July 2, 2011

Yogis and Yoginis, Pump Up the Volume!

Being present to our yoga in every moment

Who says there ain’t no yoga in tae-bo?

I bet to differ.

Excitedly I left work and rushed home to quickly change into exercise gear to participate in a tae-bo class being held under the African stars of this magnificent lawn. The instructor, an exquisitely beautiful – in mind, body and spirit – North African was incentive enough. He’d invited me to his classes a few times before and I kept putting it off for a variety of inane reasons. Well today was different. By hook or by crook I was determined to find my way there. And I did.

As he set up the music, I could already feel my endorphins gearing themselves up for the pump. Literally, I sat on the sidelines as I watched all of the “veterans,” mainly stressed out humanitarian aid workers, wrap their wrists up in protective gear as they prepared for the spar. For now, I was just going to let it rip, roar and roll!

With music blasting, we sprinted onto the lawn where we began with a few warm-ups. At first, these quick jerky movements felt almost neurotic. Then, in what seemed like a matter of sheer minutes, my body was glazed by a first layer of damp, salty, sweat. Paying close attention to the instructor who was counting from one to eight en français, I noticed where just below my breath, I was counting in Dutch! I quickly recognized what was happening. When I lived in Holland, I’d practiced tae-bo regularly, just when Billy Blank and Les Mills were becoming household names in the fitness world. I was amazed by this fact which I often speak of when teaching yoga; namely how our bodies remember and store our stories in our DNA.

It felt as though I was having an out of body experience – Nadine the yogini was observing a shadow of her former self, engaged in this high intensity form of exercise. I reminisced about how I used to be addicted to the pump, and how when I moved away from it, yoga entered my life. Right now though, the pump was serving a very necessary purpose. Pent up frustrations were being appropriately released with each punch I threw. Though tempted to visualize the faces of all those who had managed to get under my skin throughout the day, as I purpose-fully threw my fists, ahimsa, the yogic philosophy of non-violence, compassionately transformed these faces into less personal, punching bags. Fully immersed in the moment – the music, the pump, the punch, the sweat and the breath – I was having the time of my life!

This tae-bo stuff was inviting me to test my mettle at every level. In bringing awareness to the act that I was engaged in, I was practicing taking the yoga off the mat and into another aspect of my world. Many, myself included, who discovered yoga while transitioning from high intensity, adrenalin driven, forms of exercise often find it difficult to concentrate when thrown back into these ego based scenarios. Rather than be with the moment – which is what our yoga practices aim to impart to us – we bring judgment and resistance to it – thus coming away from the experience feeling validated for having stepped away from it in the first place.

There is yoga in every moment, we only need to be present.

At the end of the class, the instructor led us through a few cooling down and stretching exercises that I found very similar to postures that I practice daily. Given the martial arts foundation of tae-bo, this kinda makes sense. As I drove home, totally drenched from dreadlocks to sneakers, I relished the feeling of triumphant invigoration at having participated in the class, stayed with it and ultimately in the end, enjoying every second of it.

Maybe, just maybe when we’re feeling pent up and edgy, the best yogic thing we can do for ourselves is to engage in some activity that lets us pump up the volume and let off some steam as we exhale. And so it is.

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Nadine McNeil  |  Contribution: 7,500