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Friday, January 27, 2006

a humbling experience

Yoga House
11 West State Street
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 403-3961

A tranquil space; the gleam of hardwood floors; a place to breathe again, to nourish and strengthen your body and mind, to lift your spirit.

A rich variety of yoga traditions - beginning to advanced, gentle to challenging. To guide you, a certified staff of knowledgeable, experienced instructors. Yoga mats and props, clothing, books and media: everything you need to practice.
A quiet moment to sit after class and sip a cup of tea. Renewed, relaxed, alive.
Welcome to Yoga House.

there's nothing like taking an ashtanga class to remind one's self of what it was once like to be a novice yoga practitioner.

yesterday evening, i chose to take an ashtanga prep class instead of the level 1-2 hatha yoga class i had driven all the way to pasadena to take. ok, so maybe i was missing out on taking that class with yoga works trainer jeanne heileman, but then again, since i was so overwhelmed in bela lipat's ashtanga class while i was in manila, i had hoped that taking the "prep" class might help me ease into the poses so that i wouldn't appear so clueless the next time i took an ashtanga class. whenever that next time might be.

since it was a last-minute swap, i had no idea who the teacher was nor what her background was all about. i trusted that since the yoga house had a highly-qualified group of instructors on staff, i would be in good hands. and i probably was, although from the way it went for me, i really wouldn't have known it.

our instructor for the evening was bibi mcgill, a young rocker-type with BIG hair, tattoos running up and down her arms, and a silver stud on her chin. bibi introduced herself to the three students who made up the class (which meant for very personalized instruction that evening) and asked us about our yoga experience. all of us had been practicing yoga for a while, but none of us had really done ashtanga before (two of us had taken just ONE class prior).

after getting us centered with our breathing, she started us off with an om, followed by a call-and-response chant. when she realized that we weren't responding to her call, she offered to sing the entire chant solo so we could hear it in its entirety. at least i didn't have to make a fool of myself. yet.

we were supposed to cover the primary ashtanga sequence as illustrated in these handy-dandy cheat sheets:
Primary Series Page1
Primary Series Page2

we went through the opening sets of sun salutations: surya namaskar A and B. so far, so good. although when she said "jump or float to chaturanga", i would neither jump nor float but merely stepped back; since she didn't seem to mind, neither did i.

then we did some bending and balancing through the standing series of poses, followed by some twisting and binding through the seated series. i've been told many times that i shouldn't compare myself to others in the class, but when the female to my right was bending and binding so effortlessly and the male to my left was tirelessly moving from one arm balance to another, i began to feel totally inadequate. so maybe she DID have balance problems and he sometimes had flexibility problems, but i still felt out of their league. or was i just being too hard on myself?

realizing that we were short on time, bibi had us skip the second half of the seated series and go straight to the finishing series of poses. luckily for me, these last poses were familiar (and doable), except when we had to go into lotus then lift our entire torsos off the ground with our arms, and all i could do was lift my butt; i couldn't seem to get my knees off the ground. argh.

bibi was very upbeat, positive, and helpful. she emphathized with us and told us that it really does take some time to get good at the ashtanga poses. i guess it's something i can aim to be proficient at eventually, but for now, i think i'll keep working on my strength and flexibility before trying to contort my body into weird and unusual poses.

by the way, i found bibi mcgill's website. turns out she's a guitarist who teaches yoga on the side. maybe she should promote her day job by playing some of her music in class? she could start a new trend!

as for the yoga house itself, i thought it was a wonderful space in a wonderful city. in fact, earlier that day, i had visited the norton simon museum in pasadena to view the Durga: Avenging Goddess, Nurturing Mother exhibit. i found it a great tie-in to my yoga class field trip, especially since it featured artwork from india, tibet, and nepal that depicted the great hindu goddess.

the yoga house is freeway-close and very easy to get to, although parking in the residential area can be difficult. the yoga house does have its own parking lot; just make sure you pick up a parking permit from the front desk and place it on your dashboard before you leave your car.

i can now add another yoga studio to my list...