Yoga is like a long car ride, and I feel like the kid in the backseat asking, “When are we gonna get there?”
I’m thinking I need some more muscles.
Not necessarily big ones, just more than I’ve got.
I remember when I started yoga, I stood in a studio with a group of women who had probably been working out most of their days.
It was day one for me.
Needless to say, it was pretty intimidating to keep coming back, but I did and it was a good thing. The practice has redefined me, literally.
Now I’ve got some muscles, and they’ve appeared in much the same way as with most things in yoga—they kind of crept up on me. Seemed like suddenly, there they were! One day, the mirror showed me muscles in my arms, my stomach, my legs, my back.
But the more I try to advance, the more I feel my limits. In one class in particular, I spend lots of time thinking, if only I was stronger, I would get this.
“This” being the arm balances, the handstands, the staying on one side with the weight in one leg while doing all sorts of things before moving to the other side.
I mentioned lifting some weights to the instructor after class one day. “I’m thinking I’m not strong enough,” I said.
“You can if you want,” she replied, telling me that she lifted too, “but you are strong!”
Then I admitted to feeling scrawny, and she suggested I email her to get rid of the crazies.
But it’s the crazies that make me keep coming back. They are what make me want to go upside down, to lift myself up on my hands with my legs here and there.
I am learning that, as with most things in life, the strength has to come from the core.
The instructor talks about zipping it up and putting the belly button to the spine. She calls to us about our upward flying locks when we lift and balance and hang.
Still, in this class, I feel my edge—the place where I know I need to add something to what I’m doing, so I can do more.
The other day, we were in Navasana, or Boat pose. Sitting on our tail bones, our bodies are in a V-shape with our legs and backs straight and our feet in line with our noses. Our hands reach up.
We hold for a count of five.
Then, we cross, lock and lift—placing our hands down on either side, crossing our legs and lifting ourselves off the mat, swinging our feet underneath us. Ultimately, we are supposed to land in handstand, swinging ourselves under and through and unfolding into the inversion.
“We’re heading to handstand here,” the instructor says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re there yet. Some of us will take another day or another month or another 10 years.”
No one really calls out in this class but, on hearing this, I stood up.
“What?” I blurted out. “Do you know how old I’ll be in 10 years?!”
“It doesn’t matter how old you are,” the instructor replied. “It matters how strong you are.”
I have these little purple weights at home. They are eight pounds each. And I have some metal ones that are five pounds each. And some little red three pounders. Surely something can be done with them.
This yoga is called The Rocket. It’s from a branch of yoga called Ashtanga, a style where the student is given a sequence of poses, the progression through which has to be done in order. The student cannot move to the next pose unless the previous one is accomplished.
Rocket yoga came about in the 1980s, and it teaches some of these poses without having to satisfy any prerequisites. Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead dubbed it The Rocket because, in his words, You get there faster.
In the Rocket class, it often feels like day one again.
I am in there with those who have been there awhile. And like when I first started yoga, it can be quite intimidating but, like before, I keep coming back.
And the progress is slow.
So my plan is to lift those purple weights, even though I think the key to my progression lies more in the strength of my core.
I am being instructed, like with anything else, to look inside to my very center.
Still, I kind of want to rocket through that part, too. I keep waiting to hear some kind of hint about how to better lift up. Surely, I might be missing some kind of clue.
But the only way to fly is to lock and lift. And there’s no shortcut to doing that. The strength in my core has to build in its own time.
So I keep practicing my lock and practicing my patience.
And hopefully, if I’m locked and lucky, I’ll be able to go back and through and upside down before the 10 year mark.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel