I went to a yoga class the other day for the first time in something like three years. And I quickly remembered why it had been that long. Going through Chattanooga (chataranga?), my right shoulder started to hurt. A pain I had spent the first year of my Alexander Technique teacher training trying to abolish. Part of that had been ceasing to go to yoga. Of course I immediately modified my pose by putting my knees on the floor but the damage had already been done, my shoulder would hurt for the rest of the class. Everything else I could do with relative ease but knowing what I know now about my body and alignment, I knew, with guidance, I could have done everything better, more effectively. That thought was buoying as I went along but also frustrating as that guidance was not available in this particular class.
The one pose I enjoyed more than I ever have before was the "sit and twist." Using the connection between my head and tail, and understanding the route that connection takes, I was able to make a deeper, more satisfying wring. Unfortunately, I saw a lot of students around me "segmenting." They were leaning back on their sacrum, rather than sitting on and coming up from their sitz bones. Which then allowed the twist to happen only in their lumbar and cervical spines. Had the instructor been able to come around, or taken the time to instruct, or perhaps had the knowledge, they might have had the sensation of wringing all the way from the tail bone up to the axis, deep inside the skull.
Finding what I found in the twist, I begin to understand the religion in yoga. When I can feel my whole body working together, when I can feel the process and it just goes on and on-rather than trying to obtain an end- the freedom of continuation, like I don't stop here in this class but I continue, my soul, mind and body continue out into the universe -that could be called religion, or at the very least spiritual.
And then there's the practical. My shoulder hurt because I wasn't coming up and back in plank or as I lowered myself to the ground. I knew my head and neck were not at ease and that the connection between head and tail was lacking. My kinesthetic awareness was debauched in this position. It's not a position I am often in, nor did I have a mirror to observe myself. I would have liked a little guidance and in other positions as well. In twists it can be easy to push forward into them, taking the body out of alignment. (yes, you can be aligned and twist) Placing your feet hip width apart can be a lot trickier if you don't know where your hips are (hint: they are a lot closer to your midline). And going over into half moon or warrior three can be easier if your head is connect to your tail. Although it can be harder, too, if you're used to hiking up your hip to balance yourself (shouldn't the hips be equal to find actual balance, even if it means falling over a couple of time until you find your true inner strength?).
I had to inhibit myself from going over to my compatriots and encouraging them to lengthen out through their head, or to release into their tailbone and let their ribs expand to find more ease and total body. For me, this class was about returning to a self of mine I hadn't visited in a long time. One of the reasons we moved back to this town was so that I would have support for my child and me, so I could take time out to do things like exercise and take a class. Ultimately the class was good. Not so much in the release and strengthening I desired, but because I had some me time. And for that I am grateful. I also felt I was aware enough (after the initial excitement to get back into it and the reminder from my right shoulder) that if something wasn't working, I just needed to go back into child's pose, or take more time going through flow to make sure I was using my total body and that head/neck were at ease and I was in my whole spine. Will I go back to this particular yoga class, probably not. But will I up my own practice and perhaps include a little yoga to increase my awareness and un-debauch my kinesthetic awareness, yes, most definitely.