Originally written by Zara M on 20 November 2013
I was very excited about the yoga class this week because I have recently acquired my own yoga mat (it’s bright pink), and so I was looking forward to learning an effective sequence of yoga poses to incorporate into my individual daily practice at home. Up until now I had clumsily been throwing together what I remembered from classes, in no specific order, as an alternative to just lying on my belly and inhaling the glorious new rubber smell of my pink mat! Now that I know the 3-minute sun salute, it is time to get serious.
To be honest, I pretty much knew the sequence all along, which is one of the great things about attending these Yoga4Tango yoga classes in London on a regular basis; you pick up all the basics as you go along without realizing it, and the more sessions you attend the more natural it begins to feel. It starts to feel like a natural instinct, and the sequences become ingrained into your memory.
I invited a newbie to join us this weekend after the tango classes and afternoon practica on Saturday afternoon at Tango Garden, and it highlighted how much I take for granted, having attended the yoga classes pretty much every week since they began. My friend admitted that a lot of the time he was side-glancing to check out what I was doing and copying me. He must have enjoyed himself though, because he attended the Sunday session the following day, and I expect we will see him again next week.
I think yoga is quite addictive, even for absolute beginners, because you leave feeling so refreshed and invigorated, which is often quite a new feeling for the body unless you practice some other form of exercise regularly. Personally, I feel like yoga practice is an opportunity to spend quality time with my body, so perhaps the addictive aspect is related to a sense of narcissism – I must admit that it does feel a little like self-worship once you really start getting into it – or is that just me? Of course, I am talking on a mental level as well as physical; I always avoid looking in mirrors when I am in the gym.
One thing I found extremely useful in last week’s yoga session was the demonstration of the 3-minute sun salute. It was very informative to just sit and watch a professional yoga instructor perform the entire sequence from beginning to end, because it gave a better idea of what the whole thing should look like, as one flowing movement. I found it particularly useful to watch how the instructor transitioned so smoothly from one pose to another. Her body was so bendy and flexible, and each pose was very clear and pleasing to the eye. Seeing her in action made me want to go straight home, get my pink mat out and do my thing!
I noticed that the instructor wasn’t moving all over her mat like I tend to do though. I always find myself positioned way off the edge of either the top or bottom of my mat and I usually have to wriggle back into the centre, usually during child’s pose and just before downward dog. It is very annoying and I can never understand why this happens. When I was watching the instructor during her demonstration, I paid close attention to how she positioned her body in each pose so that she was staying central on the mat, and I did notice a difference when it came to doing it all myself.
I suppose it is all about grounding your hands and feet into the four corners of the mat and using up all the space in between by pulling your body up and down the length of the mat into each pose, without being tempted to move your hands and feet too. Maybe if I’m feeling that I need to constantly move my hands and feet to catch up with the rest of my body, then I am not succeeding in fully lengthening my body? There is only one reason that could be happening – I’m not breathing properly!
I read that when you inhale you create space in your body, which allows you to lengthen it, and inhaling is an energizing kind of breath that prepares your body for movement. I don’t tend to breath in that deeply because I have an ongoing irritation in my throat and breathing in triggers a coughing fit. Maybe this is affecting how I lengthen my body. Maybe I could be lengthening it more?
I am just guessing most of this, I don’t know for sure what I am doing right or wrong, but this is the beauty of yoga; it is a personal experience and exploration, and your relationship with your body is your own. We may aspire to be as perfect as our yoga instructors, but at the end of the day we all know that they aren’t like us, they are super-human with special superhero powers that allow them to bend backwards and balance on their heads.
Just kidding. What I mean is that it is not about what the person next to you is doing, it is more about being mindful and paying attention to how your own body feels! The more you focus on your own personal development, the more likely you are to reach higher levels in yoga and gain superhuman status, if that is what you are aiming for. (I know I am!)
For now though, I am content to be using the 3-minute sun salute as a daily yoga body and mind conditioning. The more regular your make your yoga practice the more cooperative your body becomes because you are spending more time with it. One of the other ladies who attends the yoga class described the fact that she practices a short sequence everyday before work and she can’t believe that she can actually touch her toes now, which was something she couldn’t do at the start of the course – now that is a massive improvement!
The 3-minute sun salute is a combination of the poses we have been learning throughout the course put together in a satisfying, flowing sequence, and the idea is to stay strong and mindfully move into each pose and hold it for five breaths before mindfully moving onto the next pose. We were also given a lighter option for those days when the body isn’t feeling quite up to the physical challenge, whereby you move through each pose in the sequence with just one breath, and repeat the sequence a few more times instead. The idea behind holding each pose for five breathes is that it creates more strength in the body and more flexibility, and it encourages more observation and opportunity to self-adjust.
Right, that’s enough writing and waffle for me! Time to get out my pink mat and salute the sun.