It’s All About the Fundamentals

Sage words of advice for our Mariners, that.  But this is not about the Mariners and how they’ve lost 7 of the 8 games I’ve seen played at Safeco Field this year.  This is about how brushing up on the basics, or learning them in the first place can help take your yoga practice up, oh about 10 or 12 notches.

The yoga studio I go to just started offering a Power Vinyasa Fundamentals class once a week.  Having been to one, count it one, power vinyasa class and falling miserably behind pretty much the entire time, I knew that if I want to mix vinyasa into my yoga routine, I needed to get up on the basics.

While hatha, which I love, focuses on flexibility, vinyasa is driven by strength.  In hatha you hold a series of poses for a really long time, in vinyasa you power through the poses in a rushing river type flow.  If I wanted to keep up with the river I needed a guide.

So off to the fundamentals class I went.  The class was a mix of yoga newbies and frequent practitioners who wanted to work on their form.  For an hour and fifteen minutes the instructor – who bears a striking resemblance to Ewan McGregor, yum – demonstrated, explained and individually corrected every student in  every pose of sun salutation. 

The class was conducted in a manner similar to dance choreography, we would learn a step and then another and then add them together. 

About 75% of the way through class – and remember the heat is on at about 103 the entire time – I was chosen to demonstrate putting all the steps together while he coached me through and corrected my form, very slowly (I’m pretty sure I was picked because I happened to be in the middle of the room).  

What this means is I got to hold high plank for like, forever and then attempt to move into low plank (I went for the modification and put my knees down) and stay there.  It also means that I was a mass of cascading sweat while being adjusted.  And let me tell you, it is disconcerting to have a hot guy put his hands on you – in a purely professional manner of course – when you’re dripping with sweat. 

It was worth it though.  I walked out of class with a corrected warrior 1, 2 and chair position and full knowledge of the poses in sun salutation.  I also got to stare at eye candy for an over an hour – not a bad way to spend part of a Sunday morning.

The morning after class I woke up and soon discovered that those planks had taken their toll – my chest and arms were sore, as in having lifted weights sore even though no weights were involved.  But that’s ok, I worked it out at hot hatha that night.

Further Adventures In Yoga

Over the past month hot hatha yoga has become a pretty regular part of my exercise routine as has the .80 mile walk to and from the yoga studio.  2-3 days a week, I meet Lucia at the corner between our offices and we hike through the urban landscape of downtown Seattle – past the Sheraton, Specialty’s, City Kitchen, the monorail, Westlake Center, til we arrive at our hour of hot, stretchy nirvana.   

The studio that the hot hatha class is in can fit 20 people comfortably, more at a push.  Yesterday there were easily 26 with the front row mostly populated by newbies.  Having been a rookie once myself, I commend anyone for trying out yoga.  I was a bit dismayed, however, when the 4 high school girls who wedged themselves in front of Lucia and me arranged themselves so they were directly blocking our line of vision to the mirror.  Ok, so they probably didn’t know any better right?  Maybe.   But when the instructor told the entire front row to shift so that the back row could see and even made room for them to do so and they didn’t move, not one bit, I became a bit annoyed.  Still, it’s yoga right?  Best time to calmly make the best of it. 

Not being able to see myself in the mirror, I also couldn’t avoid noticing the girl in front of me.  With the enthusiasm of youth and no less than 8 clanging bracelets, she flung herself into the poses, overextending on many and pretty much repeatedly falling out of the balancing poses 90% of the time.  I have to admit, it was pretty entertaining in a train wreck kind of way – you want to look away, but somehow you just can’t.  I’m sorry to say it didn’t help my personal practice, however, oh well.

After class and the so-needed shower, Lucia and I walked back toward our offices.  The lights pretty much dictate our route and last night they took us straight down 4th Ave through the Westlake “Park” area, a haven of high school kids who would otherwise be hanging out at the 7-11, skaters, street entertainers and the homeless.  While walking by a group of rowdy young men, one turned to me and said “Hey beautiful, wanna f**k?”  Seriously.  While we walked on and ignored such an oh so tempting offer, there was a part of me that wanted to say “How did you guess?  Absolutely.  Right here, unzip and show me what you’re working with.” Just to see what his reaction would be.  I’m guessing he would be pretty flummoxed, because I have serious doubts that such a lame come-on ever works.  

Lucia and I are heading to hot hatha again tonight and in June there’s a challenge to do 20-30 classes in the month of June.  It will be interesting to see what further adventures will come our way both in and on our way to/from class.  But, that’s what makes life interesting, right?

Adventures In Yoga

I found out definitively yesterday that the data on my flash drive is unrecoverable.  Sigh.  Luckily I found out at the end of the day and I headed off to the yoga studio, to stretch, strengthen and forget.

The hot hatha room was packed wall to wall with people ready to unwind after their work days.  I was fortunate enough to have landed a space with a fair amount of room.  After the first warm-up asanas I was reveling in the ability to completely extend my arms when a latecomer cruised in.  A man of medium build and shirtless (so unfair) rushed in and rolled out his mat beside me.  No biggie, I can share space.  

While I try to focus on my own yoga practice I do tend to let my eyes wander at moments and check out the others in class.  It was on such an eye wander that I spotted Gumby Girl – a young, thin dirty blonde with Gumby like flexibility.  I watched amazed as she moved through dancer’s pose and other standing poses with her leg almost completely vertical.  Now, she wasn’t actually doing all of the poses correctly.  For example in dancer’s pose her hips were no where near square (which, I confirmed with the instructor afterwards are where your hips should be).  So I’m curious as to whether she’s actually getting the benefit of the poses.  Hmmm.

Standing poses over, it was time to move down to the mat.  While lying in corpse pose I discovered the disadvantage of my new next-mat neighbor – he smelled like feet.  As I turned my nose slightly in the other direction I almost laughed as this was one of the things that keeps a friend of mine away from hot yoga.  Mouth breathing quickly became my friend.

After 60 minutes of heat, aromatherapy of the wrong kind, and some good stretching I headed up to the locker rooms for a quick shower.  I showered, pulled out my sweats from my gym bag and discovered that my bra (or breast holder-inners as Jim calls them) was missing.  Indeed, it was back at the office with my work clothes.  Oh no!  Now to give you some idea of the size of the problem, I am a 32 DD.  That’s right.  Small back, big rack.  And yeah, even though I’m from Cali, they’re real.

Getting back into my sweat soaked exercise bra was not an option.  I had a tank top and sweatshirt so I thought maybe I could get away with it.  I got dressed, gathered up my things and started the walk back to the office.  At the first shop window I took a little side-long glance to see just how bad the situation was.  Bounce, Bounce, Bouncy, Bouncy, Bounce.  Yep.  For a 1/2 mile through downtown back to my office.  It made me think of the bra-burners back in the 60s.  And specifically, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!  Symbolism be damned, support is the girls’ best friend.

So, what have I learned from today’s adventures:

  • Being a human gumby does not mean you are doing the poses correctly;
  • Choose your mat neighbors wisely and make sure they are aroma free;  and
  • Free-boobing it is no fun.

 

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Gettin Hot – Hatha and Vinyasa Style

Here’s the thing, I know that strength training is HUGELY beneficial and that you’re supposed to get at least 2 sessions in per week, but weight-lifting is very, very, very boring to me and I’m remedial at it at bestSo I’ve been checking off my weekly strength sessions via pilates, which I love.  But since I’ve been doing it for over a year, I need to shake things up.  So when I jumped on-board Amanda’s 3 Changes Challenge one of my challenges was to do one non-pilates strength session per week.

Enter Power Vinyasa – caliente.  My first tangle with hot yoga was in Vancouver during Jim’s and my Olympic adventure.   I engaged in 3 one-hour hot hatha sessions during my week in Vancouver and became addicted to how it stretched me out and took all the aches and pains away.  I had been meaning to check out Urban Yoga Spa in downtown Seattle for a while, so when a tennis buddy said she was interested and with the 3 Changes Challenge in mind, I figured no time like the present. 

Our first two sessions were both hot hatha style, focusing on flexibility and balance.  The first was a Sunday 1 1/2 hour test of endurance.  I felt a bit dizzy twice but made it through the entire session and felt revitalized afterwards.  I did however, pull a rookie maneuver and overstretched my hamstrings – ouch!  Our second session was last night – hot hatha hour – for the after-work crew.  Packed, a bit faster, a bit more challenging, but still a super flexibility workout and no downward-dog in site. 

This morning, it was time to add some power – Power Vinyasa that is.  One hour focusing on strength and balance in a hot, hot, hot room.  I woke up at the unearthly hour of 6am (this is a big deal for me people, my alarm usually goes off around 7:30 and I roll begrudgingly out of bed at 8 – luckily I set my own work hours or I would be in serious trouble).  In 30 minutes, I rushed to get dressed, brush my teeth, make my lunch, grab my 18 bags of stuff for the studio and the office, and drive downtown.  5 minutes before class time, my mat was rolled out, my lululemon mat towel was rolled out and I was stretching and hydrating.  Then the games began. 

Power Vinyasa is fast.  So if it’s your first time, be prepared to fall behind, and you know what?  That’s totally cool.  Everyone really is focused on their individual practice and there’s no judging going on (I don’t think).  We moved from forward folds, to backbends, to downward dogs, to planks, to side planks, to an amazing number of warrior twos, to chatterundas and back again (not necessarily in that order).  Our tree poses went straight into flying something or others and when we headed down to our mats for the calmer portion of the class 1/2 of a pilates stomach series was snuck in.  By the end of the class, I had reaffirmed that yes, yoga can be a serious strength workout.  I also felt energized and relaxed at the same time! 

Extra bonus, I was showered, dressed, make-up on, hair done and out of the locker room in 30 minutes, 1/2 my usual time at home.  I rolled into the office at 8:59 am, a record.  Hmmm . . . I think this could become my new Tues/Thurs ritual.

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