How I let "Namaste" In
Ever since I was a mere child, I’ve had trouble sitting down in one place, getting fidgety and lacking concentration. Any class stretching more than 45 minutes was torture (yet here I am at the end of my twenties, still taking different classes and carrying the title of “student”). While some naively and generically would label me as an ADHD child, my parents, avoiding the psychological term, told me to slow down, called me as the “in a rush kid” (it translates better in Persian, believe me).
I have managed to drag this characteristic of mine into adulthood which results into clumsiness. Clumsy doesn't even begin to describe how I am in my day to day life. It is a trait that has proven quite frustrating and expensive. I have lost count of the times I’ve dropped a favorite piece of jewelry and was too in love with it not to purchase it again. Or all the times I dropped and smashed items bearing sentimental value, like my husband’s stew bowl gifted to him by his grandmother (I'm really sorry Yaya).
This actually got to a point of worry, having me sat in a neurosurgeon’s office with wires on my head under a weird helmet. Countless visits to different doctors and I was announced perfectly healthy. Just “in a rush”.
I realised I needed to do something to lessen the damage to my valuable items and my body (my hips are permanently bruised and my shins’ black and blue blotches flaw the Florida tan I proudly wear). And maybe along the way I can deal with my fidgety-ness and struggle with concentration over long periods of time.
And so I started yoga…
I wasn’t sure what it was going to bring to me and frankly had no idea how well I would do. I participated in a free session in the local David Barton gym, located within walking distance from our condo, and tried to like it. I didn’t. My main concern was the atmosphere. It was a small room in a huge gym where sweaty buff guys would come to cool off after lifting weights or shooting ball. I didn’t “feel” the calm that I had intended to find.
A couple of Google searches later I found myself in a studio dedicated to yoga. Sitting on the 20th floor of the JW Marriott Hotel, a mere 3-minute-walk (this time in the other direction) from our apartment Rina Yoga Studio was the perfect match for me. With floor to ceiling windows allowing sunlight to pour in and minimal oriental decor, this studio has turned into my haven of becoming “aware” of my own body.
I spent my first couple of sessions pushing myself, assuming that I needed to do everything the person on the mat next to me was doing. That sent me home with an exhausted body, a frustrated mind and had me sneaking out of bed to the living room sofa at 3 am in order not to wake Tim up due to my constant movement on the mattress because of the deep pain in my core; from my shoulder blades to my lowest vertebrae. Speaking to a few yoga practitioners, I learned that I need to let my instructor know about my “worry spots”. I have to be honest here. Our whole lives we are taught (at least I was) that life is a competition. And you need to be the best at what you’ve taken up. Whether it’s the language class you’re taking to be able to get around in a foreign country, or your grad-school lectures, or even your badminton sessions. I was sure my instructor would tell me that it will get better and I would have to keep trying and pushing myself. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Heidy, my curly haired, bubbly instructor listened to me and assured me that it was ok to feel pain and the moment you do, you stop the pose. She made sure I had described my pain areas (my shoulder blades being my weakest region) and the kind of pain as thoroughly as I could and in the coming sessions pointed out any pose that would negatively affect me. I would be told to take it easier on some poses and skip others while replacing them with milder, less intense positions.
Every couple of weeks she let me start a pose that had been a no-no for my spine and shoulders, reassuring me that I could be ready for it. Each time she was right. And today, after a few sessions of struggling with weak wrists, I managed to get my crow-pose done and dusted!
There are several things I have learned from my instructor, my fellow yoga practitioners and the yoga sessions I've had until now:
- In the practice of yoga you shouldn’t compare yourself with anyone, not even your own self from previous sessions. You wake up to a different body every day (to put it in a very exaggerated way) and to compare your body to how it was the last time it touched a yoga mat, be it the day before, is unfair on your development as well as your mind and body.
- Your sole purpose should be to be aware of your presence during that hour and something on the mat. Don’t think about what happened earlier that day, what will happen later that evening. Just then and there. (This is something I frequently struggle with. And interestingly enough it’s never about important, exciting or heart-wrenching topics. It’s often about what I’m going to prepare for dinner later or when I’m going to wash my yoga towel and sports bra. I hereby apologise to any foodies whom I may have offended by categorizing matters of the palate and stomach as unimportant.)
- Listen to your body. If your body is asking you to stop a certain stretch, don't challenge it. You’ll only get hurt. If it’s asking you for a specific pose, give that pose to it. Don’t deprive your body of what it is requesting.
- And my favourite; every pose has a counter pose. Balancing everything is everything!
I am the beginners of beginners and not in a place to make suggestions or give advice. This has been my own personal experience with a “sport” that has helped me understand my body a little better, and make the task of settling in a new home, city and country that much smoother.
All I would have to suggest at this point is as follows:
- Invest in a good yoga mat. I recently purchased my Manduka. At 99 dollars, it is a little heavy in the price range and weight category. But believe you me it’s worth every cent and extra ounce you carry to the studio. The difference is palpable. Literally. Palm, head and forearm pain from crow-pose and handstands and headstands are a thing of the past.
- Have a long and wide microfiber towel to cover your mat. It can get sweaty and slippery on the mat and you don't want to be slipping off your palms (or even worse, when you're on one palm only) and injuring yourself.
- Find a studio that you feel comfortable in and can relax as well as concentrate.
- Don't fool yourself by being too lazy to go to a studio with a proper teacher and rolling your mat out in front of your laptop playing a yoga flow on YouTube. Although it's lovely to know there are so many yogis out there willing to share their knowledge, you can't know what you're doing wrong without an instructor next to you telling you where your limbs should be. It's not only inefficient but also quite dangerous as you can get injured very easily while thinking you're just challenging yourself.
- Make sure your instructor understands your worry-spots, your needs and appreciates your effort.
- If you’re into reading, try researching yoga alongside taking classes. There are numerous books, blogs and journals exploring the different aspects of yoga. My copy of The Light of Yoga is currently bookmarked, sitting on my night stand. A little bit of light reading (Pun intended. See what I did there?) on the matter before bed can help the practice become more understandable therefore enjoyable while in those uncomfortable, sweaty core-focused poses.
- And lastly, for me my yoga practice is about me. My own body and mind. And even though I’ve dedicated each class to a different person, thing and concept at the beginning of each session while I've had my fingertips to my heart, in the end it’s the peace that it offers me that gets me out of the door and to the studio each session.
If you’re in the Miami area check out Heidy’s classes each Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. You’re welcome!