My wonderful parents have recently committed to take part in a 4 week Beginners Introduction to Ashtanga Course at The Treehouse Yoga in Bunbury. The Treehouse Yoga has a beautiful fresh and spacious studio located in the heart of Bunbury. Along with beginners courses they offer regular Ashtanga/Vinyasa, fusion, slow flow, pregnancy and kids Yoga classes all led by friendly experienced teachers. For more information, regular news and inspiration you can find their Facebook page here – The Treehouse Yoga – Facebook.
I was very excited and proud to hear that my parents would begin their journey toward cultivating a regular yoga practise and wasted no time hassling my mother to share their experience with me. Happily for me, she has graciously accepted to share some of her thoughts in a series of guest posts. I’m really excited about this opportunity to see how yoga can benefit and be enjoyed by all demographics and ability levels. As well as a chance to reminisce over my own experience and how it felt stepping onto the yoga mat for the first time several years ago. Here is the first post, I truly hope you enjoy it as much as myself and also take the opportunity to reflect on your own yoga journey perhaps by remembering the nervous energy in your first class, the blissful tranquil moments after final meditation, practising your postures for fun in your free time, the first time you fell asleep during savasana and most of all the pure joy of yoga.
Over the last six months I have, on a couple of occasions, had the pleasure of being invited by my youngest daughter to attend a yoga class with her. Never one to refuse spending time with my girls I was very eager and excited to give this intriguing form of exercise a go. Needless to say some of the moves put my nearly 55 year old body through its paces. And, while I struggled to sit cross legged on the mat let alone try the Lotus position for fear of not being able to untangle myself, I survived both sessions feeling a sense of pride that my body is not as stiff as I thought it was! Thank heavens I have kept up with my gym exercise over the years. I have to say though the promise of a flat white (skinny) and breakfast with my baby girl afterwards was an added bonus.
So wind the clock forward to December 2013 after our last session together, Ashtanga Yoga. The class start time was 6am. We arrived about 5 minutes late and the class had begun. Trying to pick up the moves from here for me was difficult. My daughter however, who is a regular yoga enthusiast, had no trouble at all following the sequence with great adept. I think I spent most of the time watching her in amazement as she worked her way through the movements. At this point I was beginning to question myself if this really is for me and why did I leave my bed at 5:45am to put my body through pure hell!! However, after a few minutes of self talk (something I do regularly to clarify my thoughts) I figured that it didn’t matter if I couldn’t bend my body like the instructor the fact was I was here, with my girl, out of bed early and I had to stop being so hard on myself and simply do what my body could manage. From there on in I began to relax into it and realised that there are no expectations in yoga and that you are not being judged if you aren’t a superstar on the mat.
It was then that I thought I would really like to learn more about yoga so decided that it was something I was going to look into further as a regular part of my exercise program. To my delight a 4 week Introduction to Ashtanga was advertised in a local paper. I suggested to my husband that we should do it together. While he wasn’t overly impressed with the idea, he did decide to give it a go with me. So for the last 6 weeks I have been keenly looking forward to starting our very first lesson. This brings me to today.
9:15 am came and with mats under our arms, water bottles and a towel each we headed off to our session at 9:30 (definitely won’t be late this time!) Our instructor was a delightful French girl. She began by talking us through the rules of Ashtanga. Reminding us of the importance that we understand this is our time to find peacefulness and mindfulness in a world where we rely heavily on technology (mobile phones, computers) and other daily stressors in our lives. For the next 90 minutes we were to clear our mind of thoughts that enter our heads and concentrate on the breath and our body. Not to push our body too hard to the point of pain and to just do what our body is capable of. I also learnt it is not wise to drink water during a yoga session because it cools down your ligaments and muscles when you get a greater benefit from them working hard. Now since I am a water-holic the very first thing I did was to move my water bottle away to a far wall totally out of reach and the temptation to have a drink.
We began with a sequence of chants which in itself was a challenge for my memory! I did find, after the first few chants, I had already begun to become more mindful naturally and didn’t think twice about the words of the chant or the tones in which they were said.
We then started with a sequence of moves (and I guess there is a word for all these sequences, but for a first timer I simply don’t remember what they are). I found it much easier this time. The pace was slowed right down and I could concentrate on my breathing much better. Although there was a section in the middle where the breathing simply went out the window and the concentration was more on getting the movements right. So a reminder to oneself “it is important to breathe”. Throw in a few one legged stances just to test the balance and I’m thinking I’ve got this! Okay getting a sweat up right at this point. Then we have to bring our right knee behind our right wrist???? Huh?? And, bring left knee behind our left wrist crossing feet at the ankles???Really!!!! Roll back over our ankles so you end up in some kind of cross legged pose on the mat?? Well that was just too much for this body of mine. I tried though with an unladylike pose that certainly didn’t look anything like our lovely French instructors!! I ask myself at this point how she did that with so much ease and grace. Many years of practice I decided.
Now we come to the wind down sequence. And finishing off with a salute to the sun, a few ohms and shanties and we get to lie of the floor for a blissful 3 minutes. Freeing our minds once again of all the thoughts like what I have got planned for the rest of the day, or that I need to hang out the washing when I get home, or even what to cook for dinner! Just lying there on the floor as one lost in the tranquillity and peacefulness of the universe and all things are good in the world. I loved it and so did my man and we will be looking forward to refreshing my memory and learning a lot more about Ashtanga over our next three sessions.