Friday, July 8, 2011

Instruments of Torture????

Chester, Nova Scotia has a population of approximately 1000 people during the winter and 2000 people during the summer.  There's a reason why the population doubles during the summer--it is an incredible place that we CFAs (Come From Aways) have nicknamed "Camp Chester."  The area offers almost any type of physical activity that you can think of.  If you like to be on the water, you can spend time on the beautiful Mahone Bay. If you like to golf, there's a gorgeous golf course with water views on at least two thirds of the holes.  There's great biking (if you're into hills), hiking, and pretty much any other athletic activity that you can think of.  (For the year-round residents, there is even curling during the winter months!)  A couple of years ago, Chester's offerings were expanded to include Iyengar style yoga classes when instructor Leigh Milne moved to town.

Leigh is a very serious instructor, having spent several months in India taking classes from Mr. Iyengar and his family.  For her, yoga really is a way of life, not just a work out.  We start each class with a call and response chant of the Invocation to Patanjali.  (I am sad to say that my Sanskrit has not improved much over time.)   We then read from the Yoga Sutras, a text that is broken into four chapters that show the way to yogic enlightenment: samadhi (a blissful state), sadhana (discipline), vibhuti (power) and kavalya (liberation).  (I actually didn't know this until now!  In case you were wondering, our discussion does not extend to the kama sutra, although that text also finds its roots in Indian Hindu writings.)   We discuss the reading, which sometimes resonates with me and sometimes seems a bit abstract.  Then it's on to the practice. 

Iyengar yoga is all about the form.  You work very hard at getting into the correct posture (or your approximately thereof) and then hold it for what seems to be an interminable length of time.  I almost always come out of her class with an awareness of muscles that I never knew existed!  I  feel very centered, however, having left everything from my life outside of the studio behind for the time that I'm there.

Last year, I arrived to find that Leigh had put ropes up on the walls (which, at first glance, looked a bit like instruments of torture).  I was intrigued but somewhat apprehensive. How would they be incorporated into our practice?  Would I be able to do the asanas (poses) that relied on use of the ropes?   I now always feel a bit deprived if I don't get some rope time in each session!  In my first class this summer, we used the ropes for the pose that Leigh is demonstrating here.  It's a bit hard to tell but you actually hang from the ropes with your hands resting on the ground lightly.  Pretty cool!  Getting out of the posture was a bit more challenging, and I can only say that I'm glad I don't have a video! 

Having the opportunity to take yoga classes has rounded out the Camp Chester experience for me (and I think it helps my golf game to boot, with its emphasis on posture and twisting poses).   The trick now is to try and bring some of that zen attitude into the rest of my life!  Signing off from Camp Chester....

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