Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Yoga of Opposites

If yesterday's yoga class was all about connecting to the self through the breath, slowing down, being peaceful and aware of each movement, today's was about as opposite as it gets.  The frustration is that it was supposed to be "Mindful Yoga".  Uh, not so much.  What a difference a teacher makes...

I need to start by saying I have the utmost respect for anyone who teaches.  Whether they're a good teacher or a not-so-good teacher can really boil down to a matter of opinion.  How does their energy effect me?  Are they giving the information to me in a way that I like to receive it?  What kind of mood am I in?  How were expectations set leading up to the class?  You name it, it can affect the experience a student has and therefore affect the kind of opinion they have of a teacher, a class, a studio.

That being said, I visited a yoga studio, Yoga4You, in nearby Savage to take the aforementioned Mindful Yoga class.  Now, I've taken the class there before, a handful of times, and have had one teacher I love (read: the class is actually "mindfully" taught, as advertised) and one I vowed I would never take a class from again (read: the class is taught by mindful's bi-polar cousin).  Today's class was supposed to be taught by the former, and the latter was teaching instead.  You can see my dilemma.

As much as I enjoy my home yoga practice, sometimes you can't beat the collective energy of a good studio class to inspire you to push the edges of your comfort zone a bit.  A studio that appeals to your finer sensibilities, with teachers that resonate with you as teachers and as people, is priceless.  I've experienced it before, so I know it's out there.  But currently, I have no studio to call home and therefore, am on the prowl until I find one that feels worth the investment of my time, money and energy.  Try as I might, this studio is not for me.

Oh, but I want it to be!  Does the wanting make my expectations higher or lower?  Yes, I have a six-class pass to finish up, but each time I go it seems I feel let down and wonder why I keep going back.  Is it me?  Or them?

To be fair, I think it's a disconnect -- what I'm looking for is just different from what they offer.  For example, it's unclear if it's a yoga studio or a fitness club.  Why is there a scale of all things in the lobby at a yoga studio?  Isn't yoga meant to cultivate awareness and acceptance of the inner, immutable, unchangeable self as well as compassion for the body, rather than a focus on the arbitrary number of its weight?  Likewise, there's the matter of the Zumba classes.  At the "Y", yes.  At a yoga studio?  No.

I fully admit to dancing gaily on my soapbox at the moment...please, bear with me.

Another head-scratcher for me is their new class, Christian Yoga.  My question isn't from a religious perspective, but why not allow the principles of yoga, which is not a religion, speak for itself outside of a preferred dogma?  Do we have to bastardize everything to make it marketable in our Western culture?  Does it always have to be about mainstreaming, about feeding a demographic exactly what it wants (or thinks it wants), or can we depend on the curiosity of said demographic to willingly explore a philosophy that is in no way at odds with traditional religion by presenting it as such?

I know...it's up to them to create and teach whatever classes they want.  And I don't have to go there.  Or even write about it for that matter.  It isn't the studio that is so much my issue (by all means, if you're looking for a studio, go give them try and make your own choice.  Honestly.  As I said before, we all have different preferences.)  But clearly my experiences there sparked something in me.

So, what's my problem?  I think it's this: Yes, there is something to be said for making yoga accessible to the masses.  I would love nothing more than for every single solitary person to have the experience of a peaceful mind and a kind, generous relationship with their body and spirit in the name of yoga.  However, I think this is better accomplished by trusting the wisdom of this ancient practice that has kept yoga relevant all these thousands of years...not by serving it up on a platter created by the same overworked, ego-based culture that is responsible for making people's lives so wild and crazy in the first place.  We don't need to recreate the wheel here.  Bottom line: There's something crucial that's lost in the translation to McWatered-Down Yoga that is worth holding onto.

And so I remain open to finding a studio that resonates.//

What's For Dinner Tonight?
After all that riggamarole, it was Chili for us tonight...from the freezer.  Chock full of last season's farm-fresh veggies -- tomatoes, red peppers, onions, garlic, corn cut right off the cob.  And still delicious (I highly recommend the Food Saver)!  When I make it fresh this winter, the recipe will come along with it...I promise!

Tonight's recipe share is of a different kind...for after this blog posts, I'm off to the bath (no pictures, please!).

Super Soothing Bath Recipe
A tub full of water, as warm as you like it
1 quart of Epsom salts (I know it sounds like a lot, but it does a body good!)
10 drops of lavender essential oil
10 drops of ylang-ylang essential oil

Lights off.  One candle will do, more if you like the ambiance.  Lay back and relax.  Focus on your breathing -- slow in breath, equally slow out.  Continue to focus on your breath for as long as is comfortable... preferably until you begin to feel more connected to your body and your mind begins to still.  Feel the warmth on your skin under water, feel the cool air on the rest of your skin.  Be with those sensations.  Stay in as long as you can, letting yourself wrinkle and prune.  Dry off, get in your jammies and go straight to bed.  Happy sleep!

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