At last my first class of Ashtanga Yoga had arrived. I had been looking forward to this night for weeks and with my new yoga mat tucked under my arm, I made my way down to our local leisure centre with my daughter Gemma.
I bounced in the door at 7pm with an enthusiastic grin on my face. The class had already started so I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself to the group. They all looked comfortable and relaxed stretched out in Savasana pose (also known as Corpse pose) and I couldn’t wait to join in.
Gemma grabbed a spot in the far corner of the room with her sister Charlene while I stayed near the door. I spread out my yoga mat and took off my shoes and lay down like a corpse. Yes, this was lovely. Nice and relaxing.
Our teacher Sharon had a soft voice and her instructions were clear and precise. After a few stretches our muscles began to warm up. I love a good stretch and I always considered myself to be fairly flexible.
About half an hour into the class, I realised that this was not exactly what I was expecting. I bizarrely thought that I would be sitting in a slightly twisted pose breathing quietly to myself and watching the world go by.
Instead I was standing wide-legged while folding myself forward with the intention of resting the crown of my head on the floor. This pose is known as Prasarita Padottanasana and it’s a simple one which is popular for beginners. I’m a beginner and this was not simple. Boy was I in trouble here!
I managed to achieve Angry Cat Pose and I enjoyed the Sun Salutation. I can swing from left to right and I can look up to the sky.
However, I think I have a long road ahead of me before I will be able to touch my toes without bending my knees and as for throwing my legs up over my head – not a chance. Perhaps by Christmas I’ll accomplish that pose.
I glanced around a few times to see if anyone else was having trouble making themselves look like a curly wurly. Some were struggling like me but others were quite bendy.
My friend Tricia was lying beside me and she made a few peculiar noises. I ignored her because I knew if we looked at each other we’d start laughing out loud. And these poses were not something you could achieve while laughing. Inhaling and exhaling is what we had to focus on.
My daughter Charlene looked a wee bit puffed up too. I wondered if she was aware that she had a huge hole in the backside of her leggings. Apparently Gemma pointed it out to her.
The last fifteen to twenty minutes of the class ended with a savasana (meditation while in Corpse pose) – which I loved. It made me forget the difficult parts. It was a bit like the labour process. As soon as you cuddle your newborn baby in your arms, you immediately forget the struggle you had to get him there.
I no longer consider myself to be fairly flexible. I now know that I am as stiff as a poker and when I exert myself I forget to breathe.
I was relieved when the ladies in the class expressed how much they enjoyed it and looked forward to our next yoga session. To be honest, there were moments when I thought to myself, ‘They are going to kill me for organising this!’
But the feedback was all positive. People were impressed and they actually felt that they had worked their bodies. This gave me lots of encouragement and I went home with the intention of giving this my best shot. No whinging allowed!
Keen to practice my asanas, I got up earlier than usual the following morning. I spent about twenty minutes stretching and posing as many postures as I could remember.
To avoid injury, Sharon advised us to only push our bodies as far as it was comfortable. So without causing myself any pain, I gently exhaled my stiff old joints into positions that they haven’t been in since childhood. And boy it felt good!
Each morning before breakfast, I spend twenty minutes practicing my yoga. And each time I push my stretchs that wee bit extra. My breathing techniques are improving. I am more focused on inhaling and exhaling through my nose.
Seven days after my very first session, I was amazed at how much easier it was. Apart from a couple of difficult postures, I managed to twist and turn so much better than before. At no point during class two did I feel that I might die. I was still quite stiff but in comparison to class one, I felt like I was actually very capable of mastering this yoga business. As soon as I got home I scribbled down lots of notes.
I’ve been practicing basic yoga postures for nine days now and although I still can’t touch my toes without bending my knees, I do feel more flexible. I also feel more energised and focused. Although my head is still a few inches from the floor while posing Prasarita Padottanasana, it does make me feel rather supple and bouncy and it is now my favourite asana.
I particularly love the fact that yoga requires concentration and focus. I have always being a firm believer in mindfullness and meditation, but my ability to deeply concentrate is not one of my strong points.
I am finding that with yoga, I’m focusing on my breathing and my postures with ease. My mind surrenders to the concentration almost without me realising it.
I love to challenge myself and because yoga requires a certain amount of discipline, I am definitely in for a huge challenge.
I’m not quite sure how to set a goal for this and I have no idea where it will take me. Perhaps I’ll try to accomplish a new pose each week. Or stretch that little bit extra every day.
I may never be capable of wrapping my legs around my neck, but I don’t think I need to go that far in order to reap the benefits of this practice.
What am I hoping to gain from yoga?
- A healthy frame of mind. By this I mean, a positive outlook and a calm way of dealing with minor everyday issues.
- Eliminate stiffness and aches from my arthritic joints.
- Improve my postural habits.
- Build up muscle tone and strength.
Practicing Ashtanga Yoga offers many other benefits and I have no doubt that as time goes on I will begin to notice other areas of my health improving.
Are you taking the yoga challenge with me? What do you hope to achieve by practicing yoga? Is it what you expected it to be? What motivates you into continuing the practice?
Your thoughts may encourage others to start yoga or continue it if they’ve already started, especially if they have any doubts about their abilities to become bendy and flexible.
Share your thoughts on yoga in the comment box below. Thank you 🙂
Sharon Mundy, our yoga teacher lives in Cavan and she trained with the Himalaya Yoga Centre in India where she gained her RYS (registered yoga school) 200 hour diploma.
The Himalaya Yoga Centre is highly recognised as a prominent leader in the discipline of yoga and training. Sharon will travel a reasonable distance to teach small and large groups of people who are interested in learning more about Ashtanga Yoga.
If you’re interested in taking part in a yoga class with Sharon, get in touch with me via the contact form, the comment box below, by email – firstname.lastname@example.org or you can message me on facebook.