This week, I’m really glad that I joined Gyan Yoga.  Joing Gyan Yoga has been, so far, the top decision of my year, I think.  I feel like an athlete; despite an athletic history of rock climbing and swimming and mountain hiking, I’ve never, ever thought of myself as “an athlete”.  Now, on top of …
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Hot Yoga, Week 16: Downward Dog

This week, I’m really glad that I joined Gyan Yoga.  Joing Gyan Yoga has been, so far, the top decision of my year, I think.  I feel like an athlete; despite an athletic history of rock climbing and swimming and mountain hiking, I’ve never, ever thought of myself as “an athlete”.  Now, on top of my busy web logging schedule, I will have to update all my internet biographies with this new descriptor.

I know this is sooo North American to say, however, I *am* a North American, and I’m going to say it: I wish they’d do a studio class once a week with intense dance tracks like an aerobics class.  It would be incredibly cool on the cool charts.  I for one would feel like I was in the Fun & Games “training montage” from a sports movie in a class like that.

Also, I would actually consider watching a yoga sport event.

I’ve never, ever gotten any interest out of watching a sporting event.  To be honest, I used to think that watching something on television like the Olympics was really sort of a waste of time.  From today on, I’ll try to look on it differently.  (Now that I’m an athlete, I mean.)

For me (and I’m listening to high-octane sports-training-montage-Fun&Games dance music right now, to pump me up), yoga is physically difficult and challenging; however, it is even more challenging mentally and, frankly, emotionally, and, frankly, though with somewhat less certainty (or, expertise or understanding), spiritually.  I used to just give up and give into a burning, awful fire of shame under my ribs and behind my forehead in yoga classes, whenever I could get up the determination and courage to go to a class.  It’s hard to explain beyond that; I used to think, “Cheese & Crackers!  I can’t do any clue-ing better than this!  How am I ever going to improve?!”, and while watching all the other girls in the class effortlessly touch their fingertips or palms to the floor, or lean (with satisfaction!) into a forward seated fold, I would think, with paranoia, about how stupid and useless I looked.  Without any proven ESP abilities whatsoever (and believe me, I’ve tried to do ESP), I was convinced that I was the motivator for any number of my classmates, who must have looked on my inferiority and inability and obtuseness with an enormous, satisfying pride.  I couldn’t handle the negative thinking in the soothing, harmonious, celestial-peace-filled studio; I’d often roll up my matt and silently excuse myself.  It was tough to go back; making the whole class was just something I couldn’t often do at first.

A mental comparison I made to myself quite a few times was a Girl Playing Hockey Or Football or Baseball story.  Not as strong or quite as fast and not as well suited, she’s ignored by the other players (though natch I was never bullied to leave the class!), she experiences challenge and discouragement, eventually or sometimes gives up and comes back again, and gets a little better, and keeps going.

I think someone could really probably make a killing running organized Beginner Yoga classes for people who have really never done it before; I don’t think I’ve ever been in a great beginner class that really clicked for me, and too often, the “beginner class” was filled with girls who weren’t beginners.

So, part of the challenge of getting into yoga for me was a gender barrier.  Although I think I’m mentally half girl, or hermaphroditic, I’m stuck in a mortal boy’s body, and while I often love an educational instruction class with girls, yoga was tough, and the girls’ ability always discouraged me, and prompted me to negative thinking that, “This is impossible,” or, “I’ll never be able to do this,” or, “Who am I kidding?  I can’t do these kind of bends, and I never will be able to, I just hate this, I should just leave, I must look like a stunned ox trying to imitate a flamingo, I’m such an idiot.”  ‘The Girls Really Intimidated Me: The Jason Holborn Story” could be a potential title for my yogography.

Reader, I’m in regular classes with a very fine lady in terrific shape, with a physique that generally is the same as mine (tall, ectomorphic), and who also wears the best sports Daisy Dukes in the studio.

Imagine my deep surprise at realizing last week that throughout the class, I was considerably, considerably more flexible than this girl was.  I don’t believe I’ve ever been able to say that before; it was a moment I may remember for some time.  (Incidentally, she seems or appears quite happy and content in and after yoga class, and to be a positive thinker about herself)

On the same day, from holding an upward pushup position, I swung my right foot up, below me, and planted it beside my right palm and thumb, under my right shoulder — and realized what I had just done.  I didn’t even look down at my foot in surprise, I just kept up with Rishi, and briefly thought about how I’d never been able to swing either of my feet under myself from an upward pushup position before, and how clumsy and awkward I used to be in dragging it up the matt.  My left turned out to be just as able that day.  I wondered if I’d be able to keep it up through the class; I was.  It was a sudden, surprise advance for me.

For years, of joining different studios and then dropping out, I didn’t know what I needed to do, physically, in the class, to improve.  I could only roughly, generally imitated the poses my best and know that I was nowhere close to making it work.

I’m no expert today, yet I would say I’ve learned a much better understanding of my overall structure and of what I need to do to work at improving, when I’m in a pose and adjusting my frame.  I owe that to a few yoga teachers, including Emman Salvador, however, mostly I owe it to joining Gyan Yoga studio.

In fact, yesterday, in Rishi’s class, and again today in Rishi’s class, I made some very educational progress on my goal of doing a downward dog.  I’m nowhere close to that achievement, and I doubt I’ll achieve it by the end of 2013, however, I may be able to achieve it by next summer, after a full year at Gyan Yoga.  I know to try to curl or pull (or push) my hips back or up or out to feel an extra stretch, which I believe or assume is the right stretch.  Generally I remember to do this.  Rishi told us to push our chests back to our knees; I did so, with my planted palms.

Had I heard this instruction before and just mentally filtered it out as something I couldn’t do anyway?  I don’t know.  Yesterday, I was ready to hear it — I did it, and I felt it, something new and different and better and closer and stronger, in the pose.  The rest of the class, I did the same thing, and I felt and feel I obtained some progress and improvement from this manoeuvre.  I felt like I had learned how to achieve my goal, of doing a real, good, decent downward dog, and that I was going to achieve it.

I think I felt like an athlete.