Friday, August 22, 2008

The A Is For Awesome

So this apartment situation may be making me miserable, but my Ashtanga class is making me quite blissful.

Here are all of the things I like about it:

1. The instructor is only interested in the yoga itself. The physical activity of doing yoga. Yes, some of the other students have asked her about things like "will yoga bring me inner peace," and she's said that it can have a very calming effect on the body, but she is not the type of instructor who makes yoga all about the mysterious workings of the heart/soul/spirit/chakras/whatever. If a student is having trouble, it's because there's something wrong with their alignment or positioning or breathing, not because they aren't "letting go" or "feeling with their heart" or anything like that.

2. On the above note, she is also scrupulous about alignment/positioning/breathing. Ashtanga is known for letting students "find their way" into poses, which essentially means "even if you can't get your heels down in downward facing dog today, keep trying and maybe you will in a month or so;" but at the same time this instructor doesn't let us "find ourselves" at the expense of executing the poses incorrectly. She is more careful about form than any yoga instructor I've had before. (To be fair, most of my other yoga instructors have been theatre faculty who taught yoga in addition to their other classes.)

3. To continue with the above note: no mood music. I took a yoga class once where the poses were accompanied by a soundtrack of "mystical spiritual wind chimes over the ocean" music. It lasted for four months and I diligently went, but by the end I hated it. The instructor also rang a gong at the beginning and end of each class, which I thought was a bit much.

4. The challenge. Yes, I've done sun salutations and a lot of the introductory poses before, but now I'm learning how to do them in ways that are better for the body and (coincidentally) more challenging to perform. It's fun to have a daily challenge. Part of me feels like it's exciting the part of my brain which formerly got excited beating giant snake bosses in Legend of Zelda. "Can I swing this sword in the right way?" becomes "Can I maintain this pose and my breathing?" (Yes, I am a nerd.)

5. The way my body (and, possibly, my mind and my spirit) feels afterwards: awesome.

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