15 March, 2012

Rotate ninety degrees

Today was Vinyasa with Patrick.

The class was not unusually crowded, but we were arranged perpendicular to the typical orientation, i.e. right side of our bodies facing mirror, instead of facing forward toward mirror. This could have been a very minor modification and, as I mentioned earlier, many (most) Vinyasa studios don't even have a mirror. Initially my mat was placed somewhere near the middle of everything, but I decided at the last moment that I wanted to be next to the mirror, because I thought it could be interesting to see how some of the poses look from the side; a view I rarely ever see.

How good is my Downward Dog? How straight are my arms in Side Angle? How bent is my front knee? \


So I placed myself next to the mirror, with the extra (important) detail being that I was in the absolute front corner of the room, under two heaters, with no view of any other students in the class.This turned out to be quite a different experience. The only reference point I had regarding my own form was a shadow on the wall in front of me (which is surprisingly useful, in the absence of any other stimuli). Though I did get to see my Downward Dog (not that impressive) and my Side Angle (pretty darn good), there really were not many other opportunities to observe myself in the mirror. Some of the poses where it could have happened, such as Half Moon, are poses where I am not yet able to rotate far enough to look into the mirror.

The class was very intense and challenging, as I knew it would be. I was also using all of my yogi-calm to not berate myself for moving directly under a heater. Good practice in being kind to myself, right? I suppose. The highlight of the class, which would ultimately have me "feeling it" for days afterwards (I'm postdating this entry), were a series of High Plank to Low Plank transitions (what the rest of us would call "Push Ups"). Really amazing workout.

I am starting to understand my body better. Like everyone, I have strengths and weaknesses. My chest is strong, my arms are strong, my quadriceps are pretty strong. My shoulders are not bad. Middle and upper back are fair. My abs are fair. My hamstrings are incredibly tight. My hips, and the surrounding muscles, are tight (and possibly weak). Low back, pretty weak.

I don't say those things as criticisms of myself. They're just facts. Yoga poses illuminate these facts. Poses require specific muscles, and the ability to persist in a pose, or to achieve a certain degree of expression, are directly dependent on the strength, flexibility, and endurance of those muscles. The interesting question to me is "Why are my hips and low back so weak?" I was a runner for most of my life, and it just seems odd that I would not have a lot of strength in there. I suppose it's possible that my assessment isn't entirely accurate. Maybe I am labeling something as weakness, when it's actually tightness.

In the past week or two, I have really started looking forward to yoga each day. Not just the idea of going to class, but the entire experience: the workout, the environment, the people, the heat, the afterglow. I've had this little thought in my head of "Will I be able to keep coming here like this forever?" Of course, nothing is forever, but I am enjoying each of these moments.

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