Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day 10/30: Yoga to the People

The boyfriend had a meeting "upstate" at 7:30 last night, so wouldn't be able to pick me up from the train station. So I made an after-work date with David's Bridal to try on bridesmaid dresses for my friend's October wedding. Hey, I thought, I could get out of there in time to do some yoga! So I brought my yoga clothes with me to work.

And I'm so glad I did! There is nothing like bridesmaid-dress-trying-on to motivate one to work out. It's irrelevant that most of those dresses are universally unflattering. The yoga studio had a 6:30 class just three blocks from the store, so after trying on four dresses and taking the requisite pictures for my friend, I made a beeline for the studio.

I had looked into going to another studio near work where one of the Bikram 101 challengers often practices, but HOLY SMOKES! Their single-class price is up to $30! Zoinks. Maybe that's to give students an incentive to buy a many-class package, but I can't afford one of those right now. So off I went to Yoga to the People, where classes are just 10 bucks. The only other time I've been there (in November I think?), I was worried about the quality of the instruction, and was so, so pleasantly surprised. They may not be an affiliated Bikram studio, but that teacher had clearly been to training and was A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

The studio was packed as usual when I got there. I didn't have any cash with me, and they don't take cards. Yikes! Awk-ward. But the girl working the desk and the woman who was to teach just told me not to worry about it; I could hit an ATM in the neighborhood after class and pay then. That was such a nice surprise. I set up my rented mat ($2) in the back (third) row, in one of the few remaining spaces. It felt really cool to not have an attachment to needing to be near the mirror.

A funny thing I noticed the first time at this studio, and this may be true of many classes in New York, was that students are really, umm, vocal with their breath. In the first breathing exercise, there was the slight hissing/snoring sound that I've heard at a couple studios, same as the noise sometimes demonstrated by teachers for new students. But the exhale, oh man, the exhale. It's like an actual vocal exercise. I really don't know how to describe it. You know the noise some people make when they see a cute baby (or baby animal, in my case)? That Awwwwwwww? Well, the exhale noise is like that, but breathier. It's not quite a moan, but certainly approximates it.

It's so foreign to me, but I have on more than one occasion felt like I am really restrained in producing noise with my body. (That sounds bizarre.) I guess I've just never really found that place in myself that experiences anything other than awkwardness when deliberately trying to create some kind of primal sound. For me, for me, there is nothing authentic about it and so it feels like a waste of time and for me, dignity.


I realized last night that many of the students there are likely actors, singers, or other kinds of performers. So many of them have practiced working with their breath, and have exercises that mimic pranayama breathing, but with that additional step of warming up the vocal cords. Once I figured that out, the breathing didn't seem melodramatic. It just seemed like an extension of their other passions. Which, to me, is pretty awesome.

The instructor was fabulous. The woman (I think her name was Kati, like kah-tee) has been teaching for 25 years (not sure if it's been Bikram the whole time) and she was amazing. Super, super strong, very deliberate with instructions for anatomy, good energy, good with the new students. I don't know this woman at all, and she never called me by name (students write their names on a sticker that goes by the mat), but just by her presence, I was pushed to go deeper into some postures. It's possible that was my deepest floor bow since moving to New York — it felt like my stuck shoulders were finally, finally, opening up. (I would give anything to have a photo of the time three years ago that my old studio owner picked me up by the wrists while I was in this posture. I wish I could see where my shoulders were then, because they actually feel better now.)

Today, I'm not too sore. I feel it most in my feet, and in my left knee, which had another rough/tight class. It's really interesting to feel something happening there. I imagine I must have developed a bad biomechanical habit when I busted my ankle in November, and now (despite post-activity tenderness in the ankle) I'm working through the mechanics. It's good. :) With the exception of some unfortunate loose short-shorts slippage on a guy in front of me during the spine-strengthening series (really, I was overdue for some kind of sighting like this), and some aching guts due to eating fabulous tacos for lunch, it was a great, great class. That studio packs people in, but people are respectful despite being mat to mat.

Another note: I really like my peace and quiet in savasana. On Sunday I got all snippy about people slamming the door at that studio. Well, here, after class, people were whispering (but 50 people whispering adds up, noisewise) and the studio doors are opened to the lobby (I don't know if this was just last night, or is always the case) where people are arriving for the 8:30 class. It was LOUD!

Then I remembered something in Bikram's orange book. It's nice if you can meditate in a soothing place that smells good, with an altar and whatever else you need to achieve total serenity and oneness with the universe. But one point of his yoga is to help us get to the point where we can meditate under any circumstances, whether we're upside down in a hot room or sitting in traffic in Los Angeles when it's 90 degrees and the car's air conditioner doesn't work.

This is my challenge, my opportunity. To be able to go inward to find that quiet, still place. I wonder if this is linked in any way to my difficulties with rabbit posture, if it is truly the opposite of camel (which I usually find fun, without the difficult physical and emotional experiences so many others have). Rabbit brings up in me the same things I often hear mentioned with camel. So, time to look inward.

Namaste, kids!


  1. Glad you had a good class!!

    And, yeah, Pranayama IS supposed to make a SOUND! When the teachers demonstrate it, they mean that you should actually DO it! Hehe. It's a really cool sound, too. It's HA, not AH, and it comes from the throat, not the vocal chords. (Not everyone does it right - it's a little tricky to get the hang of it.) It's very weird to me when people DON'T make any noise during the breathing! (I've taken class from ONE teacher who said not to make any noise, but that was definitely the exception, and it felt REALLY different!)

  2. Oh, I am cool with making those noises, that ones the teachers demonstrate. I am fairly good at following directions (see: ballet). But creating my own is strange to me (see: hate choreography). I actually like the challenge of getting that sound going on the inhale. But sometimes it makes me sneeze...

    I am dying to surreptitiously take audio of the exhale, just so you all can hear it. It is a strange experience.

  3. Good for you for looking for that peace! It's hard to find sometimes.

    I still can't make the noise while inhaling, but love making the loud "Ahhhhhh" on the exhale. When I first started the yoga, I was not a very vocal person, I kept a lot in and I think the pranayama along with camel and other poses that open the throat chakra have made me express myself better.

  4. Ohhhh I didn't realize you were in NY. Home sweat home !!!! I miss it so much. I've been in San Diego for almost 6 years but I think of NY almost everyday. Have you been to BY in Union Square? It's dangerous if you are into chocolates too since it's next to Max Brenner.

    In regards sounds, I am used to hearing them and making them too during pranayama. They don't come naturally during Blowing in firm pose though.

  5. What an interesting coincidence... Cirita left NY for San Diego, and vice-versa for Catherine. I have pretty much NEVER left SD except to travel! :-)

    Good for you for trying new stuff, Catherine. I can't believe a drop-in for Bikram is $30. That seems outrageous. My studio is $17, and packages can go for less than $9/class. I'm sure the property values are different, but I just can't imagine you'd get anything other than upper-class clientele at those prices. Don't you want to get more than the Botox Babies at your studio??

    Sorry--I couldn't practice today and must be a little bitchy as a result. Great post :-)

  6. I can't believe you all read through that. What troupers you are!!

    Lady J — Great insight about the connection between the throat chakra and expressing yourself. I'd never put those two concepts together before...

    Cirita — I've walked down there on my lunches and somehow managed (so far) to resist Max Brenner's confectionary temptations. Let's make a deal: I'll say hi to NYC from you if you do the same to the beach for me? ;)

    E - The Union Square studio cirita mentioned *is* the $30/class one. :) I think they actually get a pretty good mix of people, and they have killer packages, but, like I said, I'm just not in that place right now... Ah well. I'm learning a lot in this piecemeal practice. J mentioned that I'm spoiled because Bikram himself is my primary teacher (with the CD).

  7. hahaha too funny that we were talking about the same studio. I'll definitely say hi to the beaches for you. Although it's super cold right now. I am getting used to the weather, can't you tell? Winter = 70 degrees.

    So nice that you work near Union Square. If I were there, I will swing by Republic or Cafe Spice for lunch :-) ohhhhh, I am homesick :(

    E - where do you practice? Do you ever come to BYRB?