Inside and outside

Yoga has lost it’s initial allure for me. I was taking all of my yoga classes from the same yoga teacher, Anna, a vivacious thirtysomething gal with long brown hair and a penchant for for eschewing the typical “yoga music” in favor of songs like Van Morrison’s “Moondance” or Kenny Chesney’s “You and Tequila.” Her music choices are odd, but they strangely work. Her goofiness is often displayed during her teaching, such as the moment she asked us to “put our hands together.” Then she thought better of it, and said, “Pancake your hands together. Hmmm … pancakes … I sure could use a stack of them right now.” And the class just giggles with her.

I found Anna after I stopped going to the “Gentle Yoga” class at this same studio that was given on Sunday mornings. It was advertised as “appropriate for all levels,” but, no, it is much preferred that you know what you are doing. For some reason, all the yoga teachers at this yoga studio are infatuated with the flowy vinyasa style, which is fine if you tell us that the class will be taught in this style. This teacher’s favorite thing was to have us flow from plank pose to downward dog. There may have been another pose in between those two. The flow was hard for me, but I was doing it to the best of my ability when all of a sudden I hear the instructor say, “Nope, nope, nope. We need to take a timeout.” There I am unaware and wondering what could possibly be wrong when she comes over to me, and says, “No, that is not what we are doing.” She then demonstrates for me what my flow should look like, but I am unable to do it as I stumble in my efforts with the entire class stopped and mouths a bit agape. She then gives up, and says to me, “It’s a learning thing that you need to work on,” as if stretching the word “learning” will hasten my mastery of what I need to do. Mean Sunday Teacher has since changed the title of this class to “Hot Yoga Flow.” Every time I see her I am tempted to say to her, “You didn’t have to change the name. No chance of me returning after our last interaction.” I’ve refrained because these days I can never tell if I say too much.

Then there’s that moment 3 Saturdays ago where we were doing the Seated Forward Bend in Anna’s allegedly advertised “Gentle Yoga” class on Saturday morning. There I am seated and bending, though my bend is barely a bend, but trying to bend nonetheless. Anna is going around making adjustments as she always does. I think nothing of it when she comes over, places her hands on my back and asks me to breathe deeply, and when I do she gently pushes me forward. At the time I thought nothing of it, but, for some reason, I am convinced that this is when I hurt my back. There is a chance it could have happened during another part of this class, but it definitely happened in this class. It was likely a bad sign at the start of class when she looked out at us, smiled, and said, “I’m not feeling gentle today.” Apparently, she also was not up to keeping the room at normal temperature because the temperature warmed up considerably, and I was not dressed appropriately for yoga that was warm or hot. Between the heat and the too far Seated Forward Bend it was a recipe for bad news. As I left the class I was incredibly sore, which made me initially unaware of my back injury. My whole body felt like a Mack truck ran over it.

By the next day it was clear that I had a muscle spasm in my upper back. The pain intensified as the days wore on until I finally dragged myself to acupuncture for relief. Four sessions later, I am improved though I still have intermittent twingy pain in my upper left back. It saddens beyond measure that this occurred in Anna’s class.

I miss yoga and hate it all at the same time. Anna has since changed the title of Saturday “Gentle Yoga” class to “Hot Power Yoga.” That’s what it should have been called from the start. I no longer go to this class, and I’m attending only her evening slow flow class because the class is as advertised. Even so, I am not entirely comfortable in her classes. I miss the way the right sad song, such as “You and Tequila,” in one of her classes during shavasana would cause a single tear to fall out of my eye, and right into my mouth. The saltiness of the tear was strangely cathartic.

I’ve started venturing out to other classes. Last Sunday I took a Yoga Nidra restorative class. The room was arctic, and that detracted a bit from the restorative aspect of the class. The instructor was neither friendly nor rude, a strangely indescribable affect that does not entice me to return. It’s unfortunate because I liked all the comfy props that prop you into a blissful state of being. More than that, I liked the practice.

Today I found a Svaroopa yoga class, what a fun name, Svaroopa! I amuse myself just saying the name. You use a lot of props to support your body in the poses, it’s safe for people with back injuries, at least, according to the brochure it is … I am late because I am a ding dong with getting moving on Saturday mornings. I’ve no good reason for my lateness.

Mercifully, I finally find the strip mall that has the Svaroopa yoga class. I walk in, and, literally, walk into the class. You open the door and you immediately are in the midst of the yoga class if one is in session. I was exactly 1 minute late, but they were engaged as if they had been at it for at least 15 minutes. I was mortified. The instructor came over, and kindly whispered to me when I could come over to join them. I then learned I did not need my yoga mat as the practice is done on a thick blanket. One could walk into this class with absolutely no knowledge of yoga, and still fully participate in the entire class without difficulty.

Unfortunately, it was very cold in the class, but I liked her style of teaching. I am catching on that cold yoga studios may be the norm in the colder months in the Northeastern United States. If I return I will have to become accustomed to her propensity to repeatedly say “inside and outside” during body sending meditation. I get so distracted by her intonation that it becomes a song in my head “inside and outside” …

Inside and outside I am lost in my search for a yoga home.

a purple Gaiam yoga mat

It’s just a purple Gaiam yoga mat, nothing special about it aside from the fact that it’s thicker than the Gaiam “original” model, and it has a lovely lavender side to complement the opposite deep purple side that is the typical yoga mat color. This purple Gaiam, slightly thicker, yoga mat stared at me from the offerings in the Target fitness aisle. Somehow, after my Monday night chemical dependency treatment process class, I found myself standing in front of this yoga mat priced at $29.99 with a strange pull to make the irrational purchase. And irrational it was because I was down to less than $200 in the checking account with the bevy of psychiatry appointments I’d had in the past 3 weeks, enough to add up to a car payment on a new fully loaded SUV. But payday was in close sight, and I had no idea why, but I needed this mat, and I needed it that very night. I don’t even recall how or what led me to this aisle, or even this store. My assessment is that the universe said to me, “Girl, you need this …” and so I heeded the directive, and purchased said yoga mat.

I had been staying at Dan’s place for nearly a month when I made that strange trip to Target to get a yoga mat. It started incongruously the day of my birthday party, the last Saturday in September. I went through all the motions at my party, talking to people, making myself not cry, not turn into a pile of goo. But at the end of the night, I said to Dan, “Can I come over?” And he said, “sure, but you need to give me a ride as well because I walked here.” I drove us to his place, and I barely remember putting myself down on the couch. Somehow, the sofa bed was opened, sheets were put on, and a pillow found it’s way under my head. One night became nearly a month.

Doc didn’t want to put me in the hospital because he feared it would do more damage than good. Yet, no one disagreed that I could not be home alone. So, there I was with my ex-boyfriend, on his couch on the eve of his annual gaming convention that he puts on every year. The timing could barely have been worse. Towards the end, I started to remember why we broke up in the first place. His place started to feel like less of a sanctuary, and more of a self-imposed halfway house of sorts.

At Dan’s place I immediately opened up the yoga mat, between the sofa bed and the tv in the living room,  I was met with a most unwelcome chemical smell coming off the mat. Still though, I was undaunted, annoyed, but still undaunted. I had not been to a yoga class in more years than I could even quantify. I couldn’t recall a single thing from yoga class in that moment on that smelly mat. So I just moved. I moved and stretched, and tried will all my might to set an intention and focus on it all the while just moving, moving, moving .. just to do something. I desperately needed a something to do in my life as my job had gone to shit, and, at that moment, I was on medical leave.

I’ve always challenged myself, and I never fully realized, until this experience, that challenging myself is a a big part of who I am, and when I do not have this I am lost. I look back and realize that the best jobs I’ve had forced me out of my comfort zone, and pushed me to do better, and keep reaching outside of myself. Losing this with my job situation falling apart led me to the moment where I needed yoga. I needed something to do, and I needed to challenge myself again. In a way, yoga became my job when my actual job disintegrated in front of me.

Somehow, even with that yoga mat purchase, I did not expect in find myself in an actual yoga class. But, that’s exactly what happened. And so far it’s happened 11 times in 30 days. I’ll keep coming back with my smelly mat.