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Monday, October 30, 2006

following doctor's orders

i suppose the good thing about my having to cut back on athletic yoga classes is that i now find myself taking the gentler variety that i normally wouldn't have even considered taking a few weeks ago. gone are the days of strength-based level 2/3 classes; easier level 1/2 classes are now the norm, at least for the short-term. i hope. sigh. i miss all that sweating, all those screaming muscles. i must be a masochist.

anyway, i spent the past weekend at my sister G's in orange county, and even if i had to forego practicing headstands in stacy hemingway's anusara class at yoga works costa mesa and doing push-ups to the point of exhaustion in newton campbell's fig yoga class at triad yoga (both of which i did the last time i was in the OC), i still managed to get in some yoga without being totally bored out of my mind.

armed with a few yoga works credits from my last volunteer stint, i opted to cash them out at yoga works mission viejo, just a few miles from G's place. besides, not only had i never been there before, but all their classes were level 1, 2, or 1/2. in other words, there was no way i could "accidentally" find myself in a 2/3 class. sometimes, self-control can only go so far.

saturday found me showing up for yoga for your back (very apropos, i must say), which was to be taught by maggie lewis. when i walked into the room, the majority of those who were already there had their mats lined up against the walls. they were resting in viparita karani (legs up the wall) pose. obviously class regulars, they looked like they were just waiting to be told what to do next. but because they were using three of the room's four walls and were facing in different directions, i stood at the door, unsure if i should just go ahead and plop down my mat in the open spot in the middle of the floor. besides, i wondered, if i did that, which direction should i face? i felt guilty about rousing the peaceful group to ask the question, but i did. after all, someone had to wake them up sooner or later.

it turned out that maggie couldn't make it to class; instead, megan mccarver was to be our teacher that afternoon. well aware that most people who attend a yoga for your back class are likely to be nursing a back injury, or any other injury for that matter, megan spent a good amount of time going from student to student before starting the class, asking us about the details of our injuries. one had a shoulder issue. another one was hamstrings. someone else developed sciatica pain from another yoga class. and of course, there was me with my bad back. while she was doing her rounds, megan mentioned that she used to teach yoga classes at a PT office in los angeles. i made a mental note to ask her after class where that office was...

the first thing megan did was to have us rearrange all our mats so that we all faced the front of the room (ha! so i wasn't the only stickler for uniformity). after we spent some time reclining on our backs to relax and get centered, she led us through some easy sun salutations and standing poses. and just as i was beginning to get antsy from moving so slowly, she said the magic word: ropes. yes, we were going to do some supported downward dogs along the rope wall! since there were more students than rope pairs, she asked for volunteers. i rushed for the wall, found my spot, and stood at the ready. if it was going to be as much fun as when i hung upside down (see earlier post), i wasn't going to miss out on this opportunity!

she demonstrated the procedure we were to follow. get lower left rope, thread it between legs, put right foot through, loop goes up to top of thigh. repeat with the lower right rope and the left leg. carefully walk forward until the ropes are pulling away from the wall. lean forward and touch floor with hands without letting ropes slide down legs (which i found tricky to do because i was hesitant to lean that far forward). once hands are on floor, keep hips up and walk legs back slowly until they're up against the backboard. tah dah! megan said that the ropes would help reduce the stress on our arms and shoulders. and by golly, they certainly did. these ropes are an amazing prop. i must find me more of these yoga-on-a-rope classes!

after we did some tree poses, some seated twists, and other easy-on-the-body poses, we finished with a nice long savasana. once class ended and most of the students had left the room, i walked up to megan and asked her about that physical therapist's office she had referred to earlier. it turns out that it was in santa monica, near my home, so i asked for more details. during the course of the conversation, she mentioned something about being a massage therapist at a place on ocean park, near 17th. next thing i knew, she was talking about how she co-founded santa monica yoga with her friend misty carey. talk about it being a small world! i told her about how i volunteered there and was acquainted with bruce, the current owner of SMY. as i left the room, she asked me to send him her regards, and i promised i would.

the next morning, i headed back to the studio for jon burras's level 1/2 class. thinking it was going to be a lazy sunday morning class, i showed up a mere five minutes before class started. big mistake. it turns out that jon's class is one of the more popular classes at that studio. by the time i got there, the only free spot was wedged between the side door and the wooden unit that housed the cd player; i had an equal chance of getting hit from behind by someone opening the door and hitting my head on the corner of the shelf. but after looking at the faces around me that were eagerly waiting for class to start, i figured it was worth the risk.

again, the moves were a notch less difficult than what i was used to. we started out with kneeling lunges rather than full-on crescent poses and warrior 1's, cobras instead of upward dogs. we moved through warrior 2's, extended angles, triangles, half moons, revolved triangles, revolved half moons, and prayer twists. and as we progressed through the series, jon kept cautioning: level 1's, do this. level 2's, add that. and the harder i pushed, the better i felt. although when it came to backbends, i stayed with the level 1's and kept things gentle. yes, i was still trying to be good when it came to following doctor's orders, although i can't say that i wasn't tempted to just throw caution to the wind and do at least one wheel pose (don't worry, i didn't). thank goodness he didn't offer plow and a shoulderstand as an option; otherwise, i might be sitting here with a heat pack around my back again :(

yes, i did good, as they say, this weekend. my back is feeling less antsy, but the twinges still pop up every now and then. i'm hoping i don't have to go more than another week with this restricted practice; wouldn't it be ironic if i had to go back to running because i couldn't do yoga? i sure hope it doesn't come to that!


Blogger shinyyoga said...

when i injured my lower back, just when i first started teaching, i had to take things realllllly slowly.. and it was a challenge! but it was so great to teach me patience and to bring me back to a 'learning' perspective. glad you're sticking in there and getting something from it! x

4:27 AM  

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