Lessons from the Mat

Ardha Matsyendrasana As a 31st (gaa!) birthday gift to myself, I am doing my yoga studio's 30 classes in 30 days challenge.  (I'm going to throw an extra day on there, but they didn't have a promotion for 31).  For some reason, I haven't been as yoga-going since I returned from Kauai.  Maybe I thought I didn't need it, or I was seeking something else, or I needed a break to fully appreciate yoga again, but the idea of "less scheduling, more resting" was more appealing.  For whatever reason, yoga is a place that I feel most comfortable, where I can reconnect with myself,  and something in my being was telling me it was time to return to my mat.

Taking a few weeks off, then diving into a Monday 7am class with a tough teacher was interesting.  I was struggling, and when, after a nice mountain pose (yoga for standing), he said, now lets do that upside down.  Handstands! I really thought he was kidding.  But, he was not kidding, and about 25 minutes after waking up on a Monday morning, with a workday looming ahead, I was upside down in a handstand (my feet were on the wall, but still.  It's a process).  The great thing is that when you realize you can accomplish that much within a half hour of opening your eyes, it makes a lot of other challenges you face throughout the day seem much less daunting.

Tuesday's class was an evening fuse pilates.  This class is a ton of fun, and a great workout.  It is also impossible to get in lately.  I would link to Mariska's great class at the place that I "Flow Yoga" in DC, but then you will also sign up and I will never again get a spot in this class.

But because the idea is 31 classes in 31 days, I had to go on Wednesday.  I also have to write a paper, and do wedding-y stuff, so back to the am classes.  At 7am I was in class, but was not feeling it. I don't know if I had allergies, or just a full-blown cold, but I wasn't in the right place.  However, I kept telling myself that I could leave class after the next pose...then the next pose...after the next one...  Sometimes this seemingly negative encouragement is exactly what is needed to get through difficult situations.  I had to use this same thought process to get through the rest of Wednesday.  But, I made it through the entire class, through my day, and home to Groom and to my wedding planning stuff in the evening.  My hamstrings will, however, think twice about doing an evening class followed by a morning class.

This morning I went to the 7am class taught by Monday's teacher.  I really like this class.  It's small, and challenging, but because of the size, the teacher is able to walk around and make adjustments.  There were no handstands, but the class was still pretty tough.  There were a few poses that I wasn't sure I could do, but curiosity always wins when I'm in a yoga class. I would get into these postures...but then I was afraid that I couldn't untwist myself.  Often this is how I approach new things - I dive in and forget about an exit strategy.  Having this lesson demonstrated so personally - on my shoulders and arms, for example, brought it to life in a way that someone telling me this could not.  Here lies the beauty of yoga for me.  I continued to try a little harder at things throughout the day, but by the end, I was exhausted.  Sometimes the effort leads to something new, but sometimes it just leads to a strain.  And when strained is the predominant feeling, it is time to devise an exit strategy.

Tomorrow I'm taking a new class at 7am.  It's a jivamukti yoga class.  I have no idea what that means, but I'm looking forward to trying something new.  If I were not doing this challenge, I suspect that I would go through life having no idea what a jivamukti is (or, how to prounouce it for that matter).  But this challenge is forcing me to assess each day, to make a proper decision as to when I will take my yoga class.  It's making me look forward to the unexpected challenges.  Mostly, it is motivating me to try something new - and to move forward from the known.  I need to apply this more broadly to one aspect of my life, and I suspect that jivamukti might be the key.