On day 23 of my 30-day challenge, I made it to Iyengar at Yoga People.   I had never tried this style of yoga before, but it fit into my schedule, and I’d hadn’t been able to make it to the studio in so long that I was doubting the wisdom of my 30-day pass.  So even though Wikipedia basically described Iyengar as Hatha with props, I thought I would give it a try.

I emerged with mixed feelings.  Hatha is Grandma yoga.  Do 28 asanas of it in 106 degree heat, and you have Bikram.  Use various accouterments and extreme attention to detail, and you have Iyengar.  If you are a yoga practitioner who is unfamiliar with this style, here’s the good and the bad:

The Good

Iyengar teachers know their stuff.  They are required to take two additional years of intense training to get their certification.  I definitely learned new things.  However, the structure of the class is different from a flow class, which is what I’m used to.  Rachel, the teacher, would demonstrate a pose, and we would perform it three times, holding it for about a minute.  In between she would give us very, very, very specific corrections.  No one is going to get hurt in Iyengar!  No one’s going to work up a sweat, either… but the class felt good.  And as a ballet person, I respond well to technical instruction.  Iyengar is ideal for beginners, as the student is actually taught how to do everything.

The Bad

God, it’s slow.  And there’s no emphasis on breath, just alignment.  With the exception of one random ‘om’ at the beginning of class, there was no mention of anything spiritual.  Yoga was initially developed as a way for people to be able to sit in meditative poses for longer periods of time.  Obviously, we’ve gotten away from that in the 21st century, but it still feels odd not to connect breath with movement.  In fact, I’m trying to incorporate breath into dance class and auditions and the very fabric of my life.  I don’t really want to be in a yoga class just to imitate movement.

So while Iyengar serves as an excellent foundation for a more rigorous practice, I doubt I’ll go back again.  It wasn’t too easy so much as too boring.

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Not me, my gorgeous friend Claire.

An account of my self-imposed 30-day yoga(ish) challenge.  

Day 7:  Pilates at BAE

Due to scheduling conflicts I have to replace one day of yoga with a day of Pilates.  I’m not going to sweat this minor detail.  However, given that I was up at 6 AM, Charis’ slow, therapeutic class almost puts me  to sleep.  Pilates does not invite reflection the way yoga does, so I do spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out if I think Charis is pretty or not, which is a pointless waste of mental energy.

Day 8:  Vinyasa @ Yoga People

Class progresses unremarkably until somebody rips one right in the middle of shoulder stand.  I’m immature, so I start giggling.  It’s very hard to suppress one’s laughter upside down, so I go into plow to cover my face until I collect myself.

Day 9:  Vinyasa @ Yoga People

I barely make it to the studio by 9:30 AM, but I’m glad I did.  Serena, a svelte Canadian (“turn your toes in and your heels ‘owt'”) of mixed heritage (Japanese/Filipina/white?) gave the most intense, ass-kicking class I’ve ever had.  I emerged with a little bit of a girl crush.  She encouraged me to push my limits and made me go deeper in poses than I’ve ever gone before.  I almost had a panic attack when I realized that, under her tutelage, I was about to do a handstand.  (Headstands I’m comfortable with.  Handstands?  Terrifying.)  I had to go into child’s pose to calm my beating heart.  It seems silly now, but I was so frightened of falling and hurting myself.  My yoga challenges have always been with balancing on my arms and being upside down.  But Serena was an amazing teacher.  I leave class resolved to return the next week, but 9:30 AM is a tall order for me.

Day 10:  Yoga Sculpt at home (Yoga Download)

I took it relatively easy on myself after the workout I’d had the day before.  I haven’t lost any weight since starting this challenge, but I do think I’m improving tone.  Besides, losing weight isn’t the point.  Mental clarity is.  I do think I’ve become better about listening to my instincts, and I’d become brave enough to try some new things.  I was learning to accept the path my life was taking, even though I didn’t know where it would lead.   Each day when I stepped off my mat, I was stepping into the unknown.  And I was becoming okay with that, day by day.

These posts are a combination of journal entries and notes I made after class in order to turn them into a (belated) blog entry.

Day 4:  Gentle Hatha Yoga at home

After two days of antibiotics and one steroid shot, my voice is still noticeably absent.  My husband begs me to stop going to yoga.  “It’s wearing you out,” he tells me.  I admit he could have a point, plus I’m tired of being sick.  So I take his advice and skip power vinyasa in favor of hatha, courtesy of www.yogadownload.com.   I leave my mat inspired to sit down and write about this 30-day experiment.  Finally I am inspired to write about something…

Day 5:  Lunchtime Yoga @ Yoga People

It’s May 3rd, and I have been dreading this date because it marked a year to the date that I started the Mary Poppins tour.  I had been anticipating the “woe-is-me, a-year-ago-I-had-it-together” doldrums, but actually I feel sort of fine.  I even wrote that in my journal:  “I feel fine.”

Yoga was unremarkable except that the Bikram funk has finally, mercifully worked its way out of my mat.  No amount of scrubbing can work the wonders of time.

Day 6:  Power Vinyasa Flow (Podcast done at home)

As sweat dripped from my face onto my mat I realized that while I’ve been waiting for answers to prayers, most of which revolve around getting a job, maybe God actually wants me to move to Los Angeles.  Maybe that’s what Andre and I are Supposed To Do.  The jury is still out for me on things being Meant To Be.  “Our truest dream for ourselves is always God’s will for us,” reads one of my New Age-y mantras that I scribble in my journal (most) mornings.  But how many stories in the Bible are about conforming to God’s will, even if it isn’t what they had in mind?  Moses sure didn’t want to spend 40 days in the desert, but it beat slavery, and it worked out for the Jews in the end.  Lot’s wife didn’t want to leave Sodom or wherever.  At least I can be pretty sure I won’t turn to salt if I look back at New York City.

As I maneuvered into half-moon, I thought about how sometimes having needs met is different from having prayers answered.  But for most of us, except for Lot’s wife, it usually works out in the end.

Despite my frustrations with the Bikram practice in particular, I had become enamored with the idea of doing a 30-day yoga challenge.  I’m not sure why the idea appealed to me so much, but it nestled  into my subconscious and made periodic appearances.  If I felt sad or despondent, it announced itself.  “Hey, you should just do yoga for a month.  And meditate.  See what happens.”   I began to get very busy and overwhelmed by Life.  “Hey, you should slow down.  Try practicing yoga every day in May.  Maybe you’ll feel better.”  Somewhere deep within me I sensed that I needed to make time and space to process all of the changes that are happening in my life.  I wanted to be open to new opportunities.  I wanted to stop working so hard and start allowing good things to happen to me.  I was tired of feeling like I had to hustle all the time.  I needed calm.  I needed space.  And it just so happened that Yoga People was offering 30 days for $30.  I took it as a sign.