In my peripheral vision I can see the condensation and know that my own heavy and hot breathing is multiplying the droplets demanding to be loosed from the window on which they hang. I am moving up and down through a vinyasa in the store turned studio. Surrounding me are students of all kinds: there are some with their long, lean arms concentrating on flowing through the movements we are being talked through. Some are coaxing the heat up from their heart and out their mouths with precision, there are those who like me, are new to Ashtanga yoga, or yoga really of any kind.
I have taken fitness yoga at my local gym and even own a few Rodney Yee videos where we sit together, he on the beach and me on my living room floor and we feel our breath together. I always end up feeling like he should cut his ponytail more than I do the connection to the earth, but I am easily distracted, that’s just me. Today though, my distraction is in the fact that I am new to yoga being this challenging. I am doing everything the instructor is saying to me. I am pressing my palms together (Rodney never asks this), I am stretching my arms straight up, I am lifting my hips and softening my elbows during downward dog and about 20 minutes into an hour and a half class, I know why people who practice yoga always look like some of the leanest stretching machines I have met. This is hard. I was in an Ashtanga class:
This method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. From www.ashtanga.com
Moving from one pose to the next with a series of 5 deep breaths in between. These breaths are supposed to be taken in through your nose and released while creating a hissing sound at the back of your throat, all with closed mouth, they are called ujjayi or victorious breath. I wanted to call it impatient radiator breath because I could hear everyone around me hissing like an old-fashioned radiator kicking for the first time in winter. I was half expecting clanking and banging from the bodies behind me.
For each movement performed there is one breath. As the movements increase in length so does the breath, each one being drawn out. Because we are synchronizing breathing and movement we improve circulation. Increased circulation and generating heat through long breath (no drinking water to cool your core!) removes toxins and disease from the internal organs. The sweat generated from the heat of vinyasa then carries the impurities out of the body and that I was feeling too as my head started to ache just enough.
Sitting on the mat next to my brave friend who joined me, I am breathing deeply but pause while everyone else moves into down dog for their last few resting breaths. I am taking my resting breaths on my bum in what I liked to call clueless runners pose. I was hot and worked over by an activity that I thought was relatively easy. But I am going back because as I hissed and stretched and tried to connect my body and breath I could feel myself limbering up. I felt fluid in a way that my other workouts didn’t give me. As we moved into a resting pose called corpse pose (very appropriate pose for me) the instructor talked about humility and about offering humility up to the practice we just went through.
I like the idea of humility to my body, thankfulness for what it takes me through, how it can perform if I push it a bit one way or the other and see how it responds, it has yet to really disappoint. But I felt humility also to the creator who allows me to experience new, electric and tangible things, to experience the connection between my soul and my body, the temple I have been given charge of. And the fact that we could shop afterwards wasn’t such a bad thing either. Thanks to Lululemon and The Yoga House… we will be back at the mat!