I try to avoid the ashtanga or vinyasa type of yoga when choosing from the neighborhood offerings. Vinyasa is the “flow” yoga, which is a euphemism for “kick-your-butt-in-75-minutes-or-less.” I would have to admit being intimidated by a class whose nickname is “power yoga.” Picture awkward body positions, and then envision them laced together one after another in a kind of frenetic dance.
Knowing this about me, it’s difficult to believe I failed to read the course description and showed up for the Saturday morning class at the neighborhood studio, figuring anything on a Saturday had to be mellow. I tried not to bolt when the trim, muscular instructor started out by softening the blow of the impending routine, meant to open our tight hips, with the guarantee we would go really slow on the first two repetitions and only speed it up when we could configure ourselves in and out of a pretzel position (whose name I can’t remember) she demonstrated with ease. Much to my dismay I had landed in a power class. “It’s okay,” I said to myself, “you can opt out at any time,” knowing full well that because I landed in the front row two arms lengths from the instructor there would be no way for me to find the courage to exit.
It started out okay with a warm up and I was encouraged because I followed with ease. But that’s the thing with power yoga, positions are added and you return again and again to repeat what you didn’t do so well the first time around, and it creeps up faster and faster until you are on a yoga-go-round you can’t escape, flailing wildly, unable to strike the poses the ultra-fit instructor demonstrates with ease.
By the third repetition of the second set I was done, legs wobbly in protest. I couldn’t bring myself to leave even though I knew I would be sore on Sunday and probably Monday. The instructor’s voice broke through the whizzing in my head with a reminder that the momentary pause on a front bend or a downward dog that are part of the flow were perfect points for us to quickly gather ourselves and rest. I held back a breathless chuckle.
As with most things that make me sweat, I figured this yoga class was meant to teach me something. It's funny what desperation can reveal. One thing about the crazy momentum I sometimes struggle to contain is that I don’t always take advantage of the down time to rest and breathe so I can prepare to deal with the next challenge. I have allowed myself to be at the beckon call of anyone who has my number. I often fail to give myself the breather I need between the contortions required of my life. No wonder I can go over the edge when I am forced to deal with relentless exertion.
As a demonstration of my understanding I found respite in the next forward bend, breathed some relief into my aching back and rear-end in my next downward dog. And today in the midst of some tough stuff I left the cell phone on the kitchen counter, headed to the local farm and picked berries. I practiced breathing in the fragrant berries and letting everything else go.