I first tried yoga on a camping trip about 8 years ago. Yogini Emily taught tried to teach Guy Shannon and I the basics of breathing properly, that the Cat Pose is not a come-on, and that the “Cow Face Pose” has nothing to do with your actual face. The main things I took away was that yoga is harder than it looks, is a couple thousand years old, and there are over 800,000 different poses. You’ve no doubt done some without even realising it – for example; lying on your back? Shavasana. Totally doing yoga. I also learned yoga benefits the mind and spirit as well as the body. That, and how it feels to queef so hard it startles birds from the trees.
Flash forward 8 years, 2 kids and countless physiotherapy sessions later. I don’t run much any more thanks to ongoing core, hip and knee instability issues and an ITB that thinks it’s a guitar string. I’m swimming more now but I want to be stronger and more flexible on land so my knees don’t crap themselves every time I go bushwalking. Or twerking. Some friends are regulars at Peace Yoga in Burleigh and suggested I give it a go. My physio had also suggested yoga, plus I’d seen this awesome video a while back of this guy Arthur who’d rehabilitated from devastating injuries by doing a little yoga each day. And I figured if it worked for him, it’ll work for me. It’s never too late if you never give up, right?
Makes me cry every time. Such a sook.
The studio was a welcome sanctuary from the chill outside, with the warm glow from a couple of heaters, some small lamps and flickering candles giving the feel of a homey, softly carpeted cave. After some easy seated warm ups we lay under blankets as Doreen, our lovely instructor, talked us through some relaxation and visualisation exercises.
I realised at this point that I am terrible at meditation. I hadn’t realised just how much budgerigar-like chattering goes on in my head until I made a conscious effort to silence it. In that first session I could not find inner peace, and I got quite frustrated with myself at just how much mental surfing my brain was doing.
I was first distracted by the incense, which reminded me of childhood church services and headaches. Then it was the gushing of water in pipes above my head. Then a sudden itch… a dribble of sweat… my hair in my face… not to mention ominous digestive gurgling and wind releasing itself left right and centre. I’m beginning to suspect that’s why yoga studios already have incense burning before the class starts, because you don’t want to have to light a match during it.
I tried to be mindful, and follow Doreen’s guidance… feel your elbows relax into the earth, feel your head take flight into the sky, feel your heels just let go… My sphincter was what was letting go; a volley of farts -thankfully silent (I eased them out slowly – gotta do everything slowly in yoga). There is a specific pose in yoga called Pavanamuktasana – The Wind Liberating Pose – but from my experience every pose is a wind liberating pose. There was so much liberation going on around my mat I think I generated a Wind Liberation Front.
Thankfully my mat was a good distance from anyone else’s and the incense did its job. My inability to focus aside, I enjoyed the session so much I attended a yoga class at the gym the next day, and returned to Peace Yoga the following week.
Yoga. Or as I’m starting to think of it, “Yo’ Gas”. Feel the bubbles of joy. Oh I feel bubbles all right. Seriously, every session I’m rolling on Defcon 5 fart alert. One pose we did tonight involved bending over and hugging our knees; while outwardly I serenely inhaled and exhaled into the posture, inwardly I was desperately trying not to let one rip on the not unattractive guy behind me. How can I focus on the movement and my breathing if I’m still so distracted by plumbing? Inner and outer.
Tonight I didn’t worry so much about farting – and farted. It was so miniscule I didn’t even know I had, until I inhaled during my next pose and nearly choked. Then I spent the next 5 minutes trying not to randomly snort with laughter because I am just that kind of immature.
In other news, I actually managed to touch my fingertips together for the first time doing the Mermaid Pose! Or as I like to call it, the Second Degree Pretzel with a Twist. (First Degree Pretzel is the classic Lotus pose, also difficult for me.) I could only reach my fingertips on one side; it clearly demonstrated just how uneven my flexibility and strength is at the moment.
One of my favourites is the Warrior pose. I also like the Boat, and the one kneeling with your head arched back, leg bent and lifted as high as you can behind you. There’s more that involve lunges and/or squats but with proper technique I’ve felt nary a twinge from the dodgy knee.
I love how there’s variations of each pose for different skill levels; beginner, intermediate, advanced, pregnant, injuries. Yoga is about gently building, not forcing. Advanced moves just blow my mind and I hope to get there one day.
I am stoked at the endless variety of poses; it’s kept my interest levels high. As I mentioned earlier there’s something like 840,000 poses, or asana, which should keep me interested for quite a while. Some of the regular moves are definitely getting easier. I balanced for a whole half a second on my elbows in the Crane Pose, and didn’t fall on my head. Result!
The budgies in my brain have quietened too – while I still can’t visualise all that well my thoughts are more still during both the rest and work phases. I’m in the moment more, able to focus solely on breathing well and holding the position. It is also all quiet on the wind liberation front. I’m sure everyone will breathe easier knowing that.
Yoga has become a highlight of my week so I went tonight despite being in the throes of hayfever and sinusitis; probably not the best idea. I couldn’t breathe through my nose at all – not without making that sucking noise that comes from a bath plughole – and couldn’t do any poses with my head down because I thought my eyeballs would pop out from the pressure in my head. Doreen was attentive, suggesting variations, even changing up her session plan to include poses which specifically benefited me. She does that for her students all the time, whether it’s because of pregnancy, back pain or whatever. She even gave me a little reiki massage during our final rest phase. And I think it actually helped! Even though, conversely, she worked on my feet and not my stuffed up head.
Anyway looks like I am a yoga convert – or is that devotee – and I have surprised myself with how much I’m enjoying it. Here’s to hopefully getting back to full fitness… it’s a start. I’ll keep you posted.