Finding one's inner peace is next to impossible when dealing with a demanding family. Who has time for mental down time when you are constantly thinking about your to-do list that never seems to decrease? When I got a call from my friend Charmaine on January 1 telling me that she was going to yoga and that I was going to join her, I thought, why not? We showed up to Stafford House of Yoga and I brought nothing...no mat, no money, no water. Charmaine had failed to mention that we were signing up for a month...a month of something I knew NOTHING about! It was a "restorative" class geared towards older people and those with physical injuries...we barely broke a sweat and it was almost boring. I say almost because we did erupt into fits of laughter on more than one occasion; I felt like a juvenile delinquent and I was worried they would ask us to leave and never return.
The next day we signed up for hot yoga and it was anything but boring. The 105-degree room was the first obstacle; it was a rigorous, intense workout with long poses and endless stretches with body parts that have been dormant for far too long. The practice of yoga encourages you to be early to class so that you have time to adapt to the temperature of the room, relax and unwind. That alone proved to be a task for us. Charmaine is generally racing out the door, leaving her four kids with her husband or a sitter, then she picks me up since I'm on her way out of the neighborhood. Twice we made it just a few minutes after class began and we were not allowed to enter. At first we were thoroughly annoyed. Obviously whoever is in charge of the rules does not have children, we surmised. HELLO...we made it out of the door just in time to relax, isn't that in and of itself progress?! It was an adjustment to stress out about making it ontime to relax...a complete contradiction but it makes more sense the longer we practice. The camaraderie is inspiring. It helps to have five minutes in the car to catch up, talk about our husbands and compare notes about our children and then just let it all go in class.
At first, I felt sorry for my limbs but the classes are invigorating and something keeps us going back...we just haven't determined quite what that something is yet. Personally, I enjoy the reverence to Hinduism. I love that a few instructors play varying versions of the Gayatri Mantra, which is a Sanskrit prayer that my husband or I recite to our children every night. A picture of Lord Ganesha, remover of obstacles, hangs above the door, just as there is one at my door at home. An Aum (Om) symbol is the only picture hanging at the front of the room; pictures of a meditating Siddhartha can be seen in the hallway; and, the owners just commissioned a door to be ornately hand-carved in India. The smell of incense wafts around the building...it smells like my parents’ house. The Ravi Shankar-esque instrumentals are so soothing at the end of the session and they remind me of my late uncle (Bapuji) who loved that type of music. During one session, those sounds evoked an almost visceral reaction as I lay there with my mind wandering back to memories of my uncle. The bhajans or hymns that are played in some classes are songs I grew up hearing and still hear in my mother's kitchen every morning. Yes, there is definitely an intimate familiarity to yoga that I enjoy. The arduous stretches, the intense sweating and the feeling of accomplishment at the end…perhaps it’s that feeling that keeps us coming back; we recently signed up for another three months.
It was disappointing to hear Matt Lauer talk recently to some fitness experts on the Today show who discussed that fact that yoga does not help you burn calories but there are many "other" benefits, mostly attributed to your health and well being. I always feel better when I leave but then doesn't that happen with all forms of exercise? It's not whittling away anything, which is disappointing.
However...we've all been like bears, stuck inside for 16 snow days, hibernating, baking, crafting, rolling fondant to make shapes (better than play dough and edible!), coloring, singing, reading, playing upstairs, downstairs, inside, outside, watching more TV than any parent would admit to allowing...the same goes for the iPad use...you get the picture. With the cold and dreary winter that we've been dragging through, I find that I look forward to the hour that I can escape and find some calm. February was a particularly crazy month for me. Like many of you, I tend to get mired into projects at home, be they baking or doing things with the children and it's nice to build in that time to get away and force a mental escape. I find this is what is most welcome about yoga in my life at this time.
I'm not sure if we'll stick with it beyond the next few months but it certainly is a welcome distraction at the present, mental and otherwise...AAAUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMMMM!