Flex Friday Yoga - Valerie Bock blog entry #7, August 25


Calming down after a long week with Penny and Yoga

I am, by nature, a pretty cheerful person. But as people do sometimes, I’ve had a challenging week. I’m training to be a volunteer with the Growing Strong Sexual Assault Center, and each evening this week has been spent with some really great people learning about some pretty awful human behavior, and how it is possible to help victims heal. As a training professional myself, I know how critical it is to transmit not only the facts, but also to help people build a framework for how the facts fit together, and a sense of the meaning of the mission. The GS folks have an extremely effective program, which means I’ve been processing some difficult stuff. They know how challenging this can be, and are great about setting up support resources for volunteers even at the training stage. They emphasize the need to engage in active self-care, as well.

So when I woke up this morning feeling really down, I gave myself coffee on the back deck in my bathrobe, and I decided I really did not want to wait until our flex class at noon to get some endorphins going. I decided I’d see if I could get the “connected GPS” feature working on my fitbit, (my family knows that solving a good tech puzzle will cheer me up pretty readily) and then I took myself for a run.

Usually, when it’s been a while since I’ve run, (and it’s definitely been a month, maybe 2 or 3, because my favored cardio in hot weather is doing laps in the pool) my knees tell me pretty fast that this will be a combination walk and run. I figure that’s fine, it takes a few outings before the muscles around my knees are tuned up, and the only way to make that happen is to let them know what I need them to do by doing it! Today, though, I was able to do my one mile out and one mile back run with no knee stuff until the very end, and so I was able to run all the way. I’m guessing it’s all those squats we’ve been doing for the Challenge?

I’m so glad I did that – as expected, I started feeling a lot better. I got a bunch of work done and then headed out for our Flex class, which today was Yoga with Penny. Penny sometimes brings her yoga class to us Pilates types when Angela has another commitment, so I had some familiarity with the way she runs a class. I had zero familiarity with the mat I pulled out for the class, which for some reason was way more slippery and stretchy on the floor than the ones I usually use. Oh well, extra challenge!

Yoga is a really interesting blend of challenging strength and balance moves, with a very gentle approach. The music for the class is has a quiet, East Asian flavor (something of a shift from the pounding rock which we move to in Molly’s classes!) We are encouraged to repeat moves at our “own perfect pace” and to rest whenever we might feel the need. The lights are turned down. The moves are slow, and designed to strengthen legs, arms and core. I was impressed, as usual, with how challenging the work out is, and glad she treated us as the beginners we are.

A 45 minute yoga class includes rest in “corpse pose” (lying on our backs in a comfortable position) also called “savasana” for several minutes toward the end of class. The first time I experienced this I was TERRIBLE at it. As a trainer, I honestly wondered whether this was a thing people did when they hadn’t planned enough stuff to fill the hour! Because I didn’t know how long it would be, I felt the need to be ready to get up at any moment. I’m pleased to report that at this, which I think was my third or fourth yoga class ever, I was able to embrace the opportunity to collect my thoughts. Because my thoughts are full of the training I’m doing, it also wound up being a moment to shed a few tears. I don’t much like doing THAT in public, but there was time also to take the pain and transform it into prayer for those who suffer, and by the time we were gently encouraged to begin moving again, I was ready to rejoin the others.

I found a blog post on savasana written by a Yoga instructor who notes that savasana is “ A posture in which, bodies completely still, we are challenged to keep our minds focused. The pose is named “Corpse Pose” for a reason. We are to act as if our bodies had dissolved away—as if were already dead, so to speak.

When practiced this way, Savasana is a powerful tool. It can help us momentarily become less identified with our bodies and less attached to the trappings of our lives. In those last minutes of class, we can reconnect to the pure, perfect essence that already exists within each of us.”

Not a bad plan for most of us, I’d say!

The YMCA’s mission is “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all.” Classes like Yoga tend to put that mission more front and center than some of the others, but there’s a whole lot of food for spirit, mind, and body in swimming lessons, and in friends getting together to shoot hoops, too, when you think about it.

As I left the Y, a friendly voice behind the reception desk called out “THAT’S where I know you from!” Carli and I laughed – we’ve spent the last 4 nights in training together, trying to figure out why each other’s faces were familiar. We spent a minute comparing notes on our emotional state and learned we’re feeling many of the same things.

Sometimes, even the lobby is the locus for a little spiritual lift!

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Senior Yoga Mat

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