Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Breathe Into Your Feet"

In my quest to rid myself of the nagging injuries that have plagued me over the past few years, I decided to try something new - Yoga. I know lots of triathletes and runners, including professionals, rely on regular Yoga to help improve their flexibility and balance. I'm not usually one to readily latch onto new things, and particularly tend to shy away from new things in group settings. But, I determined if I don't try something new I'm destined to repeat my past. So, off to Yoga I went.

I selected a class called "Yoga - All Levels", which sounded good to me since my level would be best described as "ignorant". I was briefly prepped by my wife, who has not done Yoga but has done similar sorts of classes. She clued me in that there would be some sort of mat
to lay on, and that I'd do the session barefoot. She even offered for me to borrow her mat, but I didn't want to give any sort of impression that I had any clue what I was doing, so I decided to show up empty handed.

I arrived to a dimly lit conference room at our fitness center, grabbed a mat, and found an open spot as far toward the back of the room as I could find. I noticed several people were taking not just a mat, but also a couple of what looked like foam blocks, and some sort of nylon straps, and some people had these big tube shaped pillows. I briefly considered that maybe I should similarly accessorize myself, but having no idea what any of the extra stuff was for, I thought better of it and just popped a squat on my mat.

The teacher of the class was probably in her late 50s or early 60s, and i
ntroduced herself as a runner and a one-time triathlete. We started by sitting cross legged, back straight, shoulders back...and we just breathed. This breathing thing seemed pretty important to the whole experience. I guess we were supposed to be in a comfortable and relaxed position while taking in our deep breaths, but I actually found sitting up all straight like that pretty uncomfortable. Probably need to work on my posture.

She had us focus on our bodies, from bottom to top. "...now, breathe into your feet...". Alright, at this point if I were not such a mature adult I may have started one of those back-of-the-classroom giggle-fests. But, I fought past that and restrained myself to nothing more than a compressed smile. She told us to focus particularly on those areas of our bodies that may be sore or injured. I needed to perk up now since it seemed like she was now basically talking to me, as we worked our way up our bodies past all the spots I've injured over the past few years. So, in I breathed, into my Achilles tendons, and into my calf muscles, feeling my "life force" move through my body.... Okay, maybe I don't really know what my life force feels like yet. Perhaps that's a skill I will develop in later classes.

The class moved on through various poses and postures that challenged my ability to bend into curious positions without tearing something, and balance poses that challenged my ability to, well, not fall over. I learned it would have been better to pick a spot close to the instructor rather than hiding in the back, so I could better see what I was supposed to be doing. Trying to understand, "...cross your right leg over your left, then put your right arm under your left elbow with your palms together pointed toward the ceiling...", was, let us say, challenging.

The last three minutes was perhaps the best. They had some name for it that I don't recall now, but it was basically like nap time in kindergarten. I'll have to say, I found myself in one serious state of relaxation.

In the end I was very happy with the experience, and happy that I actually went. It would have been easy for this to be just another of the things I talk about doing, something I know I should be doing, but never follow through on. Like getting help with my swimming :-) I plan to keep going back. As for the swimming...we'll see.

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