Last night I spent a couple of intense hours in a gaggle of ridiculous, gravity defying positions. And I wasn’t alone… By the end of the night I was out of breath, sweating in some very odd places, and feeling strangely pleased with myself. And I’m doing it all again next week…
No! I was not doing that, you filthy little beggars. Honestly, get your minds out of the gutter! I’m talking about yoga folks!
In the spirit of my new “something’s” for 2012, yoga is one that has been in the back of my mind for a while. A friend has been telling me for years to go to yoga and, being the kind-hearted and supportive friend I am, I’ve always ignored him. It’s a little game we play…
Friend: “You really should try yoga”. Me: “You really should eat more cake”. Friend: “You should go see someone about not sleeping”. Me:“You should go see someone about your foot” (he has a bad foot). Friend: “Stop eating so much cake!”. Me: “Stop drinking so much coffee!”.
And so it continues, the infinite loop of mutually disregarded suggestions. However, having gone through some pretty low lows in the past 6 months, and all the stuff that brings with it – insomnia, stress, those bastard cluster headaches – it seemed like as good a time as any to give it go. So it was one of the first “something’s” to go on my list. I did A LOT of research beforehand, naturally. I have OCD yeah, so I research everything to within an inch of its life! Maybe I should add “be less obsessive about stuff” to my list? Hmm. One thing at a time… .
After blowing up the internet for a few weeks, I found a lovely small class, just on the other side of town. My teacher (the super friendly Vanessa) was brilliant in the run up to my first lesson, responding to my oh-so-many emails, answering all my questions, and basically doing an all round tip-top job of reassuring me I’d be absolutely fine in the group. Just what I needed to hear (I can get a touch anxious you see…). There were a couple of false starts with my foray into the bendy, breathy stuffs though. Week One was cancelled. In Week Two there were navigational issues. But they say third time’s the charm, right? So off I went, kitted out in my newly purchased yoga pants (thanks all-knowing yoga oracle in Brighton sports shop for those!), ready to get my relax on. Oh Cups, how naïve you were…
So here’s something my teacher didn’t tell me – yoga is hard! I turned up ready for a bit of light stretching, some breathing exercises, maybe some slightly harder stretching later on, all topped off with a 10 minute lie down to help promote the all new serene and calm me. Um. Yeah. It wasn’t really like that. And it wasn’t really a beginners class either (I knew that already, but Vanessa had reassured me I’d be fine – bless her delightful naivety). There was stretching. Oh man was there stretching! I’m not sure bodies are meant to be in some of those positions. At least mine isn’t meant to be. And I think I had somewhat underestimated how much coordination was needed to pull off moving between positions. I’m not the most coordinated person when it comes to such things (which is precisely why I have never taken dance/aerobics classes – the sheer horror is unimaginable!) But how fluid and easy my classmates made it look. I tried to copy what they were doing, but good grief, I have never seen grace lost so quickly and to such an extent! My balancing wasn’t as bad, although it wasn’t great. I guess I should have mentioned I don’t really have a very good sense of balance either. So to recap, I have no coordination AND poor balance. Yup. Yoga and me are an ideal fit .
Extreme stretching aside, there’s a lot of focus on breathing in yoga. Good. I do like a spot of breathing. It’s kinda essential for most things. But this didn’t seem to be my normal run-of-the-mill everyday breathing. More precise breathing was required here. But it’s just breathing right? How hard can that be? Um. Well, usually not that hard. But combined with trying to remember what position I was doing, which position came next, how to keep my balance, and how to not giggle every time Vanessa said “downward dog” (snigger), breathing became one tricky customer! Inhale on this movement. Exhale on that movement. Hold the inhale. Hold the exhale. Put the inhale inside the exhale, then stroke the exhale and take the inhale out for dinner and a movie… My head was spinning, probably from lack of oxygen . There were a lot of rules when it came to breathing! There were “tools” too. Huge straps – resembling rubber bands for giants – intended for wrapping round your feet to get your legs in positions even Debbie wouldn’t attempt, be she in Dallas or not. And then there were the foam blocks, proffered to those of us with “short arms” when we attempted to complete what Vanessa declared to be a “slightly more advanced” (understatement!) move of lifting our crossed-legged bodies completely off the floor. Yes, please give me the foam blocks. Because that’s the reason I can’t lift my entire body off the floor – the absence of foam .
Laboured breathing , poor coordination, shaky balance and short arms aside, I persevered, like a super persevering type thing! And I found myself really rather enjoying it. Not necessarily whilst I was doing it, but afterwards I felt really good . And not at all sore today. I like to think that’s more to do with being fairly fit already, and my core muscles being used to getting a workout thanks to my hours in the gym. I like to think it’s because of that, and not because I was in fact doing it all wrong. Only time will tell. I’m sure I’ll get better at the fundamentals too. Vanessa agreed with this, as she reminded me not to be so hard on myself. Blimey, one class in and she knows me inside out already!
So I’ll be yoga-class bound every week, practising the movements and the breathing techniques, trying not to fall down or giggle at the silly names of the positions, in the hope that it’ll not only boost my fitness, but that it’ll help me deal with life’s stresses a bit better. A calm Cuplet is a happy Cuplet after all. But there’s one thing I won’t need to work on before my next date with the mat; the lying down bit. I’m already an expert in that .