Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Notes From a Yoga Class

When I first read this post by Phil last year, I was so taken by the idea of putting into words the sensations and experiences that occur during a yoga session that I intended since to do the same thing myself. Last week I tried it for the first time, and was amazed by how much I could remember from a class which seems to carry me unknowingly through it, and how the final written expression of that session seemed to consolidate it all so perfectly.

Last night I came home from yoga at 9:05pm, and got ready for bed straight away. I made a chamomile tea, put a few drops of lavender in my oil burner and got into bed with the beautiful journal that Daniel bought me for Christmas. Having already intended to come home and write about the experience, I had spent the class paying attention to my mind and body; listening out for tightness, unwanted thoughts, unsteady postures. I'd love to share the notes from last night's yoga class, as it was a particularly beautiful session during a particularly difficult couple of weeks.

After a 6am interval session in minus temperatures and two painfully tiring days at work, tonight's yoga class couldn't come soon enough. It was freezing in the room, which was packed with people filled with good intention and new year resolution. My chest was tight and my breathing heavy from the constant anxiety that follows me around these days. I was aware that my exhales were loud and unwieldy, but I let them go naturally: bursts of air leaping from my lungs with a fit of tense energy. I looked inwards; I held each trouble in my head for a moment and then let it drop, letting them go one-by-one as I succumbed to the physical sensations of my body. Just as yoga lets me consolidate mind and body, it also allows me to separate mind and body - when I succeed in this, I come away from the class feeling lighter and stronger simultaneously.

Eventually I stretched up into Down Dog. My legs felt crooked and tight, my arms tired and reluctant. We were encouraged to focus on the grounding of our fingers and toes; I struggled with this initially, but eventually sensed the full weight of my body bearing down on these 20 small digits. Down Dog is so often an exercise in strength, but giving way to all of my body except the tiniest extremities pulled away all fear and tension, and I found a more comfortable, deeper Down Dog this way.

My legs felt neither strong nor flexible tonight - a symptom of so much running recently - but I strived to hold myself focused and comfortable in every pose. My balance was off any my body awkward and uncooperative in spinal twists, but I tried to listen, tried not to push. I focused on stillness and remaining strong in the poses, however fully I did or didn't manage to hold them. 
Finally we moved into a balance pose (Warrior 3). As my hands left the mat, leaving my single leg to hold my body weight, I began to wobble from side to side on one foot. Rather than worry about losing my balance, I practised emptying my head of all expectation, all judgement. I focused my energy into the toes, ball of the foot and heel - all pressing into the earth - and felt the sturdy world beneath me. I managed to hold myself, strong, focused and still, in the pose for a good half minute, enjoying my breath as relief to the heat in my thigh and calf. From here I sank down to rest in Child's Pose. My legs burned with lactic acid and my body was drained from pressing all energies so hard in one direction. But my mind was light and free, for the first time in a good while.


  1. This is so beautifully written - thanks for sharing. I love how you describe sensing "the sturdy world beneath" you; whenever I feel anxious, I try to focus on my feet on the ground - it feels so good to know we are grounded and held.
    I hope you were able to carry that light feeling at the end of the class into the following days. x

  2. I haven't done yoga for years - but really need to get back into it. I was thinking of maybe trying Pilates actually - have you any experience of that?