Swenson's Practice Manual and started doing ashtanga by myself at home, reverting to my yoga roots. I didn't know enough at the time, however, to realise that you shouldn't do the entire primary series before you're ready! and I was frustrated at how bloody hard it all seemed to be, and gradually I let this practice lapse. It didn't help that doing yoga at home often meant that the (actual) dog tried to 'help' during downward-facing-dog by licking my face. Meg for my birthday one year set up our spare room to be a little yoga studio for me, and I did yoga on my own with DVDs until we left that apartment. When we moved to London I started taking the odd class here and there.

And then I found mysore. It's exactly right for me. It's a class, but it moves at the level you're at, and the level you're at that day. It rewards regularity and discipline in your practice. It increases in difficulty slowly, letting you ease into things, without the feeling of competitiveness I sometimes get in called classes. It's independent, and yet there's a community in it. I see the same people every day I'm there. I've only been going a month and yet already people say hello. I've had 3 different teachers (plus the one who taught my 'intro to mysore' class) since the regular teacher is away, and they've all helped me improve my practice. What can I say, I'm a convert.

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