Yoga guru I am not, but I recently emerged from an 8-month yoga rut, and so I’ve got yoga on the mind.
In the old Whistler days, I was an avid disciple of Yyoga in Function Junction. I have been to a few other Yyoga locations in and around Vancouver and I’m not a huge fan, but the Whistler one is low-key, has the best teachers, and offers a fantastic assortment of classes. Yyoga was so good that I even made the cross-town commute when I lived in Emerald, despite there being half a dozen other studios that were much closer to home.
When I moved to Squamish, yoga took a backseat. We were busy unpacking; then I was in and out of town for a few months; then it was too nice out to be cooped up in a studio; then I was training for a marathon and felt I didn’t have time for yoga… excuses, excuses.
Luckily, the new year meant the opening of a new Moksha yoga studio in my neck of the woods. The proximity paired with the try-it-free week meant I had no reason not to go.
I’ve been hitting the yoga studio two or three times a week since it opened, and man, am I loving it. Most of the classes I’ve been going to are regular Moksha, which means that the vast majority of the poses are the same from class to class (there is a bit of variation, depending on the teacher). Although the poses are more or less the same every time, you definitely get something different out of each one. The particular teacher, time of day, weather outside, and whatever is going on in my head and/or body means that no two classes are exactly alike.
But I have another trick for mixing up what could otherwise feel somewhat routine: intentions, brah. I’ve often had teachers advise me to set an intention at the beginning of class; for a long time, I wasn’t entirely sure what they meant. Usually, I thought of it as a dedication to someone, which didn’t really jive for me. (I’m not big on the whole mantra thing and all that, if I’m being perfectly honest.)
One day, I figured out that intentions didn’t have to be things like “world peace” and “inner peace” and other assorted types of peace. So here are some of the intentions I like to play around with in my practice (holy, yoga jargon!):
Do It With Muscle
As much as I enjoy a peaceful restorative class, I generally like my classes to offer a healthy dose of sweat and strength (note: Moksha is done in a hot room, so sweat is always guaranteed). I used to find that some poses felt “easy” – then I just found out that I wasn’t really engaging the muscles properly. Warrior One is one that I just discovered: the teacher told me to press the the calf of my back leg into his palm, and suddenly, this mellow pose became a lot more… powerful (it’s happening! I’m talking like a yogi and I can’t stop!). The Do It With Muscle intention, to me, is all about focusing on which muscles are supposed to be engaged in each pose and making sure I’m working them properly.
Ninja Control is the intention that has had the most crossover benefit (especially for snowboarding). It centres around the idea that every movement I make is carefully controlled. So when I’m told to step out into Warrior Two, I don’t just step out – I pick up my leg, hover it for an extra second, and place it back town without a sound (Ninja style), carefully positioning my foot.
It’s easy to think about the poses and forget about the in-between movements, but when you focus on moving with intention (I SHOULD WRITE A SELF HELP BOOK), you become conscious of how your body moves. I find this really helpful for fine-tuning my body movements – again, this comes in handy with snowboarding where teeny tiny adjustments can have a drastic impact on your riding.
Back to the Foundation
I generally try to focus good form over impressive moves (and all the yoga teachers rejoiced), but when I’m feeling more mellow (e.g., getting over a cold, sore from doing other stuff), I really try to bring it back to basics and focus on the foundation of the pose. This often means doing the simpler variation of a pose but trying to remember all of its mechanics and playing around with subtle shifts and all that good stuff.
The Neglected Pieces
I looooove when, in a yoga class, the teacher draws attention to a body part that you completely forgot about – the outside of your big toe, or something. And you’re like, “dang – I totally wasn’t putting ANY weight on the outside of my big toe! But now that I’m doing it, I’m TOTALLY feeling this pose.” Sometimes, my intention is to find those little cues on my own – to hunt out the random body parts that I’m neglecting.
The Most Cliche of All: Breathing
I imagine that if you attempted to count all of the times breathing was discussed in any given yoga class, it would easily exceed 100. It’s actually really hard to focus on your breathing ALL THE TIME. It is so difficult to do because there is so much other stuff to focus on (see above). I have yet to achieve 100%-thinking-about-breathing status, but I’m working on it.
“But Magee,” you ask, “Shouldn’t you be doing all of these things every class?” I suppose so, but in my (admittedly limited) experience, it’s very difficult to do so. Maybe that’s why I haven’t hit guru status yet?