Saturday, January 23, 2021

#23 Yoga (or "trying something new")

I've been thinking a lot of about yoga lately. 

When I was living with Kelli during coronavirus in Abu Dhabi I attended a couple of classes with my friend Mandy from the UK; before that it has been ages since I did hot yoga in Boise on Broadway pretty diligently. Before that it was a stint of Vinyasa Flow with Jenny L. (I think?) at Gold's on Park Center in Boise. 

Here in Tel Aviv I've been going to my great little gym Subterra consistently 3 times a week for about 2 months (the Friday class is only possible because we are working from home). I have a habit of feeling less than in many areas and in the physique department that has been exacerbated in this city. Everyone has the body of a supermodel. Perhaps it is coming from America (where I heard today 2/3 of the population is overweight or obese) to the UAE (where one study found 70% of adults overweight or obese) to Israel, where this report says only 50% are overweight or obese in Israel but all the other reports say it is just like America. Anyways, in my part of Tel Aviv, it's supermodels as far as the eye can see. All of this just supports my case for the day. 

Here we go. After 2+ months of consistent yoga-going I have had the following experiences and epiphanies:

  • When I went to the first class the teacher, Talia, walked straight up to me, introduced herself and asked me what my level of ability was, totally shattering the stereotype in my head about stuffy, elitist yoga teachers. She also teaches in English, which is super helpful for those of us who do not speak Hebrew.
  • One day after I had been going for a while a new woman came to the class. On her first day she tried some stuff that she was able to do. On her second day she tried a headstand and was successful! Now I've been attending class after class, by passing the headstand parts because "I can't do it." I know that part of yoga is not comparing yourself to anyone else, but that small episode turned on this little voice....why haven't you tried it?  It's a valid question. It isn't like I was saying, I need to be as good as her, I just wondered why I hadn't tried at all after all these classes. Not even just putting my head down and trying to balance. When I looked for the answer I found excuses and fear. I'm afraid I'll fall and crack my head. I'm afraid no one will help me. I'm afraid I'll hurt my knee. After that, I tried. I even asked Talia for help and, to my unwarranted surprise, she came over and coached me through it until I got as far as I could. No judgement or name calling. Just coaching. 
  • I began to notice little things that Talia would say, like "keep your abs tight here," or "engage your quads here," and I began to hear them. Then I began to apply them. This is when it all started to come together. Before this I was going through the motions, putting my feet where they were supposed to be at the right time, but I wasn't having the same experience I heard Talia describe. When I really started engaging ALL of me I began to have a better experience. I didn't feel like I was just moving my body around in a sequence of movements but instead began to see each pose as its own task. 
  • Consequently, I also began to "get" some of the poses and get to confront a whole new set of obstacles. Crow pose, for example. I can now get into it and am beginning to stay in it for 5 or 6 seconds at a time. Now I am confronted with a new issue: trusting myself. Do I trust my wrists to hold me up? Do I trust that if I fall on my face I will be okay? 

These minor epiphanies in yoga are extending out into the rest of my life. Take the trusting the wrists thing. At work I am trying a different way of planning and when I find myself procrastinating one of the things I asked myself is, do I trust that I know what I'm doing? After all, I am in my 10th year of teaching. Just like my wrists are strong and can hold me up, my experience and training have prepared me to create a good plan. 

Another example is with running. My trainer Kenny years ago told me how I carry myself while walking can help train my body to stay in good form while I run. Did I listen? Not so much. But now that I see the connection in yoga with keeping my core engaged to better do something I thought I was doing pretty well--downward dog. Listening to Talia I realized that I wasn't engaging all of my--my shoulders were relaxed and my core was kinda limp. When I corrected it became a whole different experience. Now as I run I engage those same core muscles and guess what? My knee doesn't hurt as much during of afterwards.

A final example is with work--am I engaging my entire "body"? I wasn't before break, but I am now! I am "all in" at my job these days. I don't want to just muddle through, I want to excel. I am going the extra mile that somewhere along the line I stopped doing. It wasn't that I did a bad job, but I wasn't aiming for my absolutely best. Turns out, I feel way better when I engage my everything. In work, yoga and most of life.

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