Friday, July 11, 2014

How to Develop a Yoga Practice.

Find that yoga mat you bought at Target. Shake the spiders out.

Find the yoga DVDs you also bought at Target that might be still in their shrink wrap. Unwrap them. Stick them in the DVD player thing.

Start doing yoga. Every day. That is all, and that will work, if it is right for you. If it doesn't work, it may be that you haven't found the way that works for you. If it still attracts you, calls to you, shop around. And by "shop around," I do not mean go back to Target and buy a half dozen more DVDs. I mean shop the innerwebs, read, explore, take a class here or there. You may stumble into loving yoga. I did. It took forever.

This is not my first attempt to "develop a yoga practice." I always thought that sounded like a nice thing, to practice yoga regularly, but my fits and starts have been mainly aspirational, until this year, when I turned 56, which was apparently the time I am ready to "get" yoga. I get it. I get it and I crave it.

I do not crave expensive classes at the hippest studio in town. I do not feel the need for a new wardrobe of really cute yoga stuff, so I'll look like I belong at the hippest studio in town. I do yoga in my pajamas, with bed head and sometimes with un-brushed teeth, and I don't give a damn how I look. Okay, not true - I do care about proper alignment and holding the pose, and I pay attention to that. I don't care how I LOOK, because this is for ME. And when I am on my back on the mat and Murphy is breathing his toxic dragon breath in my face, because he's sure I'm down on the floor to entertain him, I'm kinda glad if I didn't brush my teeth. Right backatcha, Stinky Dog.

I don't have a working DVD player at the moment, and my 10 year old TV has only one HDMI port, so I'm already multi-tasking with cable and Apple TV. I have to unplug one to plug in the other, and while it's mildly annoying and a lot of people I know would consider it ridiculous, I'm fine with it. But adding a DVR is just one plug too many. I get my yoga fix via GaiamTV via the $40 Roku gadget that only works on the newer TV in the bedroom. When I subscribed to this channel I told myself that if I didn't use it I'd ditch it before they billed me the $9.95 a month. I subscribed for the many yoga videos, and especially because I recognized the names of the instructors.

Yoga is not one size fits all; there are so many types of yoga, and so many individual teaching styles, you can't just turn on a video (or go to a class) and decide whether it is for you or not - especially if you are truly intrigued by the "full yoga experience" vs. a stretchy class at the gym. Like the old song says, "You better shop around."

However, on the classes thing, learn from my expensive experience - never, ever get talked into signing up for a ten class package before sampling a class. Only once (and the ten class package was a gift, years ago) did that work out for me. I had to get past the instructor looking strikingly like a young
if you can picture Barney Fife in shorts and a t-shirt. He was a great instructor.

Other experiences weren't so lovely, like the guy with the faux-Sanskrit name and the scraggly blond beard whose style was so deeeeply meditative and boooring, I was making a grocery list in my head the entire time. He didn't give a damn if you were learning or not; he was just doing his yogi thing, and if you got nothing from it, it must be you.

Instruction should instruct. Some yoga instructors (including the video variety) are lousy teachers. I like Gaiam TV because I can sample styles and find instructors I can relate to, for the price of one live instructor yoga class a month. So far, my all-around favorite is Rodney Yee. He's pretty much the king of yoga videos. I guess it's not surprising that he has a background in both dance and physical therapy - he can describe a pose in a brief, clear, and non-intrusive way that I can follow. Some other videos were clicked off in the first five minutes. I'm a rank beginner and exploring what works for me, so for ten bucks a month I definitely feel I'm getting my money's worth from this channel. This isn't an endorsement, compensated or otherwise, and there are other online sources, and YMMV, etc. Right now, this works for me.

Truth: Two weeks ago, I found cobra pose (that is NOT me)
intimidating, and by that I mean holy crap so hard, I couldn't imagine pulling myself up into a push-up position like that, let alone holding it. A few days later, I could manage it. Now, I can do it. Two weeks of daily practice, at 56 years old. I'm not bragging; I'm saying it's do-able. It's not easy, but it's a satisfying feeling of accomplishment.

I feel ridiculously good. Stupidly good. OMG, why didn't I figure this out 25 years ago? - that kind of good.


Linda said...

I'm 54 this year. Maybe by the time I'm 56 I'll find my Yoga mojo too. 'When' I do it I really enjoy it and feel better. My problem is sticking to it :-0
Keep up the good work!

Catherine said...

It's really weird - it's not work. I didn't plan to drag out the mat today; I was on a house cleaning mission. Mid-morning, I just...sorta had to take a yoga break.

carlarey said...

I picked up one of Rodney's videos on your recommendation a couple of weeks ago, and I just ordered a second one.

Like you, yoga just never clicked for me. Now I have added a half hour of yoga with Rodney after my daily run. It's fantastic!

Catherine said...

Rodney Yee is now my "If you think you want to try yoga," recommendation right out of the gate. I didn't know until I Googled him that his background was dance and PT - it explains a lot about his excellent down-to-earth guidance without a lot of chat. There are so many styles of yoga, and within those variations so many styles of instruction, you really do have to sample a lot before deciding it's not for you. I'm glad you like him as much as I do!

Brenda said...

I just looked on my local library's website, and they have several of Rodney Yee's DVDs. I requested a couple of them---you can keep them for a week, so I can try them two or three times before I decide to buy. (I wish they were on Netflix.) I used to have a wonderful yoga teacher---she was from India and an RN, but she moved away. I tried another teacher, but her classes were more like an exercise class---more athletic than relaxing/calming.