Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Semper Stretch: Space for perspective, transition for growth – Part 1

Before I dive into this entry, I have to make a disclaimer – last week, I fell prey to the classic self-employed author’s mistake.  Instead of writing immediately after I felt inspired by a particular moment or subject, I allowed myself to get pulled away from the page by life’s distractions.  Lesson learned: write while the inspiration has you! Now, please accept my delayed attempt to adequately articulate that sensation of inspiration. J
Two weeks ago, Living Social serendipity occurred: days before departing to Leesburg, VA to visit my sister, I received an email notification for a deal on classes at Flow Yoga, a yoga studio just up the street from her house.  Bam! I clicked “buy” without hesitation.  As much as I cherish visits with my sister, I often fall into a work-out rut while I’m there, so I knew that signing up for these classes would be the perfect way to fend off any exercise doldrums.  Additionally, I’ve been dipping my toes back into the yogic waters recently after years on dry land.  I frequently proclaim the benefits of yoga to friends and family (especially since yoga was one of the things that undoubtedly saved my life the second time I deployed to Iraq), but I haven’t gotten back into daily practice in years.  Only in the last couple of months have I begun to dabble in it again since 1. I have the time to, 2. I am aware of its endless benefits, and 3. Since I moved to Ohio, there are free yoga classes at my apartment complex gym.  By the way, no offense intended to you gym-bunny-oriented personal trainers, but most of you who lead yoga classes are not “serious” yogis (I want to feel like a grasshopper, not a flexible elephant, after all); the girl who leads yoga classes here is no exception.  Still, I’ve been happy to go because some yoga is better than no yoga at all. Furthermore, I’m no yoga expert myself, so I do really appreciate anyone who’s willing to lead me through the poses and the company they provide.  I admit, though, my motivation to go to the classes at the gym was on the decline; I knew I needed something…more.  For that reason, I was ecstatic when I saw the LS coupon for a real yoga studio within jogging distance of my sister’s house.   
After a seven hour drive from Ohio, I arrived in Virginia on a Friday night.  It was still just light enough outside to squeeze in a quick run, but I had a Gaelic Football match scheduled for the next day, so I held off.  Unfortunately, the game was rained out, and by the time I returned from my needless round-trip drive from Leesburg to Baltimore, the yoga classes for the day had passed.  Therefore, I planned to go to yoga on Sunday, no matter what.  So, the next day I arrived for a Restorative Yoga class that was full, drove back home to my sister’s, waited till the start time for the next class, and returned.  I was determined to go get me some yoga that day! J
Flow Yoga exceeded my expectations.  I have been to classes all over the States, from studios to gyms, as well as partaking in an array of do-it-yourself-yoga DVDs at home. (My favorites are Shiva Rea and Rodney Yee).  I even dabble in Kundalini yoga (that “different yoga” ;-) ) from time to time.  What I experienced at Flow Yoga was a smorgasbord combo of all the styles I’ve ever seen before.  Moreover, the genuinely positive philosophy of the instructors shined through as they infused the classes with the stuff I think yoga really should be made of: renewal, motivation, strengthening, appreciation for my body (even though it hurt!), meditation, intention, a slowing down, and gratitude for the teachers, the space, and the lessons.  The Flow 2 classes, in particular, were a$s kickers, rejuvenators, and peace makers all rolled into one! Both instructors I had for the Flow 2 sessions, Billy and Tori, were entirely unique yet equally remarkable.  These were teachers that brought soulful lessons to the floor, a peaceful aura to the room, and direction in awareness to the participants; we weren’t there for just another kind of work-out.  Yet, the physical rewards weren’t shelved just because the mental ones were encouraged. Wow, real balance was struck! J  For every class I entered feeling frazzled or frail, I left feeling clear and strong.  Really. 
After a few days in a row of Flow 2, although I’d had different instructors, I wanted to try the other classes. On my fourth day, I was present for Deep Stretch lead by Billy.  His tranquil voice passed over us as we paused before movement in a comfortable seated position.  As we sat, he explained that in this class we would seek to create space in our bodies.  As he explained the principles of generating extra room within ourselves, he illustrated it this way: You cannot read a newspaper pressed up close against your face; you must have some distance in order to see it properly.  Instantly, the word “perspective” zapped my brain!  This is a concept I’ve understood for years (the value of proper perspective), yet in one moment, this metaphor made it hit home for me in a whole new way.  Just as physically we need to create space in our body so that it can flow properly, we need space emotionally to gain mental perspective. I thought: Movement is impossible without space, growth is impossible without movement.  This was a timely metaphor for me since Pete and I have been doing exactly that for the past month: giving one another space in order to hopefully gain perspective on some different issues.  I gotta give Pete credit where credit is due – he is the first guy to grant me the honor of space when I’ve asked for it, and I see it renewing the relationship already.  But enough about that for now ;)
After Deep Stretch, I tried Slow Flow.  For this course, the pre-movement instruction was about the value of transitions.  Since in Slow Flow you are supposed to literally flow slowly, transitioning from one pose to the next in a more deliberate fashion is kinda the point.  The instructor emphasized that transitions were not to be rushed; we should be especially mindful in execution of movement from one position to the next because transitions are where people tend to get hurt.  In the immediate term, she meant physically, but the mental aspect was implied, as well.  Therefore, be easy on yourselves, she guided.  Because beyond the potential pain, transitions are also where growth occurs, so strive to understand them for what they are instead of being scared of them….listen to your body and respect what it’s telling you.  

It comes as no surprise that this message, too, resonated with me.  In fact, for those of you who know me, you know that I am in yet another transition period right now; not a painful one, but an in-between area nonetheless.  Transitions can be complicated or painful; but I’m not worried, because in the past I have always grown so much during those tricky transition times. I get the impression, though, that most people are scared of space (giving it to others or having it alone) and transitions (they want to just go straight to the next thing).  Not that I always do it perfectly myself, but I’m working to embrace the space and transition I’m experiencing now. I see this open-endedness as a blessing that allows me the freedom to work on whatever it is that needs working on, to find peace in my intentions, and to be inspired by the unexpected.  For these lessons and more, Flow Yoga instructors, I thank you for being a part of the Semper Sarah journey.  I wish for peaceful practice and positive energy for all of you. Namaste. 
not quite proper poses, but the closest thing I could find to pictures of me doing yoga! ;-p
Atop Waynu Piccu, Peru, February 2009

above Barcelona harbor, Spain, August 2009
Inspiration from Flow Yoga (http://www.gowithityoga.com/) in Leesburg, VA coupled with literary inspiration from Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul by Deepak Chopra (musings on the book to be covered in the next post)

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