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.
(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:
(from Blue Dog Yoga)
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.