I recently read in a profile of another yoga teacher-on-the-side that she teaches yoga to nourish herself, and she practices yoga to nourish her students. That resonates with me, most of the time. But this week, I went to a yoga workshop in order to address my own anatomical issue firstly, and secondly, to help me help my students.
I’ve got a tight right hamstring, which at times in the last two weeks has also manifested in a sore flexor in the same hip. So, when one of my favorite local studios, One Yoga, offered up an “Opening the Hips” clinic, I decided to sign up. The e-flyer promised a thorough-sounding tour of what can be done to keep the body free of the various kinds of congestion – mainly pain or limited flexiblity – that can assail the hips. Poses, breathing, anatomy, a little energy-talk. I was looking forward to it. Truthfully, I was expecting some sort of a chakra-aligning vinyasa practice, and an anatomy lesson. And some relief for that hammy.
For the most part, my level of anticipation was rewarded, though the specifics may not have been met. It’s good for growth, that unexpected element. The teacher, Ben Vincent, was knowledgable and enthusiastic. My main takeaways:
- Discovery 1: The pose that bothered me wasn’t the one I expected to bother me. Thankfully, it wasn’t the last pose of the class.
- Discovery 2: I have no illusions that my 200-hour yoga teacher training covered Everything Yoga. However, I was still surprised to learn some new vocabulary, in the realm of the subtle body/energy (prana) flow. “Vayus” is a new word and concept for me. I found myself trying to map these five to the stack of seven chakras, in my notes during the class. Evidently I need transparencies to grasp this one, as vayus are … winds? I’ll need to read up on it.
- Enlightening and Practical Discovery 3: The instruction to inhale into the belly of the muscle you’re attempting to lengthen (i.e., one hamstring), and on exhale, to engage the opposing muscle. Wow. The tingling. I doubt the sensation was similar to what it feels like to be released from a medieval stretching rack, because it felt good. But that’s the visual I had. Maybe a saltwater taffy metaphor is more attractive?
- Enough with the Iyengar! Well, it wasn’t really the Iyengarness (in particular last night: propitude, and lack of flow) of the class that gave me a scrunchy face at several times in the class – it was the physical discomfort from a few poses that happened to involve props. There are many things I like about Iyengar yoga: meditation, a longer savasana, very specific anatomical instruction, variety of pranayama, and some poses involving props. However, props have a lot to do with why I’m not attending Iyengar classes at this time: I have a dislike-detest relationship with the folding metal chair prop, and also with supta virasana and the Everest of props needed for me to achieve comfort in it. At any rate, my scrunchy, pain-betraying face last evening most likely meant that the props I had at hand weren’t big or multitudinous enough.
- The sleep following this evening class was a rare one in which I don’t wake up at 2 AM with tightness in my lower back that causes me to roll to one side and curl up, to stretch out that area. So, at least in the short-term, my hips benefited.
- I felt some irritation that the class went 30+ minutes longer (putting my exit after 10pm) than expected, and that there really wasn’t enough time for the material and all questions from students. Breathe, it’s minor. It made for a slightly later night, but I didn’t mind spending another 45 minutes in an area of town where I enjoyed living, years ago. Yay, Uptown Minneapolis!
- Marching orders: Ben promised us that the sequence of poses, if practiced regularly, would improve my hip flexibility. It looks like I have something to add to my evenings. Excellent: New motivation to restart my regular home practice.
Related only by this asana assignation: The above dragonfly was doing a very convincing savasana, when I came upon her, during a walk home earlier this week. She was deader than a doornail, but oh so beautiful. During a run a few mornings before that, I witnessed a mass fledging of mayflies, as I crossed that same bridge. There were thousands of them, just then freed from the Mississippi river, passing just in front of me. All were a little smaller than the Twelve-Spotted Skimmer above. Wow. Had I arrived 20 seconds earlier, I’d have collided with them and likely felt fear and revulsion – but from a little distance, this event was breathtaking.