01 January, 2012

Every second is the beginning of a new year

My first class of 2012 was a two-hour "Theme Class" with Patrick, consisting of Hatha and Yin yoga. If you are not familiar with Yin Yoga, you can read about it here.

This two-hour class was part of the New Year's kick-off of a 60-day "Yoga Challenge" at Urban Yoga Spa. Here's the way it works: You come. You do yoga. You get stars. If you earn enough stars, you are entered into a raffle where you can win things like a one-year yoga membership. Very cool. If you go to the theme classes, you get two stars. If you bring a guest, you get a star for them too. It's a nice way to get people fired up with their practice.

I had never taken a Hatha class with Patrick before. In fact, I have only taken one of his Vinyasa classes ever, because I'd heard his classes were intense, and I was afraid that I might have too difficult of a time this early in my practice. When I finally tried his class, it was indeed difficult, but I survived it! And I also had the opportunity to see and hear about poses I'd never even known existed. I cannot do many of them today. But perhaps someday...

Patrick has a very direct, and energizing approach, with lots of guidance and inspirational coaching as he teaches. I saw how this fit well with an intense class like Power Vinyasa, but I was curious to see how that intensity would map to a Hatha/Yin class. Turns out, it was fantastic.

I guess I came to class today, first day of the year, expecting to be inspired. And indeed I was. The class started with a discussion about how we, as humans, define these arbitrary delineations of time such as New Year's Day. But, in reality, every second is the beginning of a new year that starts right now. And that was an awesome message to give us in our practice. To remember that today is only "special" insomuch as today is where we are. But tomorrow brings the same opportunity for commitment, intention, practice.

The Hatha portion of the class felt great. The room was comfortably warm. The class was only moderately full, and it was a nice change to do a Hatha class in "The Big Room" instead of the smaller studio, where most of the Hatha sessions are conducted. We moved through the poses in what felt like a slightly more regimented fashion than Hatha usually seems to be. It's not that anything felt rushed. Just that there was a very smooth flow from one pose to the next, and Patrick provided a lot of very specific detailed coaching on correct form that enabled me to recognize and experience things that I hadn't noticed before. I particularly like the calling of attention to the part, or parts of our body that we should be focusing on as we move through the pose, such as feeling a back bend at the start of a standing bow pose, or noticing the sensations of the standing foot on the floor while balancing on one foot. By providing us with something extremely concrete to focus on, it makes it easier to stay in the poses, and to stay in the moment.

The interesting part of the class, internally, for me came about halfway through the Yin series. Everything was going along fine, and I felt like I was getting some really good, deep stretches. I was still comfortable, still breathing, still relaxed. And then we started doing some hip-opening exercises with one leg extended straight out to the side. This is difficult for me, because I have tight hamstrings. And my focus started unraveling. First, I'm thinking "I don't think I am doing this right." Then, it transitions to "I'm doing this wrong." Then, it transitions to "I can't do this." From there, it starts to feel hotter in the room. Next, I start feeling restless and fidgeting more with my poses. Struggling. Wondering when the pose will end. Wondering what is coming next. Looking around at the people next to me to see if they're having a hard time. Wanting more water. The room is getting hotter. Wondering if I should ask Patrick if I'm doing it correctly, because what if I'm not?

Then I realize... Here it is. Here is "The Moment." My struggle. In yoga. In life. First I get worried I might not be doing something correctly, because I want to "succeed" or "be right." Then, if it's hard or ambiguous, I fear that I must be doing it wrong. Then I don't want to do it until I know I'm doing it right because otherwise it is a "waste of time." And I become more uncomfortable, and start perceiving reality to be other than what it actually is which, in turn, further impacts my ability to perform or focus.

The room wasn't any hotter. But suddenly I was too hot. And suddenly my chest felt the panicky kind of heartbeat. And it wasn't because of yoga. It was because of my mind racing all over the place evaluating my practice instead of just being with it.

I felt much better when I realized this was happening, because I felt like I'd gained something. I became curious, instead of running all the way down the dark alley. But, because I'd spent ten or more minutes in that mind-spin before reeling it in, I wasn't really able to get my heart feeling peaceful again until the very end of class. The next step is for me to see that coming, and allow it to pass, rather than turning down the dark alley.

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