Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yoga Musing Rant

Hi, my name is Carolyn, and I suck at yoga. Okay, I know that sentence is wrong on so many levels, but I can't help feeling that way. And it's frustrating!!

A little background: I started practicing yoga in the Spring of 2007. My practice was fairly regular that spring and summer, and I even attended Kimberly's yoga retreat in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, I did zero yoga while I was in London (aside from a yoga workshop with David and Sharon from Jivamukti Yoga at a Yoga Conference) and found it impossible to maintain a regular practice after returning to the States. Fast forward to now, the Summer of 2009, and me desperately trying to find my way back to the mat.

I've been pretty good for awhile, going to classes 1-2 times a week (which is waaaay better than before). I go to a variety of classes, but they are mostly flow-based. I like heated, i like not heated, i like intense and challenging, and sometimes i just want a 90-minute nap (aka Relaxation Yoga).

I also want loose hips. My hips are unbelievably tight, even more so now that the majority of my workday is spent sitting in a chair. I love love love hip-openers, but my hips? Well, they're not opening. And I find myself wondering, "Will I ever have the hips of a true yogi? Will I ever be able to do double pigeon? Will I EVER manage lotus pose??" I'm so far from that, my friends... so far.

[Photo: The beautiful (and loose-hipped) Kimberly Wilson]

Another thing I want? To have a headstand practice. The teacher at the (annoying) yoga class I attended last weekend said that headstand is the most perfect asana pose. (Have no idea as to the validity of that statement...) So we spent a good portion of time working on headstand. I cannot do headstand in the middle of the room, I have to do it against a wall. Although it's getting better, I still use momentum to kick up, I can only balance (aka remove my legs from the wall) for mere seconds, and I can't help but wonder, "WILL I EVER GET THIS?"

Ditto crow. And handstand? Omg, do NOT get me started on handstand. We "worked" on that in yesterday's class, and I thought I was going to cry. Something about putting all my weight on my hands terrifies moi, and I found myself deeply nostalgic of the days when I did headstands everyday like it was my job (aka grade school years). Where did that fearlessness go? (Btw we also tried forearm stand, which was admittedly easier than handstand, but still terrifying.)

Is this normal? Am I supposed to be feeling like this? Isn't all this worrying and frustration the opposite of yoga?

One more thing - a word on teachers. The last few classes I've attended have straight up annoyed me, namely, the instructors annoyed me. First, they were substitutes (aka not the teachers listed on the schedule), which irritated me to begin with. After all, I pick (and PAY) for my yoga classes based on the type of class and the instructor teaching it. Who doesn't? And then, there were other things. Annoying voice, going too fast, going too slow, not enough of this and too much of that. Um, who am I to judge?? I'm no yoga teacher, I've never done yoga training. Sure some teachers are better than others, but again, WHO am I to judge? I always end up feeling tres guilty for all the mean thoughts that run through my mind during class. Again, I ask, is this normal? Am I a terrible person? A terrible yogi?

Boo I just wish I had a Tranquil Space gosh darn it!!!


Lauren said...

I am not able to do some of the poses either and while it can be frustrating, I have to repeatedly remind myself to work from where I am right now, appreciate what I *can* do and build slowly. I think learning that patience with yourself and your body is, in itself, a form of yoga. If you keep working at it, it will be all that much more rewarding when you can do it. And there are plenty of poses to work up to the full pose that you can do in the meantime!

I went to a workshop with David and Sharon once and I heard them say that headstand was the most perfect asana too. But then Sharon was quick to follow that by saying really any inversion where your lower half is above your heart in any way works just as well.

And I do think the studio should notify you about substitute teachers unless it was an emergency! I'd be sad if I thought I was going to my favorite teacher and it was someone else!

I didn't even recognize Kimberly in that picture!

Anonymous said...

at least you can GO to yoga! the most tranquil space we have here is Lifetime Fitness. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!

City Girl said...

I started doing yoga in late 2001 - back then Kimberly taught more classes than now, so I was lucky to go to several of hers. One of the things that really stayed with me from those couple of years is that everyone's hips and bodies are different. I remind myself of that now - until 2003 I had a near-daily practice, and semi-regular practice after that, but there's definitely been phases where I feel like my practice regresses before moving forward again.

Melita and I talked about this when she was in town - sometimes it can take a whole year (or two) to master just one pose. And that's ok. :)

Do you think developing a home practice might be a good step since yoga classes arent appealing to you as much these days?

City Girl said...

Lauren is so right - patience is indeed a form of yoga.

Sarah said...

Hey, I was thinking about you last night, remembering you mentioned needing to work on opening up your hips. I've been practicing yoga on and off since 2003 (my last semester at PSU). I still can't do many of the intense poses. Crow, I can do that, if you count holding it for 5 seconds!

I suffer from tight hamstrings and open, but unbalanced hips. Here are a few poses that really stretch me and may work for you: pigeon (definitely for balancing hips and opening up) and half happy baby (do it with just one leg at a time, and focus on keeping both hips on the mat). Hope these help!

asgreen said...

I feel like it takes a while to find a really good instructor. I finally found one, but sadly she teaches on a night that doesn't work for me 1/2 the year.

Chelsea Talks Smack said...


shannon said...

i agree with lauren that learning to have patience with your body's limitations and with your personal feelings is a big part of what yoga is all about. you're not a terrible yogi; you're just going through the process. :)

C said...

I have troubles with crow and handstands..putting all of my weight terrifies me as well. I am learning to be a little more gentle with myself. With this mindset I am enjoying my yoga classes more. Good Luck

Kiki said...

Headstand, my nemesis. I've been working on strengthening my shoulders for literally YEARS now, and part of the fact it has taken so long is because headstand freaks me out and "strengthening" is avoidance. But it's not the pose that scares me much as the fear that I'll hurt my neck, or get a headache. I'm trying now to incorporate more of the "scary poses" into my practice, but as you've said - it's slow going.

You might be surprised at your wrist strength in crow, though. The trick is just to keep tipping forward until your toes come up. Maybe try playing with crow by using blocks under your hands - it lifts you off the floor another few inches, and makes you feel like there's less chance you'll fall onto your nose.

What if we approached *all* these poses with a more playful attitude?

Rachel said...

Seriously did I write this post? LOL. I know that I've said this before, but we have so many similarities! It's insane.

Anyways, back to this post.

I have been practicing yoga for about 2 years. However, lately, I have been uber-busy and unable to make it to a class in 6 weeks! (eek! unheard of, right?).

Well last night I went to class. I knew the teacher that would be leading us (she is my FAVE) and I knew that I needed this. But I too have major hip issues. it runs in my family. I am extremely athletic and very flexible, but I cannot do certain things (like, my body will not do them at all). For instance... I cannot go from a standing split to balancing half moon... My hips will not make that transition.

I too have been majorly struggling with my inversions (headstand, handstand, and forearm stand). It seriously bums me that this comes so easily for some people. Sigh. We can get through this together.

Chelsa Bea said...

I can totally relate to your situation. I haven't done yoga in a couple of months now, because I've been so busy with work but I used to do it 3 or more times a week.

Back in college, I had a class at 7:30 am, so I would go to morning yoga before it, to start my day fresh. I had a fabulous teacher who was so patient and kind and never criticized or made you feel like you were stupid if you couldn't get the move quite right or were moving at a slower pace than the rest of the class.

Then I moved back to my hometown after college I started going to yoga at my local gym. Unfortunately, the "yogie" scene there was not as welcoming. The teachers were much more impatient and unsupportive in my yoga development, always criticizing and seeming irritated if your posture or pose wasn’t just right. I left class feeling frustrated and inadequate. I wasn’t doing yoga to be perfect at it, and I don’t think I ever will be, I was doing it to make me feel good and because I enjoyed it. After awhile, I just stopped going. I didn’t appreciate the showy and unsympathetic attitude of my teachers.

I started doing yoga in my own home with a video because it was just better than doing it at my gym. But like I said, the last few I’ve been so busy with work and other things that I just haven’t had time to do it. I would love to start doing it again, and hope that I can find a supportive and welcoming place to do it.

Stay strong and stick with it.

Angela said...

I'm reminded of a the Chorus Line song lyrics..."find another class." Good instructors are so pivotal to your experience. I'd encourage you to voice your opinion to the studio owner -- sometimes they aren't as aware of the instructor's importance as they should be.

Angela said...

One more thought Carolyn...I used to use an unconventional technique to teach headstands. Try a stability ball (big beach ball - in workout depts at all stores now). Try going into headstand with your feet on the floor. Then move your toes/feet up onto the ball. Learn to steady yourself there. You'll develop the core strength and balance that will allow you to progress on up to headstand. It's an "in-between" step from a wall-supported and full headstand.

Anonymous said...

Handstand is one of the more intimidating poses, but once you do it, it feels awesome. I found Leeann Carey has a free yoga video with great pointers for Handstand. I thought your readers might want to check it out: