Day 123: "REAL" Yoga

Confession: I am a big ol' scardy cat when it comes to trying some New Things--even when I'm pretty sure I'm going to like doing them.

One such example is a type of yoga I've been scared of.

For those who have never done any kind of yoga before, there are so many varieties and styles that they can't even all be named in this post. There's hatha yoga, power yoga, hot yoga, Bikram yoga, Anusara yoga, Astanga yoga, restorative yoga, and even weirder styles like laughter yoga.

Not all yoga is created equal, and although many styles are based on similar poses, there can be music, more focus on breath, a longer hold in each pose, a sequence flowing through many poses like a dance, chanting, various levels of heat, etc. etc. (And for this reason, I honestly think there is a type of yoga for every body, regardless of your fitness level and experience!)

For most of my experience in yoga, I've done power yoga (hot, sweaty, fast-moving, emphasis on breath), Anusara (slower moving, heart-opening, emphasis on alignment) and Hatha yoga (music, some flow, emphasis on feeling good over working out).

I've liked all of these, but I've always had the feeling that I haven't been doing REAL yoga--like the kind the masters in India do; the kind the crazy hippies did in the sixties.

For this, I needed to try Astanga (Ash-tonga) yoga. This type of yoga is a sequences of poses and flow that build upon itself, so that you are always progressing at your own pace. You learn the one primary sequence, and practice solo until your teacher offers you new poses to master. It's very traditional, and the descendents of it's founder run an institute in India where serious yogis take pilgrimage. It's REAL yoga.

So with an open mind and heart, I went to one of the few studios in Atlanta with these classes and hoped for the best. Now see, I've been doing yoga a preeeetty long time now, but I still get nervous every time I try a new studio or style (Can I possibly be good at every style of yoga in the world? Hardly!)

I selected an All Levels class, hoping I wouldn't be the only one who didn't know the sequence. I was doing pretty well, sweating nicely, building up some heat and managing myself pretty well for the first part of the class. Then we came upon this series of "jump throughs," which look like this:

I cannot do those. That is not at all an "All Levels" move! And oh, we did about, I dunno, what felt like a couple hundred in between twisting ourselves into various pretzel-shapes, one that looked like this...

Now, I'm flexible, I can do a lot of yogic things, but only managed to finagle myself into this pose after the teacher popped my shoulder into submission. Although the popping didn't hurt, I'm pretty sure it was not natural.

I liked to always tell people that no yoga pose actually "twists you into a pretzel," but I was wrong until I tried Astanga.

Class went on, jump throughs, pretzel twisting, headstands, back bends, and all, the rest of which I was able to keep pace with, albeit with increasingly shaky muscles.

In all, however, I really enjoyed the class because it presented new challenges to master. I hope to go back soon and get more comfortable, so that I can get myself into other crazy poses that come, like this:

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