Monday, November 1, 2010

the raven (or the crow, depending)

On Saturday, I went to a new yoga class.  I was inspired by my sister, who said she went to yoga last week.  I haven't been in ages.  I used to go all the time, and it was always time for myself, time I could pay attention to my inner promptings, if you will.  Also, time I could turn off the cell phone and just relax.  I started going waaaaaay back when I lived in Michigan. 

Anyway, I haven't been going for a long time.  In fact, I haven't really been going consistently since I moved to New York.  I tried different studios, different teachers, different classes, and didn't like a single one of them.  All the classes I tried in New York City shared one major drawback:  the energy was so competitive.  Several of the teachers used it as show-off time, bending themselves into impossible poses.  Many of the studios offered free classes to other teachers at the studio (maybe to make the classes look full, I don't know) and the result was that there was always at least one person in each class who weighed about 115 lbs., was wearing a sports bra as if it were a shirt, and was up in the front doing the "advanced" variation to every pose.  I always spent the next 3 days in pain from pushing myself too hard.  I never left with a feeling of zen, usually just with a vague sense of failure.  And most importantly, no one was ever friendly.  This includes the teacher.  So gradually, I stopped trying to find a class and stopped going.  I started running more and more, and just decided I would get my exercise/me-time that way. 

Then, my sister said she was going, and I was totally and completely overwhelmed with pretty much everything in my life.  And, conveniently, I found a class that conflicted with the Saturday morning recreational soccer that the kids all play (which is my own personal hell).  So we had a winner.  I put on my stretch pants and went. 

When I got there, I was nervous.  I hadn't practiced yoga in months, and I hadn't practiced consistently in over 2 years (how did I let that happen?! I asked myself).  My legs were tight from running without stretching.  My arms were weak.  I felt out of practice.  And the teacher made me sit front and center.  Because Halloween was approaching, she asked us to think of a pose that frightened us.  My first thought was "all of them," but when I had to say it out loud in front of the class, I went with the basic arm balance that I have never been able to do, even when I went to yoga every week and could stand on my hands.

The crow.
(This is a raven, apparently, not a crow.  It turns out they are different birds. 
From Curious Expeditions, which has an interesting discussion of the raven in literature.)

Crow pose actually looks like this:

It is terrifying, because you feel like you are going to land flat on your face.  I was nervous about the arm strength required, and I always kind of feel like my knees are digging into my upper arms in a really painful way.  I tried it a few times, failed, and quit.  I know, not that inspiring.

But then, the teacher asked me how it was.  "I don't like it,"  I answered.  She apparently noticed that I had not really put that much into it.  The woman next to me asked her to walk through again how to do it.  I listened.  I put a bolster in front of my face so I could fall on my face and it wouldn't hurt.  I lifted up and moved forward instead of trying to just pick up my heels and put my head down.  It worked.  I fell on my face on the bolster, but for approximately 1.5 seconds, I was in crow pose.  Maybe yoga is not a metaphor for life.  But, you know, moving up and forward is generally better than just putting your head down and hoping no one notices you aren't trying that hard. 

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