Through the first sun salutation I felt pretty good. After all, I have been doing basic sun salutations at home after a run or bike ride as a post-workout flexibility session.
I have enjoyed yoga for many years, long before this whole biking then running and swimming thing started. I loved the combination of strength and flexibility and the life lessons that easily came out of each session.
But in all honesty, it had been a few years since I had taken a yoga class. Most of my practice had been sporadic, at home, sometimes with a DVD and sometimes just five minutes of my favorite poses. I knew that whatever yoga practice I did would be beneficial, but I also knew that going to a class would be much better.
My friend Carly had recently asked me if I'd like to go to a class with her. It's been years now, but we had taken some classes together before and I was elated to not only reconnect with a friend but be prodded off my lazy Law-and-Order watching behind and get to a proper class.
There are many good studios in the Buffalo area but we ended up at Buffalo Yoga because the class fit the description we were looking for and the time frame we could both attend. (For a good overview of yoga and the different types of yoga click around the website of Yoga Journal.)
The practice we chose was Ashtanga, which is a rather vigorous form of yoga which loves constant movement. The yogi teaching the class was patient though, always allowing for modifications or for rest from poses if need be.
The class was challenging and wonderful. See the benefit about working out in a group -- whether it's a yoga practice, spin class or club run -- is that it forces you to try things you otherwise might just skip. It's easy to fast forward the DVD through poses I don't like, but in class, that's not always an option. Plus the vibe of "give it a try" gently allows you to go into the difficult pose, get repositioned by the instructor, and make peace with it. At home, I pick my favorite poses and do them over and over again. In a yoga class, I'm given different poses, which not only keeps me from getting bored but challenges me both physically and mentally.
What I love about yoga is that with the right class and the right instructor, yoga accepts who you are and where you are. And where I am on Tuesday night may be vastly different from where I am on Saturday morning. One day, I may stretch back into child's pose for a rest while another day feel like trying to get into that headstand position. And if I do get into that handstand position this class, I may not next class. While you do progress in yoga, I find it's not totally linear. You honor where your body and mind are at that point in time.
The rest will come.
It's a lesson I'll take with me this weekend as I head to Lake Placid. My coach and members of her Train This! team (including yours truly) will take to the region for three days of cycling and running. The big test is Saturday when we bike the Lake Placid Ironman Loop (which for me is once around, or about 56 miles, while the Ironman folk will be doing two loops for the 112 miles). There will be climbs and descents (and I am terrified of descents).
But not one of us is racing on Saturday. We're training. It's about learning how to get through the course, get through difficulties mentally, physically and mechanically.
Maybe on Saturday I'll be channeling Alberto Contador as I climb the hills. Maybe I'll be singing songs of desperation to relax my upper body as I try not to fly out of control on the descent. Maybe I'll do both.
The key is to honor where I am. I will challenge myself but I also will know that whatever happens, it is where I am supposed to be.