Today was a very busy day in my non-yoga life. I ran errands all morning, volunteered at the hospital in the early afternoon, and prepared the house for visiting relatives in the later afternoon. By the time evening arrived, what I really wanted to do was just crash on the couch and erode my mind with television drivel.
Instead, I got off my rear, placed my body in my car, and drove for 40 minutes in rush hour traffic to get to tonight’s yoga tech session.
Unfortunately, the teacher of the tech session did not.
A rather significant storm came to the metro area this afternoon/evening, and at 7:20 pm, the teacher called the studio and said she didn’t feel safe driving in the weather, so she wouldn’t be coming in to teach tonight’s class. Tech session – canceled.
But. For better or worse, I’m not one to “just accept” things like that without asking some questions – and making some statements. What follows is my side of a conversation with the yoga studio front-desk gal upon learning that the tech session was canceled: “The teacher just called, at 7:20 pm, just 10 minutes before the class was supposed to begin? Hmm…well, I understand her not wanting to drive if she doesn’t feel safe; but at the same time, the 10 of us students all made the commitment to come to the class tonight, and here we are. Doesn’t it feel a bit unfair to cancel a class with literally 8 minutes of notice? So… let’s say tonight’s class just *had* to be taught – how would we go about getting that done?”
At this moment, the teacher of the session that had just finished looked at me, and said, “So-and-so isn’t coming in?” She frowned. “Well, what’s the topic of tonight’s tech session?” Modifying sun salutations, I informed her. “Well, I mean, I can teach that – if I’m ‘allowed’ to, that is. Let me make a call.” This teacher then proceeded to call a whole host of answering machines, before finally making connection with a live person. I couldn’t hear the content of the conversation, but at the end of it all, the teacher said, “Well, you know what? Let’s just do this. Get your mat, and come into the studio.” And two minutes later, class was on!
With literally less than sixty seconds to prepare for a 90-minute technical session designed to convert yoga students into yoga teachers, tonight’s instructor did one helluva job. While the content of the class was more talking (and therefore less movement) than I would have liked, considering the circumstances I’m not complaining in the slightest. I did gain many, many helpful learnings from this evening’s session, as well as a few personal insights. Some highlights:
- Sun salutations are the foundation of the asana part of yoga. These “simple” 12 poses have SO much to teach. In fact, I have been doing 8 repetitions of Sun Salutation A every morning for at least 4 years now, if not longer – and the more I do them, and the more I’m aware of my body, breath, and mind as I move through them, the more I realize I still have a lot to learn about them, and about myself. Wow.
- I was reminded that even yoga poses that look super-easy simply are not, if they are done correctly. We spent several minutes getting into the correct posture and form for Mountain pose; and when done properly, it is a heckuva lot more than “just standing”. (!) Wanna try? Follow these instructions:
- Stand up straight. Okay, see, most people just stop right there, and said, “Oh, Mountain. Okay, I’m standing up straight, so now I’m done. This is super-easy, and kind of boring, so let’s move on to a challenging and exciting pose!” Oh, but wait; “just standing” is hardly Mountain. Keep going…
- Engage the feet. Put slight pressure on the balls of the feet, then on the heels. Connect the feet to the ground.
- Activate the calves and the quads. Tighten the leg muscles slightly, and really start to engage them. Don’t strain; but don’t loaf, either.
- Tuck the tailbone. Activate the sometimes-lazy rear end.
- Tighten the abs. Squeeze that six-pack-in-the-making, and feel the abdominal muscles tighten. This is not only to make them work, but to offer protection to the body as we transition from Mountain to the next pose in the sequence.
- Align the shoulders. The easiest way to do this is to scrunch the shoulders up towards the ears, then roll them back, then gently place them back down. See how the chest feels more open, and the spine feels straighter?
- Lift the chin slightly. Don’t look up, but also don’t down; keep the gaze ahead, eyes relaxed, chin parallel to the floor.
Now, doesn’t all of this feel different from the initial standing in “Mountain”? I was amazed. Even this super-basic, simple, easy, “boring” pose has a LOT going on – and therefore has a lot to offer.
- While yoga is equally about strength and flexibility (as I discussed in an earlier post), sun salutations take this even further, and bring an intense focus on alignment into the mix – which further reveals what parts of the body are weak, inflexible, or both; as well as which parts of the body are strong, supple, or both.
- In sun salutations each pose gets one full breath – and all breaths should be equal in length. It can be tricky to complete each breath fully, before transitioning to the next pose in the sequence – which is one of the reasons why sun salutations make excellent “practice” for the union concept of yoga.
So. By being resilient, tenacious, persistent, and a teeny tiny touch “pushy”, I got to learn a lot about a topic I “thought” I already knew a lot about. Tonight I was given the opportunity to acquire some knowledge – and some humility. And, the storm just passed me by.