This past week marked the beginning of my commitment to give yoga a chance. It’s past time to add some cross-traing to my running. A few weeks ago I had signed up for a 5-week program of 1 session per week, which started this week. It was advertised as a fusion of Sivananda and Vinyasa Yoga. I had no idea what this meant, but it also said that the program would be suited for those new to yoga as well as those who’ve been practicing for awhile, so it seemed like a good starting point. It’s also just 3 minutes from my house!
While I was at the gym registering, I came across a brochure announcing Yoga Day, to take place June 16th. Apparently, this is the 6th year that the yoga studios in town have run a Yoga Day. Who knew?! It is designed to allow people a chance to check out different kinds of yoga to see what they like best. Talk about being made to order. And there were 5 separate time slots throughout the day, with a choice of about 7 different types of yoga workshops throughout the town in each time slot. There is no doubt that I can’t use lack of opportunity as an excuse to avoid yoga.
All this to say that I’ve had a busy start to my intro to yoga, with my first scheduled session earlier this week and then 2 different sessions as part of today’s Yoga Day. Three different instructors with three different approaches. What have I learned already?
1. There are poses that are uncomfortable for me to do, but each teacher was very good at reassuring participants that we shouldn’t do poses that are painful or too difficult, and provided alternative positions in each case. Phew.
2. I’m pretty good at breathing.
4. I think I have a pretty good handle on some of the poses after these first few sessions. Some early favourites: the Corpse pose, the Mountain, and the Reclining Goddess!
5. There is plenty to work on, starting with: the Tree, the Downward Dog, and the full-arm Plank.
Needless to say, these are very early days. But there is no doubt that there is much to be gained in conditioning alone by paying carefully attention and by being mindful as I practice poses. And clearly my practice of Chi Running has its roots in the same philosophy as yoga. We’re aligned!
One of my main concerns before I embarked on this yoga journey had been my inability to place my hands flat on the ground for several positions because of my arthritic thumb joints. As I mentioned above, the instructors were good about suggesting alternative positions in challenging situations. But when I was looking at my hands on my mat today, trying to find a hand-arm arrangement that would work for the Downward Dog or the full-arm Plank, I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of those humbling experiences most of us have had thanks to a too-honest observation from a small child.
Last year, when we were visiting our grandchildren (and their parents), I had lots of opportunities to read with my 5-year old granddaughter. On one such occasion, as she listened to me read and looked at the pictures, she gently ran her finger along the raised veins on the back of my hand. I loved this; I vividly remember sitting with my own grandmother on her porch swing and tracing the veins on the back of her hand when I was small. Then I made the mistake of sharing that memory with my granddaughter. I said, “You know how you are playing with the back of my hand? Well, I remember doing the exact same thing with my grandmother when I was your age. And someday you’ll be reading with your 5-year old granddaughter and she will trace the veins on your hands. You’ll be able to tell her you remember doing that with your grandmother!”
Well, the look of horror on her face was immediate. “I don’t want to have hands like yours!” she proclaimed, more forcefully than I thought was necessary. “Mommy,” she said, “let me see your hands.” She took a look at her mother’s hands, not entirely sure what she thought of them, although she didn’t recoil the way she did with mine. “I don’t want hands like grandma’s,” she said firmly. Then she turned back to me and said, “Let me see your feet.”
Lesson learned from this encounter: keep your reminiscing to yourself, especially with 5 year olds.