Status Update: 4.5 days through the challenge, 7 classes complete.
I woke up Monday morning barely able to get out of bed: my hips were on fire, my back ached and I could barely lift a cup of tea to my lips to start the day. Monday was definitely going to be a one-class day. I decided to check out the 4:45 Yoga Nidra class led by Jeremy Wolf. Yoga Nidra is a practice I’ve been very interested in since my time in India. Yoga Nidra is often translated as Sleep Yoga, an ancient practice which is a systematic method of complete relaxation, holistically addressing our physiological, neurological, and subconscious needs. I’ve also heard it described as cultivating the ability to transfer our consciousness into subtler realms of our being such as our dream and deep-sleep states. This is why Yoga Nidra is practiced lying down, where the practitioner attempts to remain in the state right before sleep. In fact, as Jeremy pointed out, each of us experiences Yoga Nidra for just a few moments each evening in that crossover between waking and sleep. This is the moment we want to cultivate and remain in, dropping away from the conscious thinking mind yet not actually falling asleep. During the practice you are asked to undergo pratyahara (withdrawing all of the senses inward) except for hearing which you use to listen to the teacher guide you through various relaxation and visualizations.
Leaving this class I felt as refreshed as if I had taken a 2-hour nap. I was excited to see such a practice being cultivated so close to home, and it reminded me of some of my aspirations towards the meditative arts. Yoga Nidra is a bridge between meditation and yoga, often much more accessible for people who have a difficult time meditating on their own.
This morning (Tuesday), I woke early to try out a Qi Gong class. A few of my friends have been practicing this lately and I’ve always been interested. My free week at Vital Yoga provided a perfect opportunity to check it out.
Qigong is the international phonetic Chinese pronunciation which includes various physical and mindful practices in the training for health, martial arts and awakening to one’s true nature.
Qigong or Chi kung is an English Romanization of two Chinese characters: Qì (氣) and Gōng (功). The dictionary definition for the word “qi” usually involved the meaning of “breathing”, “air”, “gas” and “vapor” but it can also be used in the context of describing the relationship between matter, energy and spirit. The dictionary definition for the word “Gong” (功) is that of achievement or results. The two words are combined to describe systems and methods of “energy cultivation” and the manipulation of intrinsic energy within living organisms.
I met Anita Boehm at the reception and quickly learned I would be getting private instruction as none of her other students had shown up. This was fantastic, as Anita went over the basics with me and demonstrated a variety of beginner exercises. Qi Gong is full of generally slow, palm opened movements as if you were moving a ball of energy (Qi) around. The fact that I‘ve written nearly two blog posts this morning makes me wonder if there is really something to this practice! It is quite incredible what one can do with intention, subtle movement and awareness of breath and body. While life is a little too full at the moment, I do think an occasional Qi Gong class or two will be in my future.
I think I’m over the hump of this Yoga challenge and taking it easy with Yoga Nidra and Qi Gong was a good idea to heal my body and prepare me for a few harder asana practices before my challenge week comes to a conclusion. My body feels strong and I feel like I’m on the verge of pushing past some life-long tension in my hips and shoulders. I just need to stick with it!