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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

overcoming ashtangaphobia

i remember my very first ashtanga class. it was more like "ouch"tanga :(

it was in the philippines, and even if i was in makati (probably one of the most westernized and upscale cities in the metropolitan manila area), yoga studios were very few and far between. my google search efforts produced a bikram yoga studio, a spa yoga studio, a hatha yoga studio that no one i knew seemed to know anything about, and a studio that was owned by bela lipat, who appeared to be the "yoga instructor to the stars". and the rich. and the society page regulars. so of course, one of the places i finally ended up at was her studio, figuring that if she was good enough for the elite, she was worth trying out.

when i showed up for bela's class, i honestly thought that i was showing up for a hatha yoga class. after all, when i called to get her class schedule, i never thought of asking what style she taught. and i don't believe she offered that information either. maybe i was just too yoga-naive for the question to cross my mind at the time...

cutting to the chase (since i've already posted my thoughts on that experience earlier this year), all i remember was pain. pain because the linoleum-on-concrete floor was hard on my knees. pain because i had a hard time figuring out how to do the jump-throughs and the "lift-the-legs-and-the-butt" move (you can tell i'm ashtanga-ignorant) and the binds and the twists and the all the "oh-my-god-what-the-heck-is-this" moves. pain because most of the people in the class were regulars and were following along quite well while i was just lost and feeling out of place. needless to say, it wasn't an experience i wanted to go through again anytime soon.

eventually wanting to conquer the beast, i took my second ashtanga class with bibi mcgill at yoga house in pasadena. at least hers was an intro class, so my fellow students were equally as green as i was. and yes, i did get more out of this class because it was slower-paced and there was more guidance, but i was still frustrated by the end of the class. the idea of doing any more ashtanga would just have to wait until i had a stronger yoga practice.

so when jodi blumstein sent out free passes to her intro to ashtanga classes, i decided it was time to give it another shot. i had nothing to lose; i wanted to try out a class at karuna yoga, and i now had a reason to go.

i don't know if it was her soothing voice, her calm and patient teaching style, or the fact that i had more yoga experience under my belt, but i actually enjoyed taking jodi's class. things seemed more relaxed, more easygoing. if i couldn't do something, it didn't matter. if i didn't understand what she was saying, i'd take a quick peek around to see what the others were doing and follow along (and thanks to harley hahn's ashtanga terminology site and this ashtanga yoga info page, things might make more sense the next time around).

also, thanks to corilee fox's blogsite, i recently found out about the hilarious website, yogabeans, aka "your internet source for plastic action figures demonstrating ashtanga yoga". in the april 27, 2006 post, i am totally comforted by the fact that i'm better at ashtanga yoga than the hulk himself! there's hope for me yet :)

so ashtanga no longer seems as unreachable as it used to be. i might actually be brave enough to cash in my free class pass later this week at home simply yoga. it's probably closer to my home than most of the other yoga studios i frequent, but because it's primarily an ashtanga place, i've been staying away. hmmm... the "led ashtanga level 1" class this thursday sounds about right...

ah, but here's the twist: i'm faced with yet another trip to the philippines next month for another family occasion. while there, i know i'm going to want to take some yoga classes. but unless i find other studios to try, the odds are good that i may end up taking another class at bela's. and now that her sai shanti yoga sanctuary has its schedule posted online, i'll have fair warning of what i'll be getting myself into. so will i have the guts to take an ashtanga class, or will i stick with the familiar hatha class? we'll see!