A summer of yoga

flamingoes

Photo: Amanda, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

I’m a girl who likes to keep busy. Every morning I make a list of the tasks I need to accomplish by the end of the day, and I do my best to complete the tasks on that list.

As a college student, I realized recently that I’ve been living my life on the verge of tearing my hair out. I eat stress for breakfast, sweat for lunch, and drink a fresh cup of tears with my smoked salmon and brown rice at dinner time. And to a degree, I kind of like it that way. It keeps me organized and away from the Breaking Bad reruns.

But this summer, I decided it was time to make a change. So like the other twenty million people around the world, I too found serenity in the practice of yoga.

It’s not like I had never tried to practice yoga. I borrowed some of my mother’s yoga DVD’s and played them in my dorm room, but like I said, I’m a girl who likes to keep busy. Soon those DVD’s were pushed under my bed to make room for textbooks and a two week old pile of laundry. The excuse has always been, “I don’t have time for yoga,” as my face is pressed up against a monitor, my nose is buried in a copy of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, or I’m standing in the obnoxious 11:00 Starbucks line, waiting for my second Venti iced coffee of the day.

Claire practices her king dancer pose at the Stone Valley Trail in Colton. Photo: Linda Woodcock

Claire practices her king dancer pose at the Stone Valley Trail in Colton. Photo: Linda Woodcock

So, this summer, I made the time. I started by going to a Vinyasa Flow class at the Yoga Loft, and made it a routine. Now every Monday evening I go to class, ready for my practice. The size of class averages around 10 students per week varying in age and skill level. The loft is spacious and relaxing music is always playing when I enter the room. I’m greeted with a friendly “Hello” from Sarah, the instructor, as I unroll my mat and gather myself before practice.

Normally, we start with seated meditation or in child’s pose, but together we steadily move through five sun salutations to warm up the body. These often transition us into standing poses that vary from class to class. From there, we move through several balance poses that help with alignment, and then move down to the floor and work through a variety of seated positions.

The peak of the class is the inversions, in which each student is free to work on their own inversions (this week I started working on a headstand).

Afterwards, we move into restorative positions, and then fall into Savasana, or relaxation pose and let go of the breath. Sarah often leaves us with a quote or some parting words for us to explore for the remainder of the day, and as I roll up my yoga mat, I feel as light as a pigeon, but as strong as an eagle.

Dictionary.com defines yoga as “a school of Hindu philosophy advocating and prescribing a course of physical and mental disciplines for attaining liberation from the material world and union of the self with the Supreme Being or ultimate principle,” and “a series of postures and breathing exercises practiced to achieve control of the body and mind.” This is all well and true, but I have my own definition yoga: It’s feeling absolutely content in the present moment, and that’s kind of what I’m all about right now.

There are some poses that come naturally: I enjoy backbends and balancing poses. I was able to reach my foot in the king pigeon pose very quickly, but have struggled with my half lotus poses since I began practicing two months ago. But I can balance on my arms now! I mean, it’s not much, but I’m feeling pretty giddy about my achievement.

Obviously, I’m no yogini. I haven’t memorized the Sanskrit glossary of yoga terms, I haven’t mastered the breath and sometimes I just can’t forget about that radio script that needs another edit, the tuition bill that I still need to pay, or that mango lime smoothie that I’ve been craving since breakfast. I’m quite the amateur, actually. Who knows if three years from now I’ll be practicing with the Dalai Lama in India or if my yoga mat will be used as an accent rug in my super artsy Brooklyn apartment (kidding). But I think that feeling “content in the moment” is satisfying enough for now.

So tell me about your experience with yoga! How did you become inspired to practice? What are you working on/what are you struggling with? If not yoga, what relaxes you, and leaves you feeling light as a bird? I’m eager to hear from you!
Namaste.

Yoga sequence. Photo: yogalearningcenter.com

Yoga sequence. Photo: yogalearningcenter.com

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