April 8, 2014

The Rocket, Pretty Underwear & a Strong Foundation. ~ Anne Samit

Our captain, Rocket instructor Mimi Rieger

Mimi Rieger E-RYT (Our Captain!)

“May you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift.”  ~ Forever Young, Bob Dylan

I’ve been taking Rocket yoga for more than a year now.

Three times a week, I go to the same class with the same teacher. She mixes it up, and we fly and invert and lock and lift. I rarely miss a class, so I figure I’ve practiced Rocket more than 100 times.

How is it, then, that I’ve only recently realized that at every practice, we move through a foundational sequence before we take off?

Am I the only one who didn’t know we were putting on the undergarments of our practice before getting dressed for the rest?

Like most young girls, I was taught my first foundation lesson at an early age: to always wear nice underwear in case I’m in an accident and wind up in the hospital.

Foundations can last a lifetime, and that’s why every day, I’ve got on pretty underwear under there. And I think that’s also why we are working on a foundation at Rocket. It’s not just for that day’s practice, but for the rest of our practicing days.

How is it that I’m just catching on to this?

We do each pose for five breaths in a particular order, building one on the other, each new posture getting another five breaths and only adding the whistles and bells after completing both sides.

Maybe it’s taken me this long to realize what’s going on at the beginning because I’m so busy focusing on the middle. I’m waiting for what I think are the fun parts, like the handstands and the arm balances and the rest.

But here, at Rocket, and seemingly unbeknownst to me until now, we’ve apparently been threading together the foundation of a practice with patience and persistence.

It’s as if the practice is one long Home Economics project, with the instructor the head seamstress, putting down the pattern and laying out the big pieces first, teaching us to stitch together the larger parts before adding on the beautiful buttons, the fancy pockets, the sparkling sequins.

It’s methodical. It’s challenging. And like with the creation of any lasting foundation, I think it’s making me stronger.  

I remember being in a sewing class in seventh grade, and let’s just say it wasn’t a place I excelled. There really was never any kind of foundation laid out in the class, nothing to build upon. We were just given a pattern and sent out to sea without a captain. I gave a shirt and a skirt my best efforts.

The instructor would walk around, looking down on those of us seated and sewing. Those around me seemed to do fine, but I’d be adrift, jamming the machine and ripping out the seams I’d just sewn. My mother rescued me, finishing my projects on the sly at home.

“There is a foundation very specific to Ashtanga,” the instructor says each time. “We’ll do each pose, and when we add a new one, we’ll hold it for five breaths. Then, we’ll add the binds and the balances.”

Maybe she announced this on Day One, I’m not sure. But, it seems that for several days a week and for most weeks this year, I’ve been getting dressed layer by layer without knowing it.

It’s only now that I see there’s even been a pattern every week at every practice, each pose like a piece of fabric, each movement the placement of the pieces, with all the effort and sweat securing the seams in place.

We thread together the Sun As and Sun Bs and the Warrior Is and IIs. We reach into Triangles and Reverse Triangles and Extended Side Angles, and seamlessly move into High Lunges and Reverse Extended Side Angles. We make sure the right and left sides match by repeating the same sequence on each.

And when we have completed this basic foundation, we reinforce its stitching, moving through it again, this time adding the trappings like Bound Half Moon, Bird of Paradise and Reverse Bird and more.

The other night, the practice room was packed, and it was hot. The instructor climbed up on the windowsill and braced herself inside its frame, looking down on us like Spiderman.

“Think of me up here as your captain so I can help guide you!” she exclaimed. “Let’s double dip,” she announced, referring to our yoga push ups. “Be honest. This is your chance to get stronger.”

This all struck me as perfectly normal, with her in the window as captain and me at sea among the other yogis.

I’m here to build my foundation, so I listen to the captain and double dip as best I can.

And I think it’s working. My dips are feeling stronger.

Of course, it could just be the new underwear I bought to practice yoga. A fellow yogi had pointed them out in the store.

I picked up a pair and said: “If you see me flying in class, you’ll know they’re working.”

After that, I returned to buy some more. And, of course, I got some pretty colors, because any foundation is worth maintaining—especially if it helps me fly.

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Editor: Renée Picard

Photos: submitted by Mimi Rieger and used with permission of Rachel Neville

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