Sunday, September 9, 2012

Yoga Challenge Midpoint

One thing I can say about myself is that I don't do things halfheartedly.  I am pleased to report that I am midway through the Yoga Sanctuary's 20 class challenge for National Yoga Month (well ahead of schedule).   At this rate, I might even get in some extra classes!  The studio has a chart with the challenge participants' names on it, and Anna puts little smiley face stickers next to our names to show how many classes we've taken.  It is amazing how much fun it is to watch those stickers accumulate (and it confirms the power of the sticker, which is a device I use for students at the Adult Learning Center who've done a good job on their work).      

Anne working with Barbara on her warrior II pose
I am immensely enjoying the frequency and variety of classes that I am taking. Last week I pulled a "double" one day--a very active ashtanga class followed by a meditation class, both taught by Anne Moore.  It was a wonderful morning.  One of the cool things about ashtanga is that the sequence of the class is the same universally.  I could be traveling in Japan or Argentina and not speak a word of the language and yet be able to participate in an ashtanga class.  That doesn't mean that instructors can't put their own twist on the practice.  Anne started last week's class by saying that we would be doing "pirate yoga".  Hmm.  It turns out that didn't mean that the chanting of "om" would be replaced by pirately "arrghs" (although I have to admit that I was tempted).  Instead, we were to think of our legs as hollow, with our breath starting at the tips of ours toes and coming up to fill our chests.  This visual actually worked for me, and I swear I could feel my breath flowing through my legs when I wasn't too busy thinking about all the other things I was supposed to be doing.

Heart chakra image
The meditation class was a great follow-up to the ashtanga practice.  I will admit that I was a bit surprised to see how many people there were in the class.  I had only taken a meditation class once before and, while I enjoyed it, I feel way too busy to take a class that doesn't burn any calories.  (That feeling is, of course, a sign that perhaps I should be embracing the opportunity to sit quietly and try and still my mind.)

We began the class by talking about the heart chakra, the symbol for which is coincidentally the logo for the Yoga Sanctuary.  The whole chakra thing is a bit mystical for me, but I enjoyed listening to the discussion and doing the heart opening poses before the actual meditation portion of the class.  One of the things I liked most about the class was Anne's incorporation of Tibetan bowls that she got from Robert Austin.  (See my post from December 4th if you don't know about his Tibetan and glass bowl concerts.  They are truly amazing.)  She talked about her experience shopping for the bowls and how Robert "played" different bowls on different parts of her body in order to determine which bowls were the right ones for her.  It turns out that the bowls choose their owner rather than the other way around. It's kind of like when you go to the pound thinking that you are in the market for a miniature poodle only to end up with a labrador retriever.  (If you haven't done the whole bowl thing, this must sound incredibly ridiculous and crystal-ly and you probably think we've all gone over the edge.   All I can say is that you should reserve your judgment until you've had a chance to experience a Tibetan bowl concert.  Then we can talk.)   Anyway, Anne played the bowls during our meditation and, as always, their sound took me to another place.  Towards the end of the class she made her way to each student, placed the bowl above his or her heart, and played it.  I could hear that the bowl in fact sounded different on different people.  When it was my turn, the vibration of the bowl resonated through my body.  It was an incredibly cool feeling.  At the end of the class I was relaxed and refreshed and ready to conquer the world (or at least the pile of papers on my desk).

It's great fun to explore different yoga classes during the challenge and find out what I've been missing out on.  This week I'm going to take my first "yin" class, which I think involves holding poses for extended periods of time.   I'm hoping to make the chant for peace the following week, during which participants will chant "om" 108 times followed by a  brief meditation.  And I'm going to try a tuning fork session, which I would describe to you if I had a clue what's involved.  All in all, it's shaping up to be quite a memorable month.  
   

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