Tag Archives: Stress

Body, Breath, Balance: Yoga

Posted on

Throughout the hobby year, two hobbies were recommended to me on a regular basis: Trapeze and Yoga. Of the two, I followed through and did trapeze. And although I did give laughing yoga a shot–I never went out of my way to throw on a pair of yoga pants and jump into a sun salutation or dive into a downward dog. And there’s two reasons why:

A. Because it’s so accessible in New York City. I knew that if for ANY reason a hobby fell through, I could just go take a yoga class—heck I bet if half of my hobbies fell through, I could find a way to take 25 different types of yoga. It became my “back-up” hobby.

and

B.  Because I am as flexible as a stone statue. As an athlete, I constantly struggled with being too tight–straining muscles here and there–and occasionally pulling a hamstring. For a long time, I was convinced that yoga was simply about stretching and how flexible one was–and that I would be far too embarrassed by my non-flexible nature if I ever took a group class.

I don’t think I am alone in this. Why do any of us feel uncomfortable going to any group classes? Because of the unknown—or discomfort in something, that in the end, only we are judging ourselves for. Prior to the hobby year, Zumba classes terrified me just as much as yoga classes because of my own pre-misconceptions about my coordination. Turns out, I can actually bust a move pretty well.

During our travels, I learned that both of David’s parents teach yoga. Knowing that we were going to meet David’s parents when we visited his hometown of Hudson, Ohio, I asked: “David, could we do a yoga class with one of your parents?”

“Probably,” David responded.

So that was that. It was decided. When we’d finally arrive in Hudson, Ohio, we would take a yoga class.

Yesterday was that day. At 9am, on our 42nd day of travel, we each woke up ready to tackle a yoga class. As the only one in our travel trio who hadn’t tried yoga before, my nerves silently buzzed. “I hope no one is appalled by how non-flexible I truly am.”

But before even getting in the car and driving to the gym, I began to feel more comfortable. As we sat down to breakfast with David’s parents, we started to talk about the art of yoga and several different varieties of classes. I soon discovered that yoga goes beyond flexibility and stretching—and that much of the focus is rather on breathing—something I already know I need to concentrate on much more when I return to New York City next week.

Just an hour later, I was taking off my socks, collecting my yoga necessities and getting ready to partake in my first yoga class ever. As the class commenced, I listened carefully to David’s mom’s instructions. And fifteen minutes in,, I could feel the rhythm of my breaths as I crossed one leg over the other. There were anywhere from 10-20 other participants in the class, but for an hour and fifteen minutes—it felt like just me and my breaths—my inhales—my exhales.

I think we forget what it means to breathe—to inhale—to exhale-inhale—exhale; to concentrate on filling the lungs with air and then releasing. In-Out-In-Out. I know I forget far too often. As I reached my right arm over my head and to the left of my torso, I briefly thought of the last time I took a moment to actually feel myself taking a breath. I realized that it was weeks ago, on the side of a mountain, in Southern Utah—when I was experiencing a great deal of fear. But why was that the last time? I had seen so much — that I was clearly forgetting the most basic part of living–breathing.

During our trip, one of my travel mates often stops and spins in a circle—to take it all in—to breathe it all in—whatever “it” is that day. I continued to stretch, and though I couldn’t at the moment spin in  a circle, I took in the moment:

Inhale. Exhale. I can feel pressure as I reach my left arm over the right side of my body. I note a muscle that I haven’t felt in months—and the breaths I know I take but often forget to be grateful for.

It became very clear as class continued that just as focused as I was on my breathing and my own body—everyone else was on their own bodies and their own breathing. My fear of those judging me for my non-flexible nature was diminishing quickly. No one there cared how far I could—or couldn’t–straighten my legs. We were truly in a no judgment zone.

David’s mom instructed us more:  “Good everyone, now bring up your knees, grab your ankles—and roll a bit—even in happy baby pose if you’d like.”

I repeated the phrase Happy Baby to myself, and I giggled. At this point, I felt like a happy baby—conquering something new—without a care in the world—one breath at a time.

Here’s a happy baby video for your enjoyment:

Advertisements

T’ai Chi: The art of relaxation

Posted on

6340244044_26476c4537_b  Photo Courtsesy: Landahlauts FLICKR

I’ve been unusually stressed lately. I feel insecure as I’ve gained what feels like a significant amount of winter weight; my current freelamce job comes to a close at the end of the month; and my personal endeavor also approaches a giant transition as I  complete my first hobby year. The combination of the three has caused a less than smooth ride since the turn of the calendar year and I am searching for balance once again – the balance I found during meditation earlier in the year. I imagine we all have these moments- where the waves keep knocking the ship we’re on–despite several previous months of smooth sailing.

When my friend asks me if I’d like to do a t’ai chi class with her, I don’t think twice . “This will be perfect- right before my long work trip to Arizona.”

As Kim and I arrive at our introductory course-, I already feel calmer. There is a silence in the room – and our instructors are so zen that I begin to believe that t’ai chi must secretly be some sedative type drug- and not an active class-despite always seeing people doing the exercises in the parks.

We watch as our set of instructors simultaneously go through their routine. Seven minutes later-after just watching- I already feel a weight off my shoulders. It feels as though a silent dance with relaxation is gracefully puiretting in front of me. It’s really quite beautiful.

Then it’s our turn. We begin to drift into our first movement- thoughts enter my mind.

I know – I’m not supposed to be thinking, but I am.

I feel as though this is the first time I’ve done something so relaxed in weeks. I feel like it’s the first time my thoughts have come through without white noise- without distraction- without a block. Normally, I would chase thoughts away – but instead, here and now, I welcome them – and I step, sway and breathe into them. We seem to be speaking to one another — the thoughts and me that is. I breathe again into them as though I am meditating on them.

As we pivot on our right foot and bring our arms up, I recognize the stress I’ve endured the last few weeks. I work on a reality crime television series so rarely there is a break in the action- but tonight there is.

I’ve already broken my resolution of not worrying about that which I cannot control – but t’ai chi let’s me focus on how I can face that resolution and make a comeback. Right here , right now- I  am centered.. I know, again, I shouldn’t be conversing with my thoughts – but I am. I am calm. I am cool. I am collected. I hear a song play in my head – I feel the moves smoothly transition from one to the next and like meditation, I begin to a feel a greater sense of grounded-ness– a greater sense of balance–a greater sense of “it’s all going to be okay.”

Shift weight left- return to center , arms on strings – I continue to follow effortlessly— this is definitely what calm means.

As a teacher fixes my posture- I remain still while my inner dialogue continues . “You’re going to be just fine Libs — no you’re going to be great .”

__________________________________________________________

Special Thanks
T’ai Chi Chuan
School of T’ai Chi Chuan
www.taichichuan.org

%d bloggers like this: