31 March 2008

A love letter to yoga.

I was going to write about baseball today, what with it being the Twins opener and all. There's not much to say about it at this point. Other than I'm stoked that baseball is finally starting and I can't wait until F-Bomb gets called up from the minors. Ooooh, I think I have a fantasy baseball team to manage. I should check into that. I didn't do jack shit last year and I finished second or third. Awesome!

So, since I promised Jerious Norwood I'd write a thoughtful essay about why I love yoga, I'll write about baseball another day. Honestly, I'm baffled that Mr. Norwood needs any reason to try yoga other than the opportunity to be in a room full of (potentially) hot, flexible women.

After class today, I decided to tell the instructor that it was probably my last class with her. She is really great. She even made an effort to learn everyone's name. I didn't want her to think I stopped coming to class because I didn't like it or something. One of my classmates apparently overheard our brief conversation, because she walked me up the stairs and wished me good luck. She also said she was going to miss me in class because my form was so beautiful. Um, what? I was kind of flabbergasted. She said she'd check me out in a pose and if she looked like I did, she knew she was doing it right. I really didn't know what else to say other than thanks.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned enjoying the smaller classes in part because I get the opportunity to check my form in the mirror. And I've been surprised to see how good it is. I feel like that is a huge accomplishment. It's totally lame and vain, but I think one of the major reasons I like yoga is that I'm fairly good at it. Some of it is really easy for me because I'm naturally flexible. Not that I knew I was all that flexible before I started yoga. Sure, I kicked everyone's ass in the V-sit and reach in high school. But how was I supposed to know that would translate?

Yoga has been good for my various aches and pains. I have had a herniated disc in my back for more than 10 years. It used to bother me fairly often. However, I can think of just one incident in the past year or so where it bothered me. And that was because my bus driver slammed on the brakes one morning when I wasn't paying attention, so I couldn't brace myself. Yoga has been better than any sort of physical therapy or prescribed exercises for my back ever had been before. There's a lot of core body work in any yoga class, even if you don't realize you're doing it.

Then there is the whole spirituality of it. It sounds terribly hokey to some people, I'm sure. And coming from a girl who gets drunk to avoid going to church on holidays probably makes it sound even hokier. But there is a touch of spirituality to it; there's something about the communion of mind and body. Focusing on my breathing calms me down and relaxes me. I feel centered and focused. Poses release tension, and sometimes there is even an emotional release in certain positions.

There is no judgment in yoga. Well, there's not supposed to be. I struggle with that, both in judging others and myself. You're not supposed to do either. In fact, you're not to be concerned about anyone in the class but yourself and your own practice. It's difficult sometimes when there are so many asshats in class. But still, through the course of the class, I'm usually able to dismiss them from my thoughts, or at the very least give them the benefit of the doubt. I take to heart the end of class when we bring our hands to our foreheads, for peaceful thoughts and down to our lips for peaceful words and finally to our hearts, for peaceful actions. Sure, sometimes it doesn't take, but I try.

I often wonder where I'd be if I had practiced consistently since I started in 2000 or 2001. The progress I've made since I made a commitment more than a year ago to attend at least two classes a week is amazing to me. My posture is better. My flexibility is always getting better and it's very clear to me that I'm getting stronger. Even my balance is improving. And my balance blows, y'all.

So, how's that Jerious? It's not for everyone, but hot damn, do I love it.


I'm Frank said...

I have that nice distance-runner flexibility, meaning all my muscles are about as stretchy as blocks of wood. Seriously, I could not come close to touching my toes right now even if you paid me. But then again, there's always some part of my body that hurts in the morning and I have a spine shaped like a question mark.

Muffy Willowbrook said...

I've tried a zillion times to leave the same comment.

I'm afraid if I do it again, I'll look like a major dork.

So - shortened version. You rock the yoga.


Jerious Norwood said...

Thanks for the breakdown Jess. So basically its a panacea, and would give me spiritual centertude and an overall sense of physical wellbeing... all while being able to ogle pretty girls. The problem as I see it is that I think I fall into the frank/ muffy realm of things and wouldn't be able to properly bend over let alone contort my body in all manner of ways. Do you have partners in Yoga or is this more of a solo thing, and is there any preliminary test I can use to gauge my ability to not tear my hamstrings upon entering the studio?

Jess said...

I wish I'd gotten to see your original comment, Muffy.

Plenty of people who go to my classes regularly can't reach their toes or the floor on a forward fold. You gotta start somewhere, though, you know?

I've heard of partner yoga. I think they might have even had a class at my gym. No clue how it works, though. Like everything else, I think there are a million types of yoga. Maybe even yoga with your pet?