This week I had my first yoga experience…
I decided (after some arm twisting I might add) to attend a yoga class with my girlfriend. She is an absolute yoga addict and attends classes multiple times per week.
The class that focused around the flow discipline, which, to my limited understanding is a yoga style, if you will, where each pose flows into the next, creating a seamless one and a half hour movement. I had some ideas of what it would mean to be moving in ways I wouldn’t normally through exercise or otherwise for that long, without a break.
The class happened to occur on the evening of a new moon, which meant that we were to focus on non-standing poses. This meant lots of close to the ground core work, and it was tough. Some poses appear very simple on the surface and when expressed by the instructor, but in actuality are incredibly tough to hold for more than a few breaths, never-mind express convincingly. I found that some of the poses which focused on maintaining core heavy poses worked me the hardest. I like to look at this as an indication of areas I need to get stronger and more supple though, so it’s all good…
What I learned at the time
Immediately as the class started I felt as though there was a good sense of calm amongst everyone in the class. I wasn’t the only first timer there and there were some experienced people who had obviously been practising yoga for quite some time.
I found that I really had to focus on my breathing, which is very important in yoga, and the better my breathing was the better the poses worked for me. Some poses seemed to stretch out my nerves, leaving my toes tingling while others seemed to test my ability to maintain a single position for (what seemed like) long periods of time.
What seemed to really resonate with me
I found that my thoughts and worries became muted as the class went on, and at the end of the class I was totally relaxed, even though I had just been physically active for over an hour. When we reached the final pose, savasana, I was ready to fall asleep.
The next “thing” I found resonated well with me was that the energy in the class was incredibly positive. It was as though everyone in the room was on the same level and “knew” one another. There is a great deal of respect that yoga seems to command, and it feels like a very mature form of exercise. From just a single class I felt as though I had gotten closer to my body and its current limitations. Even though I had struggled through many of the poses, I had attempted each one with 100% effort, and the resonant stiffness I feel today as I type this article reminds me that the yoga journey is a long one.
Every extra centimetre you are able to stretch is a big achievement in yoga, and the goal as it seems to me is not to become the best at performing yoga poses, but to become in touch with your body and how it feels on the day, how it felt before, and how you want it to feel in the future. The physical exertion aspect to everything seems to come as part of the package, but it isn’t the true value of practising yoga. I think that spiritual release you feel after completing a class is what really brings people back to the studio.
It is as though someone has given you permission to relax, forget about the stress of living and focus on your mind and body while strengthening both.
I think that yoga is an awesome way to spend time with yourself. You could definitely practice poses at home but it is the careful, calibrated guidance of an instructor that will keep you focused and help you prevent injury. The studio was very quiet, with only the unique sound of Ujjayi breath filling the room. The outward expression of yoga’s breathing helps to ensure that (for the most part) everyone is in sync in the studio. It is a very liberating and bonding experience at the same time, if not with other people, with yourself.
Yoga also perhaps unintentionally encourages you to take a holistic approach to the body. Everything you do, every day, will affect how your body peroforms when attempting yoga poses. Your diet, how you sit, how you sleep will all be affected (and even repaired) by the focus of yoga.
So give it a go. It was a very valuable experience for me and I’m seriously considering making it a routine part of my life.