PILLOW TALK: Old (Down) Dogs and New Tricks (Deborah Goodwin)
Jan. 9, 2012 (ShapeShiftas) -- The most amazing thing happened in yoga class the other day. (I'm only a little prone to hyperbole).
Not to suggest I am in any way some sage, disciplined, flexible yogi, but I have been practicing yoga off and on since high school, when everyone was into "Be Here Now" and Savasana (corpse pose) from reading "The Tibetan Book of the Dead." (Such little 16-year-old spiritual seekers!) I don't remember even calling it Yoga back then, we were doing the poses so we could Tracendentally Meditate. It certainly didn't count as exercise.
Back in the day, there was only one kind of yoga, which I guess now is Hatha Yoga, and someone might give a class once in a while at the library or the Y. It was certainly considered a weird and hippy-ish pusuit.
Now of course any gym has some yoga and yoga-ish classes, plus there are all-yoga studios with many different styles and practices. The worst, and funniest, in my opinion is Bikram Yoga, which we call Sweaty Yoga because you do the poses in a small room heated to sauna-like temperatures, 20 strangers on mats arranged sardine-style, sweating along together in Down Dog.
Now there is talk, and a New York Times article, about how yoga can be really bad for your body. I think it's because of all these new styles of "athletic" yoga, and too many unqualified teachers, of which I have experienced a few, teaching Vinyasa Flow to gym goers in Chicago and New York. It's more like boot camp, what with all those Warrior poses in a row.
My yoga teacher here in Vermont says that the point of yoga is so that you can then sit comfortably for meditation. He teaches Iyengar yoga, which uses props like blocks and Yogi Bolsters*, focuses on the skeletal foundation of each pose, moves slowly but then holds the poses longer, is all about no strain and stress, no danger to the body as the Times' article implies. (I had to leave the big city to find a great yoga teacher. Namascar, Charles.)
So then in Friday's class, we were going through some standing poses and assumed one of the afore-mentioned Warrior poses, Warrior 2. And we were using a block against the wall to "push off" into the lunge, but then he tells me to reach back with my hand for the wall, and BINGO! It was suddenly -- right.
After all these many and different classes and countless Warrior 2's, it was a whole new pose. Not only had I been doing it wrong all along but I had actually been stressing that bad knee further. It was truly amazing (that so overworked word) and rejuvenating. I am now encouraged to keep practicing everything I do, not just yoga, in search of that Eureka! moment.
You can teach old dogs new tricks.
*Not every Iyengar studio uses the ShapeShiftas' Yogi Bolster - but they could!!!