Posted in Learning Yoga

Learning yoga – be regular

 

I missed two yoga classes in a week. I felt uncomfortable and disturbed. I tried doing it at home but I couldn’t concentrate. Perhaps because it needs more focus than I could comprehend earlier. My mind is muddled up with thoughts at home, which for some reason doesn’t happen in the class. At home I am not able to concentrate and continue beyond 10-15 min. I need to build a lot more focus and concentration. Now I understand better the ability of yoga practice to build concentration and awareness of self while the surroundings go in oblivion and outside noise fades.

But one thing is certain.. I will not miss a class again. Or at least, I will ensure that I practice at home whenever I can’t avoid missing a class.

 

Posted in Learning Yoga

Learning yoga – know thyself

One of the weirdest parts of my yoga classes is the extreme difficulty I face in following instructions. And I am really not sure why. It’s not that I don’t listen to my teacher. It’s hopefully not because I am dumb or slow. And I don’t really have a hearing problem. It’s definitely not because I have some kind of resistance to learn the right technique. I am desperate to learn. After ages, I am learning or doing something because I really care to and really want to. But all said and done, I can’t seem to get most of the instructions right. And I confess I gave it more thought than probably required. And the conclusion was kind of interesting and a little uncomfortable.

The interesting part is the realization that I am a visual person. I find it very difficult to follow instructions in words. Whenever my teacher shows a pose first, I follow instructions very well when practicing after that. Whenever she starts giving instructions in words, I find myself confounded like a fool. And I saw this happening multiple times. But could never figure out why. Then I started looking at other parts of my life and realized that everywhere I seem to have a better comprehension when I look at things or pictures and when its words, I have to read again and again multiple times to get it right. It’s kind of ironical given that I wish to be a writer someday. I even think visually. I almost always have a picture or diagram or video in my head when I think of a new concept or idea.

The uncomfortable part is that I have very limited awareness of my own body. So when she says, lift your left leg and keep hands besides your body, I am confused. I look around to figure out what’s happening. I have difficulty figuring out left from right and heels from knees from thighs. Even more difficult is the part where I have to act on those instructions… when I have to tell my leg or arm to act in accordance to the technique. And most difficult is to tell the rest of the body to just get lost for a while; I am trying to concentrate on my hands or legs for now.

It’s most disappointing when she starts telling benefits of a particular pose or exercise… and I am completely lost because I have no clue what’s the job of this gland and where is this located in my body and how to associate it with this pose. I only understand basic snippets of information like ‘this will keep you young’ etc.  I almost feel like a stupid kid in school who has no clue what the teacher is saying. But of course, I come back and read online to understand and make sense of all that I heard in class. It’s kind of unfortunate that I don’t know how my body functions. How am I gonna keep it healthy then? Also, I guess that somehow the whole effort of self-awareness and enlightenment is incomplete if I can’t even know and feel my body.

And as always, I couldn’t help but reflect on my education while I was growing up. How could I have not learnt this in school? Or maybe I wasn’t paying attention in the class… maybe I just slept in class and then mugged up a few right answers to pass in exam. And never made any attempt to really learn. I realized I learnt very little in school and I never tried to learn on my own. While growing up (or rather after I grew up), I tried to learn as and when the need presented itself. This holds true for geography, history, practical science, maths, statistics, etc and now biology.

Note to self… buy a basic and advanced biology book and understand human body and how it functions. As much as I would like to say I am smart, intelligent etc, the fact is that I don’t even know the basics of life. And as much as I would like to claim a higher awareness about everything, the truth is that I don’t even know the fundamentals of my existence.

I am disappointed but motivated. Somehow, I am finding the whole prospect of learning biology very exciting right now… a new thing to explore… a new subject to learn.

Posted in Learning Yoga

Learning yoga – headstand

Learning headstand is fun and challenging in equal parts. I have had 5 sessions so far and I have been fairly unsuccessful.

 

First attempt ever… it was not really an attempt. I was just a couple of weeks old in yoga classes and my teacher said I am not taking you up, just follow my instructions. I believed her; I felt light and I was up. Ever since then, I have never felt light in the feet while going up. And sometimes I wonder if it was the lack of fear on day 1 that made me feel light and go up. I have this feeling that I will probably manage it comfortably only when I get that light feeling back in my legs. And that will happen only when I let go of the fear of falling… well, easy said than done. Lesson no 1: Let go of the fear of falling. My teacher repeated this many a times before I officially started attempting headstands. She says its physically unnatural for body to fall backwards but the fear in mind ensures that you fall backwards. And I saw myself almost falling backwards. I have still not managed to get rid of this fear.

 

Second attempt… after a few classes, I was allowed to start attempting headstand with clear instructions that I only have 8 sessions to learn it… this was officially the first. I went up with the support of my teacher; I had no clear focus and my whole body shook with absolutely no balance. I fell down sideways with an audible sound and shriek. I am still embarrassed about that moment. My teacher exclaimed, what drama man! Lesson no 2: Never get too excited. Those cliché words used in context of yoga, ‘concentration’ and ‘focus’, are actually quite relevant.

 

Third attempt… fell again.. went lightly up with support… but basically failed. Lesson no 3: my teacher said look at the size of your feet on which you are standing and look at the size of headstand base, ie, arms and head. And I was like OMG, how come I never noticed that before. We are standing on something that small and I am not able to balance my body on something bigger than that.

 

Fourth attempt… good thing here was that I managed the second stage with both feet curled up next to the chest and stay for a couple of heartbeats… but the moment I tried to go up, I became wobbly. My teacher gave me instructions and I got confused. She asked me afterwards if the instructions were too difficult to follow. And I just said what happened to me, ie, I couldn’t control my leg movement. Immediately came the response, of course you can. These are voluntary muscles. Lesson no 4: legs and hands are voluntary muscles; your brain directs them what to do. You can direct them what to do. Heart, eg, has involuntary muscles. It will move in a certain fashion that you can’t change. But I can direct my hands and legs to do whatever I want.

 

Fifth attempt… well, just failed… went up with difficulty, couldn’t stay up… another girl in class told me later on that I couldn’t focus, my legs and body were not straight and I couldn’t find a center. Lesson no 5: find a focus somewhere ahead on the ground where you are looking… let your eyes focus on a single point in front of them

 

Sixth attempt… went up but wobbly and tilted

 

Seventh attempt… officially sixth… I have now 3 sessions left to learn headstand as per my teacher’s rule… I am little excited, little nervous, little impatient… I really just want to learn this quickly so that I can start doing it in every class like a routine and reap its benefit… sounds a little greedy… but some motivation always helps 🙂

 

Let’s see what happens today

 

Posted in Learning Yoga

Learning Yoga

Finally after years of wondering and waiting, I have joined yoga classes. I first heard of a concept called yoga back in school, as a part of our physical education class. But our training was fairly limited to a lot of theory and very little practice. Even theory was restricted to various types of poses and their benefits. Never did I manage to explore yoga for what it really is and what it really can do. In any case, I was fascinated with yoga as a practice of staying physically fit. But I never really managed to do it, except for a few practice classes which were primarily limited to surya namaskar, padmasan and vajrasan. With years, my fascination just grew further, having understood that yoga is more than just a physical form of exercise. Given my unhealthy lifestyle and the serious ailments I subjected my body and mind to, I had become even more obsessed with a desire to do yoga regularly. For a long time now, I have felt that my mind and body needs and demands a deep cleansing and kind of a detoxification. And for some inexplicable reason, I deeply believed that regular yoga practice is THAT one thing that can help me with my purpose. Also, yoga for me was this magic science that I didn’t understand. I felt it won’t be difficult to comprehend; it won’t be just a biology lesson and it won’t be voodoo. But it still was a mystery to me because I didn’t know it and I didn’t make a serious attempt to know it. Now that I have started practicing, I feel that there is something very scientific and logical about the way yoga has been designed. And it must have involved a deep understanding of a human body and mind. I don’t know who started it or who designed it or how was it communicated to generations of humans to find its place in texts and life of the modern world. But I wonder. And I wonder a lot about the level of awareness and knowledge our ancestors enjoyed to design something as complex and effective as yoga. I believe every exercise and pose of yoga has been designed with a very specific reason and has a very clear benefit on human body or mind. And a very deep understanding of both is required to be able to design practices that can achieve these benefits.

I continued searching for a yoga teacher but I constrained it with my comfort; basically time and venue should suit my requirements. When I took a break from work, first thing on my agenda was my health and yoga. And I couldn’t do anything about it. I would like to blame Delhi and the location of my house etc. But, all said and done, they were just excuses. I rejoined work and back in Mumbai, I relapsed into the old unhealthy routine. Whatever good I did to my body in that one year was compromised by the fast and unhealthy lifestyle of Mumbai. I continued my search for yoga teacher, which was again restrained by the limitations of my new life. And I continued to fall down further on the very uncomfortable path of bad health. After a few visits to doctors, sick leaves and unwanted medicines, I finally decided to redefine my priorities. Along came the way, a high recommendation for a yoga teacher from someone I trust and not very far from my house. My first reaction, however, still was that it’s far and the timings are unsuitable to match my current day schedule. However, with the new priorities clearly defined, I fixed the rest of my day schedule to include yoga practice in it. And voila, I am happy.

Finally, I am doing something because I want to. Finally, I am making a serious attempt to learn something because I really want to. I really want to know it, internalize it and see it clearly for what it is and not as some deep mystery that I don’t understand. It’s liberating. I am learning something new and something I always wanted to know about. And with every class and every practice session, I learn something new and very interesting… not just about yoga but about my body and myself. It’s just amazing how a lot of it is just plain old logic and not some complicated chemical mystery that I thought it to be. It’s even more amazing how a lot of obvious facts I overlooked and I found myself standing with a gaping open mouth when my teacher pointed them out to me.

The best thing about yoga is that it aids in both physical and mental well-being. Being a newbie, I won’t claim it as a fact; but I believe so. The biggest lesson I have learned from my practice is that it’s not just about physical exercise; it’s also about building an awareness and ability to control your mind and hence your body. We can direct every movement of our body in any direction; we just don’t. We don’t because we have learned and conditioned our body to behave in a certain manner. When we were kids, we learned to stand and walk on our feet and hence headstand just seems completely unnatural and difficult. I might be wrong in my interpretation, but I know one thing for sure that I CAN direct my body to do things which I never imagined. If any other human can, so can I; human anatomy will not change for yoga experts. It’s just about their ability and their choice. I believe I can also build it; I want to build it. I want to get on track of healthy life asap. Perhaps I am getting greedy but I have wasted so much time NOT taking care of myself that I really want to run faster and harder to catch up now.

More than anything else, yoga is fun, exciting and challenging. And I thoroughly enjoy myself when I am doing it. Every day I think and wait for my next class. I look forward to this experience of learning and building self-awareness… I look forward to continue to learn and practice yoga; continue to build awareness of my body and mind; and continue to have fun and revel in it. Now I can add one more item to the list of things I KNOW I LIKE.