Advanced Yoga, Books about yoga

Letting go of assumptions, making triangles (Pigeon as a triangle)


Instagram, TV, and advertising sometimes show images of advanced yoga practitioners in difficult poses. Lithe, bendy people, smiling in the sun, backs arched gracefully, wearing white unitards. The common representation of yoga is that anyone who practices or is successful at practice has a ballerina build. It is unfortunate, because it gives the general population the impression that you have to be in peak physical shape with 6% body fat to do yoga. This is SO not the case.

Example: This morning’s class was mixed level, leaning to advanced. We worked up to camel and then up to this:

(Beautiful photo of Pigeon pose from page 119 of Hatha Yoga Illustrated, by Martin Kirk, Brooke Boon, and Daniel DiTuro. Photos by Daniel DiTuro).

But here’s the thing.

There might have been twenty students in that class. We all had our own variation of Pigeon going on. And THAT is yoga.

You start where you are at the time you are practicing. You breathe and make shapes with your body. I have never before thought of Pigeon as a triangle before looking it up in this book, but now that I am more interested in the building of a pose more than before, I see it. We were all working towards this beautiful triangle. Not to be confused with actual Triangle pose! That is a post for another day.

Anyhow. A fellow student asked, “is this a pose that you would be unable to do if you have a large body?” (I am paraphrasing. What she said also covered people who might generally be considered overweight).

Our teacher affirmed that there are different bodies but we all have ways to get there, and it is more individual body mechanics than anything to do with the size of body.

In all honesty, had I been shown the picture above, I don’t think I would have thought I could come close to Pigeon as pictured. However, with the right guidance, being led into it, I’m proud of how far I made it. (NOT pictured – hahaha).

So here I am, working to let go of assumptions and expectations. Thinking about triangles. And cooking dinner all at the same time. Gotta get everything ready so I can attend tonight’s YTT class!

Advertisements
My YTT

About sitting and teacher training, after the first weekend intensive

You are prepared to learn a lot during yoga training. You bring your mat and you are ready to go! But now you bring an additional bag. Your books. Your paper (which I forgot. Twice. Thanks, B, for sharing). A screaming yellow highlighter. Pens, etc., and so on.

You know there will be a lot of sitting. But in the beginning, even though you set up for practice with your mats on the floor, the sitting is not about Sukhasana, or “easy sitting pose,” aka, sitting up straight, criss-cross applesauce. It is taking notes. Sitting lecture/seminar style with a yoga practitioner/expert instructor at the helm, along with a life-sized, plastic anatomically correct skeleton with rubber ligaments. Intermittent discussion, legal talk, teaching methodology, lecture, snack time, and Asana /exercise practice, and breathing. 

Now I understand that when I asked my mentor what I need to bring or prepare, she didn’t mention planks or fasting. Her response was along the lines of, “a highlighter and some index cards.” She meant that literally.

It is really cool to tap back into the student part of my brain, and also be handwriting again! When was the last time you spent about 8 hours in one day, sitting in class and taking notes by hand? It had been a while for me. And still, we have hardly even cracked the books out yet. There is so much to learn.

My YTT, On Aging

Things change, things stay the same


This weekend I was at a junior high school where Dove was competing in an academic competition (aside: she placed 3rd, so proud of her!). I was struck by how little schools, the actual structures, have changed. Take a look at the girls restroom, pictured. This could just as well been my middle school washroom, back in coastal Maine, back in 1986. Yet this is Texas, 2018. Is it possible that they have not made any changes to school restrooms in thirty+ years, or longer? Why?

I have had similar thoughts about mens wallets, toilet paper, mailboxes, envelopes, thermometers… things that have not really changed in my lifetime. Sure there probably could be improvements. And sometimes “new” versions pop up, like those neon velcro wallets, or the mood-ring-like forehead thermometers… (Maybe I’m dating myself?). Sure some men use money clips and some moms use temporal thermometers now,  but the old standards persist over time. 

Why? Because they work.

Yesterday, I began my 200 hour yoga teacher training program. I was so nervous, had butterflies in my stomach, which is coincidentally a feeling I haven’t actually had since I was back in middle school.

The basis of study for the first day was an overview of the human body, the fundamental physical principles of yoga as a healing science. The skeptical, modern, researcher in me wondered: can I reconcile my doubts about the spiritual world and metaphysical concepts of yoga (and related healing practices) with my academic nature? And my inner voice kept answering, yes. Yes. YES!

Why? Because it works.

Yoga is an ancient practice. An ancient science. Some of the terminology, some of the concepts, much of them really, predate modern research and Western medicine. But they are the same. The intention of both is to heal. Yoga looks at a person holistically. How can we make adjustments, or exercise this part of the person (literally and/or metaphorically), to be the best, healthiest, happiest, most whole person this person can be? Western medicine is evolving to appreciate that we cannot just treat symptoms or single ailments, we must look at the whole body, the brain, the psychology and the physical, to heal. Because that works. 

I am thrilled to have come to this epiphany. And I can’t wait for day two of my 200 YTT… two hours from now!

On Aging

Inspired by the women at the gym

Untitled design (1)

No, no, no. I am not inspired by the young, Instagram-ready bodies. I could care less about gym fashion.

I am inspired by the older women in the gym. Those who are in their sixties and seventies, sharing the locker room every day. Some of them are water fitness groupies, some attend Zumba and HIIT on the regular. Some are on the mat in the same room with me, and others stick to chair yoga.

Your bodies are strong, still carrying you. Your smiles are weathered but wide. Your eyes tell me you have been through a lot. You are still here, wearing that swim cap, Jazzercising to Maroon 5. Thank Silver Sneakers. Thank the free coffee in the hallway.

We greet each other in the locker room, maybe chat about the weather or a coming holiday. You might mention “the last time” you had cancer. Or your son who never could catch a break. Or the husband you outlived. “Can’t complain,” you’ll say. And I’ll agree.

I don’t expect my body to ever match that of a Kardashian or even a middle-aged starlet, you know the ones… they look so good for their age. No. I want to be at the gym, the day after my seventy-fifth birthday. Breaking a sweat. Cracking jokes.

Thank you, old ladies. Sure, you can sit here on this bench. Let me move my stuff.

My YTT

What does it mean to be ready? 

My YTT program begins Saturday. I am pumped. I’m also a little bit nervous. I gather that is normal. We are jumping right in with two full days.

I’ve been reading, keeping up with my practice, and gathering things I want and need. My friends and family have been incredibly generous with support, time, and love. Everyone asks, “Are you ready?”

What does it mean to be ready, paricularly for a journey like this?

1. I need to be and stay healthy. I can’t afford to lose any time to illness, mine or the kids’!

2. I need to be limber. I have some ideas and expectations, but I’m trying to let them go. My hamstrings and quads are tight as hell, and I’m working on loosening them.

3. I need to show up. My husband and kids are prepared to have me away from home a lot more than usual, and I am grateful for their understanding my need to do this.

Are my bags packed? No. But I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Except for one thing. I’m going to pick up some Epsom salts for sore muscle soaks before Saturday.