28 May, 2012

Memorials

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

Class was a recap of Friday's "boot camp," but my experience in the class was a bit different. First of all, I'd been given some advance warning to expect the recap. Sometimes "expectations" can make things worse, but sometimes they make things better. What's the difference? I guess when you have expectations, but you don't know what's actually coming, you're setting yourself up for a reality correction and, at the same time, focusing on this mental image of the future, as opposed to just whatever is. I do this all the time. On the mat and off the mat. We think we should be getting a Child's Pose and it doesn't happen. We think they should be opening the door and they don't. We expect that we're going to get a promotion or a raise, and it doesn't happen. So it's actually baseless expectations that are the problem.

Today, I had been forewarned that we would be revisiting "boot camp" (and I refer to it that way tongue-in-cheek, since I am pretty certain that real boot camp is not as dreamy as a Power Vinyasa class). So my brain said "Okay, I know what this class is going to be like," and I was ready for it, and that was that.

At the start of class, Cassandra asked us to think about Memorial Day, and sacrifice, and people who may have lost their lives for our freedom, or safety. I would go one step further and note that our troops sometimes lose their lives under circumstances where we are never really sure that it was for our freedom or our safety, but perhaps only for a political goal, or some other agenda that is not so noble. And the troops must do whatever mission our government decides to deploy them to do.

My cousin Michael died in Vietnam in 1968. I never met him, because he died a few months before I was born. But he was my first cousin. My Dad's nephew. I know nothing about him at all really, other than that he'd already supposedly flown all the missions he was required to fly, but somehow had elected to do more. His helicopter was shot down. I never had the opportunity to understand the impact this had on my aunt and uncle, or on their other son who was a little younger at the time. I know it had an impact on my brother, who was much older than me, and was close with Michael.

Michael's brother, Al, served in the Navy in the early 1970s, and I am told he was part of the crew of the world's first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus.

My Dad served in WWII. He was in the Navy near the very end of the war, after Japan had already surrendered, from 1945-1947. It was mostly duty in the Pacific on a small support vessel, with stops at many islands throughout the Pacific, and there was never any battle involved.

I had another cousin who elected to join the Army special forces, and served on missions in Grenada during the early part of the 1980s as a paratrooper, and he made it back fine.

And that is the extent, as far as I know, of my family's involvement in war over the past 100 years. Though, now that I think about it, we always had a folded up American Flag from my grandfather, so I guess he must have been in the military as well? World War I probably... I should really know this.

Sometime back in the early 1990s, I visited the Vietnam War memorial in Washington D.C. There's a wall on which the names of all the fallen troops are carved. I found the name of my cousin Michael on that wall. I took a photograph. And that was the closest I actually ever came to "touching" his presence, since he was never a part of my physical world, and I barely even recall any photos of him.

In today's class, I sent my dedication to my cousin whom I'd never met. Because I can't even conjure an image of him, there was only a vague sense of what it meant to dedicate something to him. But I thought a little about how it must have destroyed my aunt and uncle in ways from which they never recovered. My parents never had to endure that loss. And among my circle of friends, we've been fortunate to have never lost anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I felt pretty strong in class today, though there were a couple of brutally difficult sequences. After doing the long sequence of Side Planks and push-ups, we reach a point where it feels like a Child's Pose is long due. But there was still a series of Warrior II and Side Angle, transitioning into Triangle, Pyramid, and Standing Splits (and throw Crow in there, for good measure). Eventually, I settled into this sequence, but that initial shock of going right into Warrior II after the push-ups is what puts this particular class among the pinnacle "edge-pushing" experiences.

Today, because I was feeling strong, I decided to give a go at some of the poses I have been modifying for weeks now. I did the flipped Downward Dog, Side Plank, and Belly-of-the-Beast without modification. It appears that neither my shoulder nor my elbow objected. In any case, I will still only sprinkle these back in on a weekly basis, because the overdoing it is exactly how I got the injuries in the first place.

Near the end of class, we did some Bridge poses with arms spread wide. They felt really good, and it was stretching my upper back and neck in a nice way. I decided to take these instead of Wheel, since it was working for me today.

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