February 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
While it was easy enough to get out and take yoga classes this week, I think it will take a much longer time to truly explore and understand yoga. In a week’s time I felt like I only started to know where to begin.
Yoga can be so many different things and can involve so many different variables – style, instructor, philosophy, spirituality. I think it takes a lot of trial and error to find what’s right for you.
When I started doing yoga back in LA a few years ago, I just found a studio close to home (Yoga Works) and thought of it in terms of levels, not in terms of philosophy or style. I went from beginner to intermediate over the year I went there.
This week I really tried to go to places that were “true” yoga studios, where there was someone leading it that had practiced a life of yoga (in many cases from Indian yogis) that had a discipline and a philosophy. I didn’t want to go to a place that just viewed it as exercise. I wanted to think of it in terms of “craft”. I went to 3 very different studios:
Yoga Workshop (Boulder) – This is Richard Freeman’s studio where I took a beginner Ashtanga class focused on alignment of poses through a vinyasa flow. I think I will try an intermediate class here since I felt this was a little too beginner.
Maha Yoga (LA) – Whoa. I went with my friend Amy to Steve Ross’s vinyasa class. The author of Happy Yoga led a loud hip hop vinyasa flow and would come by now and then to get me to “lighten up” by knocking me off balance when I’d be struggling with a pose. This class was not for me but yoga can sometimes take itself a little seriously, as I often do, so it did help me approach the whole thing with a bit more lightheartedness. I did do a shoulder stand incorrectly though that was killing my neck for the next two days.
Bikram Yoga International Headquarters (LA) – Amy and I met Bikram himself there (he is truly a character) and took a class from one of his excellent teachers, Lisa. This was by far my favorite. It was the closest thing I felt to a real yoga practice. There was a clear philosophy, the instructor made sure you were doing things correctly and it felt amazing after.
I also want to check out Anusara and Iyengar this week, but all in all I got a fairly good start to yoga. The one thing I felt myself getting clarity on was that I’m not someone who wants to be told how or what to think. I feel fine practicing yoga when the instructor is helping me get the physical poses right and is encouraging me to “soften my gaze” so that I am in more of a meditative state. What I don’t like is when an instructor applies “therapy” to classes. When it starts getting into stuff like “let the stress of your day fall away” or “push those negative thoughts you carry around away” I don’t respond. In fact it makes me think more about them when I wasn’t really thinking them in the first place. Many instructors also apply their own wacky spiritual advice to yoga which I really don’t respond to.
I like when yoga gets your body and breathing to slow down so your mind can slow down. When I’ve done it right, I can start to manage my own thoughts (whatever they may be) and let them be vs having someone else tell me what I’m thinking. I really liked Bikram yoga for this reason.
I think this week was a pretty good start to understanding yoga and has put me on the right path with it. After only 3 days, it did wonders to how I felt physically and mentally put me in the right place for my pitch I was working on, which went very well by the way. Yoga will definitely be something I continue to explore.
In the meantime, “Go Steelers!”