After thinking about it for years, I’ve finally gone and joined a yoga class. I’m horribly out of shape, out of balance, and need to get my self back into shape so that I no longer injure my back by doing normal things. The only discussion I had of taking yoga was on IRC some years ago, and it went like this:
(@Phaysis) anyone here ever taken yoga classes? (@tesko) yes, and i stopped when i learned i couldnt breathe fire
If I had played Mortal Combat during my youth, I would’ve gotten that joke, but at the time it flew right over me and landed squarely in the bash.org quote database. I’ve seen it referenced in various other places, so it must’ve struck a nerve…at my expense. It’s funny, in hindsight, but yeah. Most of the laggards I bummed with on IRC were just as uninterested in their own health as I was. Now I can’t afford that luxury of youth.
Yesterday was my first class of a month-long beginner’s series at Yoga-Yoga. It felt brief, but it ran the full time allotted. Instructor ran through some of the background philosophy of yoga and did a few exercises with us to get us into thinking about our bodies, our breath, our mind. “Yoga,” he went on to say, “is the seeking of balance between body, mind, and spirit.” “Spirit” meaning “spire”, meaning “breath”, as in “respire”. When one is filled with the breath of the divine, they are “inspired”; when one dies, their divinity leaves them, and they are “expired”. Breathing, and paying attention to it, allows one to open up their bodies, to create space, to allow themselves to find balance in their spine.
Yoga is not the art of getting “flexi-bendy”, nor is it the art of achieving strength to perform intense positions. That is an extended, advanced part of it, sure, but yoga is more than that. It is balance, it is unity, it is finding your solid foundation on the floor, using the right muscles to maintain that foundation, and working upwards until the whole of you is balanced and inspired.
I got to the studio on time, meaning I got there late. The room was already filled, and the remaining space was along the wall. I could blame the storm, but that’s just shifting blame. Actually, I’m nervous about the whole deal, about putting myself in workout clothes, getting into positions in a room full of mixed students, trying to understand what the instructor asks us to do, and then trying to translate that into actual motion. I mean, I’m old enough to have some sort of proprioceptive understanding of where my body is, but I have no internal language for movement. Instructor says, “hands and knees, breathe through your navel, exhale, chin tuck, chest to thighs,” I hear the words he says, but I have to think about what he’s saying, visualize that, and hope that I got that string of movements right before I do them. It’s stressful, but I hope I can get better.
I’m nervous because I’m shy about my body when I’m in the general public. I’m guarded, withdrawn, reserved (this could account for most of my structural problems — trying to hide being obviously human by changing my posture). That there are others in the class, their mats rank-and-file, nobody talking except when asked by the instructor, everybody looking forward, nobody looking around (or at least me not looking around out of fear of appearing creepy), I’m just afraid of looking stupid. It’s an irrational fear; most of the class has never done yoga, and I’m pretty sure we’ll all fall over, collapse, make a bodily noise, or get a bad posture while trying to move between positions. It happens. This is why there’s a beginner’s class.
Tomorrow is my second session. Now that I know more of what to expect, maybe I’ll be better prepared to deal with it.