Thursday, December 28, 2006

YOGA | Christmas Ashtanga

The end of the year fast approaches. I am feeling the closing of the year more acutely these days. Perhaps it is a sign that I no longer feel that young – at least, not as immortal.

Christmas comes with the standard invitations to Christmas parties. I’ve been turning down invitations these past few years. The idea of drunken parties and stuffing your face full of sweets now seems unbearable. Instead, I had a few dinners with good friends.

I always wonder if it’s the right thing to do, being so selective about whom I spend time with. I’ve been accused of being “unapproachable”, “a lone-wolf”, “stuck-up”. Some of these criticisms are fair. I admit my social skills have always been rusty, but socialization – unless it’s with people I love – drains me.

I’ve been thinking about my lone-wolf character more frequently of late. As a yoga teacher shared with me recently, part of his own lone-wolf nature was because of his “insecurities of not daring to fully open up to other people and not taking ample time to explore other people better.” How true this feels to my own situation. I go to class, but really I am practicing by myself in a class full of people.

I need to spend more time getting to know other people, to reach out where it feels safer to withdraw. This is as much yoga as the asanas.

This Christmas I signed up for a 2-hour Ashtanga Workshop. This will make it my second Ashtanga class.

My first Ashtanga 1 class left me with muscle aches that lasted four days. It was humbling, but at least I left with the satisfaction that I followed the class to the best of my ability. And I stayed for the entire session. Sometimes, people leave halfway because the class proves too challenging. That has never seemed right to me.

I am of two minds about this issue of leaving class halfway. Some teachers can be rather stern with the students, perhaps because they feel it’s a lack of commitment to the practice. A teacher once shot back at a student, “Then why did you come?” when she wanted to leave a Hot Yoga class. While I understood the teacher’s point of view, I still believe the student should be allowed to leave. She might come back next time. When she is ready. Our practice is about choice afterall.


Rebecca H. said...

I hear you about being a lone-wolf type -- I find interaction with people can be enormously difficult at times, although afterwards I'm generally glad I reached out. I think it's great to think about this through yoga. And I think a student should be allowed to leave a yoga class -- if she's allowed to leave without embarrassment or challenge it seems that much more likely she'll return.

Stefanie said...

Count me in on the lone-wolf tendencies too. I am an introverted sort who prefers the company of a few close friends than a crowd of people I barely I know. Doesn't mean I don't want to get to know more people. I do. I just like to do it slowly.

I admired your yoga endeavors. I took hatha yoga classes for almost a year and loved it. It also helped that it was right before work at my office building. But then the teacher left and no one replaced her and I don't like going someplace to exercise.

Heather said...

Wanted to comment on the yoga thing - all of the best teachers have a certain patience that allows them the knowledge that there is no stupid questions and thus no wrong action. If leaving this time leads to a student coming back later or instead choosing to learn about themselves in a different way then I think that should be respected. Sounds as if you would make a good teacher.

Anonymous said...

I tried one ashtanga class and realized it wasn't for me. I cannot even imagine a 2 hour workshop! Hope you enjoy it. I prefer hatha or restorative yoga but I haven't practiced it in a while. I'm hoping this year I can find a new studio.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see there are so many people out there practicing yoga. And of course, fellow lone-wolves. Hi there. *wave* *wave*

I am of the bookish, introverted demeanour too. It feels better to spend time to cultivate quality, long-lasting friendships than mere acquaintance, doesn't it?

Socialisation takes effort - but then, the important things always do. And sometimes I should take the responsibility of reachingout, to be the one to say "Hi" and initiate the conversation.

Dorothy: I agree that the student will be more likely to return if they are allowed to leave without the embarrassment.

But the Type-A personality in me also says, the teacher is not wrong to insist on some kind of commitment to a practice.

Afterall, the great gurus like Iyengar and Jois are known for being extremely strict and demanding with their students, especially when it comes to commitment to the practice.

Stefanie: I hope they find a replacement yoga teacher soon. It's a pity to have to give up a practice you enjoy. I think sometimes the only way I manage to stay sane at work is because of yoga (Of course my sanity has always been a topic of debate at work.)

Heather: I think that's one of the nicest thing anyone has said to me in a while. Thank you. But I think I still have far too much to learn. I need to gain in wisdom and experience.

Iliana: I hope you find a good yoga studio soon! I like some variety in my practice, so from time to time I just do some hatha. Ashtanga - still a MAJOR challenge.

jenclair said...

Interesting post that generated interesting discussion. Not all dedicated readers are lone-wolves, but I suspect that there may be a disproportionate number of us. Also interesting how many readers are yoga practioners.

The Traveller said...

That's pretty much what I was thinking jenclair - as a child in primary school (5-10 years old) my reports consistently bemoaned the fact that I would rather sit alone in the playground with a book than play with the other children. I'd still rather do that, although I have come to enjoy socialising a lot more in recent years. I will never be able to deal with small talk however - my facial expressions tend to unconsciously express my inner thoughts, and unfortunately, if I find someone is exceptionally dull and/or stupid, my face tends to let them know!

Anonymous said...

Granted, not all avid readers are lone-wolves - but there is probably some connection. Afterall, reading is a solitary habit.

Humans are social creatures. Maybe that's why we blog about reading. With blogs, we get to maintain a certain degree of socialisation, but we get to choose the time, and level of engagement.

At least that's the way with me. Anytime I decide to spend some time alone, I can just choose not go online. Or I can just lurk online for a while. Which I usually do.

Traveller, I have a problem with small talks too. If I know there's something in common with a stranger, it's easier to talk. But talks about the weather and stuff, er - there's usually awkward silence in between. I admire the people who can just engage total strangers in dialogue, and make everyone feel comfortable.

And about yoga, I think it's a practice that encourages you to look inward, as you observes your breath, your thoughts, your body. And you can do it alone. I find it totally compatible with reading.