Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Yoga Month Wrap-Up

I have a ritual at the end of every vacation.  I like to do a little recap and think about favorite moments, different experiences, and even things I wouldn't do again.   My time at the Yoga Sanctuary during National Yoga Month was like a vacation in many ways.   Being on my mat transports me to another place.  Over the course of the month, I took 23 classes and spent over 1500 minutes on my mat, so that's a lot of time away from the rest of my life.  (Yes, I counted.  Just because I'm doing a lot of yoga doesn't mean I've left all of my Type A personality traits behind!)   So here's my recap:

Variety is the Spice of Life:  I was already familiar with the mixed level, level II and ashtanga classes at the studio.  One of the great things about yoga month is that I explored some types of classes that I hadn't done before.  I had heard people talk about yin last year but never made it to a class.  This type of yoga is intended as a counter to some of the more strenuous practices as you hold poses for longer periods of time in order to release some of those screaming muscles.  When I left the class I was in a stupor similar to  how I feel after a good massage.  Add that one to my calendar in the future!  I also took a sunrise class one morning.  One big surprise was that there are actually a lot of people out and about in Punta Gorda at 6:45 in the morning!  The other surprise was that the class wasn't the equivalent of a gentle stretch.  While we started with some nice sun breaths, by the end of the class we were working and our muscles were definitely awake.  A lovely way to start the day.

Most Powerful Experience:  September 21st was the United Nations' International Day of Peace.   Jen led a chant for peace that day that consisted of chanting "om" 108 times followed by nine minutes of silence.  (In case you're wondering, she kept track of the number of "oms" using mala beads, which are the Hindu equivalent of a rosary.)   There are lots of reasons why you chant 108 times, but the coolest one is that the diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth, the distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the Sun's diameter, and the average distance from the Moon to the Earth is 108 times the Moon's diameter.  The energy in the room was almost tangible at the end of the chanting and I felt myself gravitating towards the center of the rough circle we were sitting in.   I know I sound like I've been drinking the kool-aid but it was really an amazing experience.

Biggest Surprise:   Jen taught a mixed level class last week and told us to have bolsters at the ready.  I have always associated bolsters with chest opening postures (meaning that you're lying on the bolster for support).  VERY relaxing.  So you can imagine my surprise when we used the bolsters to position ourselves into supported split poses (which I don't think my body has done since I was a cheerleader in junior high).  Yes, I did feel that the next day (and this pose falls into the don't-need-to-do-that-one-again-for-awhile category)!

What I've Learned:  Although I love the physicality of ashtanga and the level II classes, I've come to a greater appreciation of the fact that there is a lot going on in even the simplest of yoga poses.  I've often thought of the analogy of  walking, chewing gum, patting your head, and rubbing your stomach all at the same time!  Take Mountain Pose (Tadasana) as an example.  If someone walked by the class and looked in, it would look a lot like people just standing upright with their arms by their sides. Au contraire! Your feet are together, your legs are firm, and your thighs are rolled inwards in order to create the base of the mountain.  Your spine is long and straight--no slouching in yoga class!   Your shoulder blades are drawn down and back (something I'm now able to feel).  Your arms are outstretched by your side.  Your gaze is towards the tip of your nose.  Oh, and don't forget to breathe!  It's no wonder that the outside world falls away when you're in your practice given everything you need to focus on.

My friend Bruce took a good long look at me the other day and said, "I'm trying to figure out if you've changed with all this yoga."  He is a funny guy and likes to throw comments out to get a reaction so I'm sure he wasn't serious.  And while I don't think I've changed as a result of all the yoga I've done over the past month, it's been great to have the time to get in touch with, well, a lot of things. Being at the studio so much has also deepened my sense of community there, making it an even more special place.   The trick, of course, will be not to slide back into my "I'll get to a yoga class when I can" attitude now that yoga month is over.   Which reminds me--it's time to get ready for class!

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