For years, I giggled my way through yoga classes at the gym, swearing “it’s not for me.” With a sporty background, I’ve always considered myself fit and ready for any athletic challenge. And yoga classes at various gyms didn’t challenge me physically. I thought it was a nice stretch class, or something for contortionists. In either case, it wasn’t a workout for me.
My life partner has a long history with Iyengar yoga, and although she has a regular home and class practice I didn’t consider a yoga practice for myself until last summer. She invited me to drop into a couple of classes with her at Adeline Yoga Studio and I experienced something completely different about yoga this time.
I went into class feeling old and out of alignment, and came out feeling vibrantly alive “in my body” and also feeling that deep relaxation that comes with exhaustion. And I wanted more.
So we went to a few more Level I classes but I was lost in many of the poses. Not understanding sanskrit, I took to looking around to see what pose others were doing. I wondered which props might help me get halfway there, but was too shy or embarrassed to ask. And my weak, stiff legs had a tough time holding any pose once I got there. But still, I always left feeling a little taller and more relaxed, so I was open to the possibility that this might be good for me.
Things really progressed for me when I took the Fundamentals Series. The 10 weeks of Level I poses were tough for me, only because my body was so out of shape, hunched over and atrophied out of alignment.
The Fundamentals Series gave me step-by-step instructions for all the basic postures along with any personal prop adjustments so I no longer felt lost in class. Sometimes I would get flustered because my hips, hamstrings and groin muscles are so tight, but the teacher showed me how to use blocks or blankets to adjust the poses so I could get the benefits of yoga even as a beginner.
The teacher gently suggested home practice to keep feeling the benefits. Ha! I can barely do yoga in class, how would I possibly do it at home alone? Between classes for the first few weeks, I did a couple of “legs up the wall” and a twist in a chair. Not surprisingly, my lack of enthusiasm at home led to a general lack of improvement in class the following week.
Then somewhere half-way through the Fundamentals series, I mentioned my torso-shoulder-hip stiffness and wondered out loud if I could do a triangle pose by the end of the 10 weeks. The instructor took up the challenge and stacked the blocks up high behind my calf and voila, my first triangle pose!
I realized with my hand on top of the stack of blocks, that I could find the pose quickly and easily, allowing me to hear the teacher’s instructions while I was in a pose. Mentally, this was huge because I moved from just trying to find the pose to being in the pose.
That opened a whole new chapter for me. Holding a pose to get the physical benefits led to a quieter mind and a more inward spiritual focus.
I know the yoga postures were developed over thousands of years in India and many have experienced the quietness before me and may many others discover it. If even for a moment.
–Ruth Rooney, Adeline Yoga Student