19 February, 2012

Back to fundamentals

Today was a Power Vinyasa "Fundamentals" class with Gordy.

The purpose of this class is to focus on the details of the main poses involved in "flow" sequences. These include: Forward Fold, Halfway Lift, Downward-Facing Dog, Upward-Facing Dog, High Plank, Low Plank, Low Lunge, Crescent Lunge, Warrior I, and Warrior II. Although the class is intended to help a beginner learn what it all means, it is also a class where an experienced yoga student has an opportunity to think about all of the intricate subtleties to proper form, including the trade-offs that one needs to make while working up to the full pose.

It might sound like a 90-minute instructional class for beginners would be "low-intensity" but it actually turns out to be quite intense, because you spend a very long time in each pose, including some poses (like Crescent Lunge) that are not easy to even be in, never mind stay in.

Gordy used two of his instructors (who happened to be students in today's class), Odessa and Kelley, to go through demonstrations of the different sequences, highlighting the correct body position, and also showing how our bodies can tend to get out of proper alignment, so that we could observe the difference.

In a pose like Warrior I, there are so many things that one needs to do, just to get it "right." The back leg must be completely engaged, extended straight. That's hard enough. And then, two more steps must be added, both of which conflict with one another to some degree. You want to make sure the outside edge of that back foot is pressed firmly into the mat, and you want to rotate both of your hips around to the front of the room, so that your hips and chest are completely squared up. This, of course, makes your back leg want to bend a bit, and also makes the edge of the back foot lose its firm pressure on the mat. So it's a compromise. There are ways of dealing with them. Angle the back foot forward slightly. Move the back leg to the side a little bit so that the hip twisting is not as extreme.

Every pose has these adjustments.

And taking a fundamentals class makes me realize just how much there is to grow. It makes me realize how much inflexibility I am reversing. And it's a gradual process. The first step in the process is just to show up. The second step is to try. The third step is to notice where we are. The fourth step is to understand what it is that is different between where we are and where we are trying to be. The fifth step is showing up again, and again, and again.

It is a useful model for learning about how to change ourselves in any aspect of life. I didn't know how tight my hips were. I suspected they were tight, because certain things in day-to-day life hurt, or because I can't do trivial things like sitting properly in "Indian Style." But I only had a sense that my hips were tight. I didn't know exactly in what way they were tight. Maybe there are ways in which they are not tight? Maybe one side is different from the other? How can you change something if you don't even know what it is right this moment.

So, I am showing up, and trying not to be frustrated when my body doesn't look like the perfect yogi. Trying to accept that, because some things hurt me, I need to compromise. In some ways, the poses that we can't do are just as valuable as the ones we can do, because we are forced to be okay with something that isn't just the way we want it to be. If every pose were perfect then what would be the point?

Today was hard for me, because my muscles, especially my quadriceps, were really burning from the long class with Patrick yesterday. It was also hard for me because my head was off in emotional matters. I did find that being there made me feel a little better, a little more able to move (mentally and physically) after class than before.

(it's a warrior, in case you're wondering)

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