Status Update: 3.5 days through the challenge, 5 classes complete.
In my Day 2 Update I discussed the Warrior Academy class that I took on Saturday; Apparently I’m not a warrior! I was so exhausted after that class I was basically resigned to a chair for the rest of the day. There was very little chance of me making it to the late Saturday evening class, which I didn’t… It was at this moment that my challenge was fused with a little more reality: shooting for 2 classes per day but setting the challenge requirement to 1.
Sunday will be the day I will look back on as the hardest day of the challenge. I left the cozy confines of my bed and stumbled over to the studio just before 8am for Desi Springer’s 8am Anusara Inspired Vinyasa class. The room was once again nearly full and Desi (co-founder) began the class discussing a variety of events happening at the studio and setting the intention of focusing on Love and Heart on this pre-Valentine’s day class. The practice was quite intensive as we worked through a variety of heart-openers. Desi stopped the class at one point to point out a gentleman who was recovering from an injury and therefore just lying in the room to ‘soak up the love’. I think the word love was used about 74 times throughout the hour and a half. I was pushed to my limit at the end of the class where we tried out a few partner-assisted poses. My partner out-weighed me by about 40 pounds and 2 days later I am still feeling the results of him assisting my cobra with knees in my back. We practiced assisted hand-stands which were cool and ultimately it was a fantastic practice. My only complaint is that the wonderful heart-opening flow felt interrupted by the partner assisted gymnastics. My experience with Yoga classes is that this is a common theme – spend 45 minutes in a series, then spend 20 minutes trying out super-hard postures…. Not what I’d prefer but maybe I’m alone in this?
I spent the day doing things around the house with Autumn (We are nowhere near being settled fully), with a 4pm Vital Roots class hanging over my head like a dark cloud. At half past 3 I mustered my strength, ate a snack and skipped over to the studio singing Hindu devotional music (OK not really, it looked more like a man with a limp walking off a hang-over). As I walked into the Yoga studio and felt the 97 degree room, I suddenly wished I hadn’t downed a chai and bowl of Tabouli salad heavy on the garlic about 20 minutes earlier…. In the 10 minutes before class began, I actually managed to fall asleep on my mat, wakened by our instructor Hannah Ross Smith’s greeting. The next 90 minutes were a battle for me. I was nauseous, sore, angry and kept telling myself at some point it would shift. Hannah was a wonderful instructor, infusing the entire class with a sense of calm, peace and connection. The shift came, eventually, 85 minutes into the practice during Savasana, when I knew it was all over. Hannah closed with a beautiful devotional hymn (she has an amazing voice), and I wandered home grateful for this practice.
The rest of the evening I was pretty much just a solid mass of flesh floating between the sofa and the refrigerator.
It’s Day 2, and I’ve completed three classes at Vital Yoga. I’m exhausted!
Yesterday I sampled a couple of courses, the first being a Vinyasa I-II with Chris Muse . I wondered what I was in for when upon check-in she said “Oh no I had a really hard class planned today but with so many new people I may have to tone it back”. My ego was a little pushed as I thought “Just because I haven’t done Yoga here, doesn’t mean I can’t hang!” But I decided it was best to keep my mouth shut. The class was good, a typical Vinyasa class (from my limited experience). There were a mix of beginners and intermediates in the class and there definitely wasn’t a scene. Chris had a nice style, yet I wasn’t overly impressed with the flow of the class. Literally translated, Vinyasa means ‘to arrange’ or ‘to place in a special way’. But often, it is simply translated as flow.
Luckily I had enough gas left to come back in the evening for a Vital Roots 90 minute class, led by Carol Darr. The Vital Roots program is the signature series of Vital Yoga, a prescribed set of postures for each class. This class was definitely tailored towards beginners, but I enjoyed the more yin aspect of the practice, generally spending at least a minute in each of the postures. Despite the relatively easy asanas, the longer hold times made for a more meditative practice that I’m into. Carol had a great classroom touch, leading with a nice sense of flow and humor.
Today is when it got really interesting! Just before 10am I strolled back into the studio to attempt some Warrior Academy Power Yoga., described as a high energy fusion of classic Vinyasa yoga and modern strength and cardiovascular training. Despite arriving 10 minutes early, I snagged one of the last spots in the studio, having to ask people to move in order to find a place for my mat. Turns out when you’re 4 rows deep and mat to mat, you can squeeze about 66 people into this studio! This warrior academy, let by Scott Anderson, was one of the hardest things I have done in a while. The room was well over 90 degrees at the start and little sweat beads ran down my neck before lifting a finger. Ten minutes in the shirts came off and towels employed to clean up pools of sweat on everyone’s mat. The majority of the students were in their 20s and 30s and looked like they had all done their share of Yoga. Most of the practice wasn’t hard in the asana aspect, rather with the speed and strength required to link things together at a quick pace. Suddenly we were asked to attempt hand-stands from a simple forward bend… I just watched in awe as a good portion of the class got up with ease! We don’t use the wall in this school because this creates a security blanket that doesn’t exist in real life was an interesting quote from Scott. Even if I had the slightest inkling of attempting one, the fact that about 8 people were well within my crashing distance intimidated me even more. At the end of the 90 minutes I think I had lost about 3 lbs. of sweat. Typing this now I highly doubt that I’m going to make a second class today…. What I really enjoyed about this class was Scott himself. At first you may think he would have been better off as a drill-sergeant, but ultimately he infused the class with a lot of grace, adding musings on gratefulness, love and compassion. There was a strong sense of gratitude the many before us who have enabled such a practice to exist, which is humbling and a nice reminder of our interconnectedness.
Time for a nap.
I have discovered a popular Yoga studio three blocks from my house offering a free first week of unlimited Yoga. This is a nice deal for us unemployed types, primarily because we have a lot of time but not a lot of money. Vital Yoga is a local studio offering a variety of practices. Its core appears to be in the Vinyasa, Bikram and Anusara traditions, but the schedule caught my attention with a few more alternative (or traditional, depending on your perspective!), classes such as Nidra Yoga, Jivamukti and Qi Gong.
Interestingly, since my time in India, almost one year ago, I have not practiced formally in a studio. I have managed to lead my own session once a week or so (not nearly as much as I would like to). Autumn and I plan to spend a month this summer at a Tantric Yoga school in Thailand, so it is time for me to start ramping up my practice. Additionally, because I hold an intention towards a career in the greater Yogic tradition: one based in meditation, asana, Ayurveda, well-being, it is time for some on-the-ground market research.
I have been carefully attempting to carve out a week where I can take the most advantage of a free pass, but in reality, there will never be a perfect, commitment-free week. There are writing classes on Wednesdays, Zen Center duties on Thursdays and Fridays, Valentine’s Day on Monday…. so I am just going to go for it and see how many I can make. Starting Friday, I am hoping to attend 2 classes a day for 6 days straight. I have several motivations:
- First, simply to sample the variety of teachers and offerings at this studio.
- Second, to focus intensively for a week on this practice, simultaneously matching a yogic-like diet and lifestyle to the physical practice.
- Finally, it will be great fodder for blogging.
I must admit I am a little afraid of the Yoga scene: I have never formally practiced at a Yoga studio, generally preferring casual venues like the recreation center, rock climbing gym or my own living room. My hope is the scene at Vital won’t be similar to one of the scenes in the movie Enlighten Up, a documentary following a guy into various ridiculous yoga practices such as a studio on a porn set run by a former WWF wrestler or a semi-naked hand-stand party in Manhattan…Seriously I hope that something so close to my house will align with my motivations with Yoga. I would be very grateful for such an option.
Stay Tuned. Om.