I’ve really been sinking my teeth into my new gym membership at Oasis. The classes are knocking my socks off. The last two weeks I’ve attended classes at least once a day, sometimes even twice – especially when the classes line up back to back. (Totally want to give a huge thumbs up to the fantastic childcare Oasis offers. Such a plus!)
Last Friday I hit up my first Yoga class. The instructor was a roundish through the middle, tiny older woman, who had legs like a teenager. She walked around the class room and just chatted with us like we were her kids. At one point, I thought for sure she was going to offer me some chicken soup and ask if I married a good Jewish boy. If Dr. Ruth was a yoga instructor from Chicago … well, you get the picture.
I’ve only taken a couple of yoga classes – in my life. Twice in Jerusalem at the local YMCA, early in my pregnancy with my daughter, Zoe. And then again, when I was pregnant with my son, Noah – I bought a prenatal yoga DVD (that I loved, but didn’t do often enough).
Simply said, I’m a novice. But a little pat on the back for me, I kept up pretty well with the others in the room. Downward dog is fantastic – and my new favorite resting position: head upside down, staring right through my thighs, focusing on my breath. Dr. Chicago-Ruth-Yoga-Genius even had us attempt the Crow pose. I gave it my best shot. I got both my feet off the ground for about two milliseconds.
I liked that class so much that on Saturday I took another Yoga class. This one was faster paced and we moved seamlessly from one pose to another. Our instructor was a younger woman with a lovely Spanish accent. At the end of our class, while we all laid on our mats – the music soft, the lights low – our instructor came by to each of us in the room and gently massaged our feet, our ankles and our calves.
I was so moved by this gesture. I felt a little vulnerable, too. The instructor’s presence and touch reminded me of my work as a doula. Except I was on the receiving end for a change. For some reason, at the end of that class I wanted to cry.
On Tuesday night I took my third Yoga class of the week, Vinyasa flow. Holy smokes! I had no idea what I was in for with this class. The instructor, a peaceful, short-haired, muscled woman, really had us breathing, moving our bodies, and “connecting with the Divine” she said. She asked us to center our focus on what we needed from our session and for the week. Strength? Peace? Love? She encouraged us to take it in with our breath.
Honestly, I haven’t plugged in to God like that in a long time. Vinyasa flow was compelling and moving. It brought in the physical element of worship/meditation in a way that you can’t often experience in a church sanctuary. This connection of mastering your body (of engaging your core – both physically and emotionally), while you master your breath and your mind offered me a holistic, healing, and spiritual experience.
At the end of our class, our instructor came to each one of us and gently touched us, just like the last class I attended. (Is this a Yoga thing?) This instructor massaged my shoulders and neck. Surprised with myself, I was fighting tears, again. That tenderness of a woman with a gentle spirit reaching out – breaking the social ‘no touch’ norm among strangers, and connecting with me was beautiful and soulful.
I had a doula client who told me I reminded her of her Yoga mentor. I never quite understood her connection. How could being a doula be anything like teaching Yoga? But in the moment, while I laid on my mat, at the end of an hour-long session where I pushed my body to the far reach of its abilities, in that quiet and tender space of softening my body and connecting to my breath, I understood what she meant. Suddenly, my client’s compliment made perfect sense.
All in all, folks, it looks like Zumba’s got some competition with Yoga. I liked trusting in the strength of my body – something required of you as you commit to each pose. I loved how strong my body felt after each session. I enjoyed how each instructor brought her own charm to the class. I appreciated how connected I felt to my faith while practicing something physical and demanding.
I’m not sure which one will be my new favorite six weeks from now … I’m sure I’ll figure it out.
While doing a little reading this evening (ah, I have so much more space for that now that I’m not spending time on Facebook) I came across this cool couple. He’s a musician and she’s a yoga instructor, and he plays live while she leads a class. What they’re doing is really special and hip, so check them out: Go W/The Flow