Ashtanga Yoga

In light of last week’s events, I made an effort to keep myself as busy as humanly possible this weekend as a means of distracting myself from a lot of hurt around me. It worked pretty well. I baked some cupcakes, took some Bikram classes, got back on the P90X bandwagon (I was sick and took last week off), went running, played with the dogs, saw some friends and took my first ashtanga yoga class. My buddy and I have been going semi-regularly to lululemon’s community yoga workshops and we had imbibed the night before so when the new instructor said something about ashtanga yoga I could only suffered as I realized there was no way to communicate to my friend that this was crazy and we had to somehow sneak out immediately. When I started doing Bikram I was talking to my boss one day and she told me: “My brother does Ashtanga. He does crazy stuff like lift himself into the air and swings his legs underneath him” all while doing motions of things I could understand but couldn’t imagine. I’ve since seen pictures of her brother doing yoga and I know I can’t do any of the stuff he can. Or can I?

The reason I got really into Bikram was honestly because I was too weak for other types of yoga. Lame but true. My upper body was just too weak to “rest” in downward dog. It was more like “shake and hope I don’t fall on my face and hold my breath and suffer every second” in downward dog. But Bikram was less focused on upper body weigh-bearing exercises and that, combined with P90X, has allowed me to get strong and flexible.

Now, this was a modified ashtanga class. No inversions and lots of alternative postures. However, I was surprised that barring some occasional lapses in focus and therefore balance, I could do most of the postures. I was the only girl in the class who could lift herself up in the ashtanga vinyasa and I was able to do what seemed like a million chaturangas.

I can’t do this. But I can do the very first part where you lift yourself up in the air from a seated position. That, my friends, is progress. And while this yogi makes this look easy, it is so hard. I’m not going to tell you to try it at home because you might will hurt yourself, but if you were to go against my advice and try it, you’d learn it was crazy hard. 

This time last year I wouldn’t have been able to do most of the series. Tight runner hamstrings, limited flexibility, a back injury and no upper body strength. Instead of hating my first ashtanga class, I loved it. It helped me see how far I have come and has given me a workable goal for where I can go. Off to the next adventure.