What I learned at yoga class this weekend

Photo: hand on a yoga matYesterday I took a vinyasa flow 2/3 class with Dana Cohen and today a Hatha yoga class with Marylou McNamara, both at Thrive Yoga. At the first class, I learned that I had lost conditioning and had to let the practice come to me, rather than trying to catch up with the sequencing; at the second, that the body quickly slips back into its old habits, and forgets to engage the right muscles for holding poses, especially in my core. Muscle memory has cultural roots: we Westerners spend too long sitting in chairs drooping our shoulders and arms over keyboards. Holding Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) requires activating the manipura chakra (the energetic core that lies near the solar plexus, according to the yogic knowledge system). That’s why yoga can sometimes seems so frustrating, even pointless, because a beginner is fighting against deeply ingrained muscular habits that are being constantly reinforced by our daily routines or absence of activity.

But each time I come back to the mat after a pause — of a few days or months — it’s a fresh opportunity to become a beginner and start learning from a slightly different perspective than in the past. So I don’t kick myself for having relapsed or lost ground; it’s just a different spot in space and time that makes the process all the most enlivening and challenging.

It is also a conscious process in which what I learn about myself is even more important that the postures or the techniques. Sometimes, I can express that shifting awareness in this blog; other times, I just have to let it express itself silently in my practice.