Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In search of my yoga high

So I'm on a quest, a yoga quest. So far, I've tried three kinds: Astanga, Vinyasa, and Kundalini.

Lately, I find that I need to get back to my center, find my calmness and focus back on my breathing and inner self. And man was that weird to say, because I've never thought of myself as all that new age-y. But there you have it. So I'm trying to find the right yoga for me, and I'm learning how to meditate (and damn is that meditating hard!). The past four years has been aerobics pounding and weight pumping fun, and now it's time to balance it out.

Thus far, these are the styles I've tried:

Astanga - In one word? Lost. The movements were very fast - through the first three reps of each sun salutation, the movements flowed so quickly from one to another that I didn't have time to take a proper breath. When we were given the reins to go at our own speed, I could slow it down. Since breathing's what I'm after, this one didn't cut it. Plus, I had the feeling it was just a bit too advanced - in between every sitting pose, we were supposed to do a vinyasa (plank, hover, downdog). I just sat there and tried to look serene. It was definitely a good work out, and used muscles I hadn't used in a while (ouch!), but not a good way to get back into yoga.

Vinyasa - This is interesting...I didn't realize until just now when I went to research it that vinyasa yoga is just a derivative form of astanga yoga. The main difference I could see was that vinyasa was a bit slower and easier for me to follow (though that could've been the instructor). I was able to breathe through the moves, though the forms were definitely athletic more than meditative. And that's what many superhuman yoga guru people are looking for. But not me. I may continue doing this style every now and then, just to increase my flexibility and get more comfortable with the flow. The instructor has a tendency to be very chatty, in that annoyingly chipper more like aerobics kind of way that is, in fact, rather like how I sound in step class.

Kundalini - I got to this class right after class started, and at first it sounded like there was music on. Then I realized they were chanting. I almost walked out right then, because while I'm all for people following their spiritual bliss, the whole mystical connection has never been that interesting to me. But I sat down, figured I'd give it a chance. And man did I feel strange humming along with them. Then we got into the yoga part, which was so totally different than astanga and hatha that I almost didn't recognize it. It was basically all small movements (front-back, side-side, rotating hips, lift leg off downdog) with fast breathing. I felt myself start to hyperventilate pretty quickly with trying to match their breathing until my fingers started to tingle. So rather than find myself splayed out embarrassingly on the floor with the teacher hovering over me, I decided I'd slow it down. So I did one movement for every one of their two or three, and instead of breathing out with the out movement and in with the in, I'd breathe a full breath and just move separately. I know, not the purpose of the breathing with the yoga, but I figured the modification was better than fainting. One of the things that I really did like about class is that they had a long section at the end of meditative yoga - basically sitting with arms up (or, in my case, hands on knees) and some chanting. By that point I wasn't as self-conscious.

There's a really nice yoga studio right across the street from work that I want to try, but it's about $20 per class, which is a lot steeper than the free astanga (since I work there) or cheap kundalini (work there, but don't have a membership). I'm going to check out Kripalu at some point soon, maybe a three day stint or something of the kind. I understand they have lots of different styles there, so I can go yoga shopping!

I have this wacky idea rattling around in my head. There are some people who meditate sitting. Some people meditate while walking. I wonder if there would be a way to combine spinning and meditation? And it seems that I'm not the first to have this idea. Now, I'm not talking spinning in the same way I'd normally teach a class, which involves standing up, sitting down, speeding up, slowing down, raising and lowering resistance. But just the act of spinning is a rather meditative act, it seems to me, at a steady cadence, steady resistance, it would be easy to just "slip into the zone" as cycling instructors would put it. I think that it would be hard to do meditative cycling on the road (or bike path) because you'd have to pay attention to not wrapping yourself around a tree, or a person (though the link above says that it's not that different than walking meditation, just keep your eyes open). First step, though, get comfortable with meditation, then add cycle...Don't start thinking about it class or timing cues will be missed as I start thinking about how meditative it is (oops, too late, turn your gear! Stand up! Pedal faster!). Too bad the weather's getting so much cooler...I could start cycling outside now!


Romny said...

I tried the Bikram once (you sit in a uber hot room with a bunch of other people) I walked out 10 minutes into it. It was way too hot! Crazy stuff!

MizFit said...

I echo the bikram.

both the hot and it was WAYWAY too long for me.
Im not interesting in working out for 90 minutes.

yeah, and the fact one guy was taking in a speedo & rumor had it that wsnt uncommon...


The Lethological Gourmet said...

Oooh....I've always wondered about that hot yoga. But I'm not really going to yoga to sweat, I'm going to calm, so maybe not. And definitely not going to ogle the speedos (because it always seems to be the guys you DON'T want to ogle who are wearing the speedos, doesn't it?)

Charlotte said...

Yoga is my absolute fave form of working out. If I had my way it would be the only thing I would do. I even enjoy Bikram on occasion. But yoga + spinning? I dunno about that one, girl!

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Actually, there's a big yoga+spinning craze going on right now (it's spinning followed by yoga). Yoga stretches out very well those muscles that get super tight with spinning. But actually, I'm thinking more meditation+spinning.