This morning we had to hand in our first sequence assignment: Basically, we had to put together a class plan. It’s funny … I’ve been to so many yoga classes over the years, but I’d never really stopped to think about what went into putting a sequence together. It’s surprisingly hard. I chose Bird of Paradise as my peak pose and worked backward from there, incorporating as many chest openers, binds, balances, and hamstring stretches as I could. Honestly, I have no idea if I ultimately created a 20-minute class or a 90-minute one (the latter of which was the target length). I’m curious to see whether or not I completely mutilated this sequence.
This morning I had that feeling of almost being able to breathe a sigh of relief when I walked into the studio and saw all of the faces that have become so familiar. We opened with a practice by the teacher whose flows I love the most. They’re always so creative. After more than a decade of yoga, she demonstrated a way of transitioning from Virabhadrasana I to Virabhadrasana II that I’ve never seen before. She flowed in lots of Side Planks and Ardha Chandrasanas, the latter of which is my favorite pose. There was also a new shoulder stand I’ve never done before (it basically mimics the shape of Forearm Wheel as an inversion) and then went into Forearm Wheel, which I’ve also never done. The pose felt good once I got in it, but transitioning from hands to forearms while in Wheel is one of those kinda freaky feelings you have to get used to. It was a pretty ass-kicking practice, but in a good way. We did get a bit of a warning after class, though, that our basic Warrior poses are getting sloppy. A bit scary to hear on Day 9, but I think this can probably be chalked up to general fatigue. Though, I have to say, I am shocked at how energetic I feel at this point. Perhaps I’ll just drop come Thursday, though.
Our teacher also commented that this particular class is pretty great insofar as that everyone has remained so engaged and enthusiastic, despite the grueling schedule. She said the teachers spent a lot of time joking about whether this was the morning they’d walk into class to find us all pissed off. But it never happened.
My friends and I had a nice kumbayah moment at lunch today, then made the rebellious move of ducking into Starbucks to grab some contraband coffee before our afternoon anatomy session. With the exception of about four sips of coffee a few days ago, I’ve been otherwise completely off the sauce since training began (this is monumental). I was shocked to find that my “special treat” was actually pretty disgusting to me today. I threw it out after a few sips and reverted back to green tea. We’ll see how long this lasts for. I think part of it is I’ve been a bit detoxified, but the other part of it is simply that yoga with a belly full of coffee is just not that appealing of a notion.
We had our first five of ten total hours of anatomy today. To be honest, I was dreading it. Science and all related topics have never been my forte. But I was shocked to find that it was actually one of my favorite sessions so far. We had a guest lecturer who was hilarious and brilliant. (My friends and I also got a big kick out of the fact that she “invited” us to do things, rather than giving commands. For example, she “invited” us to stand in what seemed like a torturous 10-minute Uttanasana and “invited” us to read two more chapters of the anatomy text book tonight. I mean, how can you say no to that?!)
But, in all seriousness, it really was fascinating. The things that this lecturer is able to extrapolate on just by a small detail like the fact that someone has bunions on her feet and the subsequent asana corrections are fascinating. And then there’s just the miracle of biology. Like this, for example, was new information to me: “… the first breath is the most important and forceful inhalation a human will ever take. The initial inflation of the lungs triggers enormous changes to the entire circulatory system, which has previously been geared toward receiving oxygenated blood from the placenta. That first breath causes a massive surge of blood into the lungs, the right and left sides of the heart to separate into two separate pumps, and the specialized vessels of fetal circulation to shut down, seal off, and become ligaments that support the abdominal organs. The first inhalation must be so forceful because it needs to overcome the initial surface tension of the previously inactive lung tissue.” (Yoga Anatomy, by Leslie Kaminoff & Amy Matthews) This is just insane to me. Talk about a productive first few seconds of life! And how elegant is the human body?!
Another new factoid I learned a few days ago during practice that shocked me is this: Our teacher had us roll up a blanket, then lie with it pressed against our abdomen. I can’t tell you how gratingly uncomfortable this was after the first several seconds. At the end of the practice, our teacher explained that we essentially have a “second brain” in our bellies, technically known as the enteric nervous system. Although I can’t explain it adequately, the point is that “gut instinct” is more than just a turn of phrase–there is actually a biological basis for this.
Like the sap that I am, I spent today alternately cracking up and choking up. It all just seems so much more intense and poignant with this first intensive session coming to an end tomorrow. Fittingly, I thought the Yoga Anatomy book summed up my experience perfectly with this passage: ” … you create the space and the universe fills it.”