The Traveling Yoga Show
The first time I did yoga (before I knew the term was ‘practice’ yoga) was when my daughter was in middle school, maybe 1999 or so. She and her friend and I went to the gym together, and suddenly I was doing a high-speed yoga workout on a Saturday morning. It had nothing to do with a yoga practice, nor with a mindful experience. But I’m competitive and I spent the hour trying to keep up with the class, learn the routines, attempt the poses and, oh, breathe.
Much later I routinely participated in classes that were led by a variety of teachers, at a variety of paces. A little stretching, balancing, and a cardiovascular workout with some meditation thrown in felt good.
While traveling over the past three years, I’ve tried to maintain some practice of yoga, often with comic effects. In Ecuador, our first home away from home, I found a yoga studio connected to a vegetarian café, an oasis in the historic district of Quito! I finally showed up – with one other guy – for a session that placed a lot of emphasis on vocals. Soon it was clear that to continue, one must sign up for twelve weeks with Hari Krishna, Krishna, Krishna.
I made a special trip to the outskirts of Quito, to a shopping mall with a full blown sporting goods store, and bought a mat. Then I ordered a DVD (Yoga for Every Body with J.J. Gormley) to retrieve the next time I was in the States. For a while, my workouts were pleasant enough, just me and my DVD. The pace was slow, the instruction detailed, and the voice sleepy.
Our travel became more intense, with shorter stays and more hopping around. My exercise was hiking, walking dogs, and schlepping luggage, so I wasn’t about to carry a yoga mat.
Then, last year our house sitting post advertised, “no need to bring your yoga mat with you.” Indeed, the upper sun porch in the Cantabrian house was well equipped with mats, blocks, and a bright plant-filled ambiance. The problem remained that I didn’t have a practice of my own. I needed someone to lead me through the paces.
A friend had mentioned Dirty Yoga, a website designed for guys who don’t want to show up at a club and don’t want to admit they do yoga. I was willing to pay, and ordered the trial subscriptions for starters. Unfortunately, Dirty Yoga is only offered as a live stream to subscribers. In the mountains of northern Spain, a 30-minute class might take 75 minutes to load, and there ‘s no hope of loading to play later.
So you can imagine my delight when I was invited to join my daughter for a yoga class in Minneapolis when we were visiting last month. She suggested the slow flow class at her fitness club’s yoga studios in a beautiful renovated public library in Uptown Minneapolis. It was, indeed, slow. We’d barely warmed up, so we decided to stay for the next class across the hall in the hot studio.
This was my first hot yoga class ever. Little did I know it would be as fast and furious as my initiation to yoga when the girls were in middle school. I’ve never felt so out of place in a class, but with plenty of rests I successfully avoided throwing up or passing out. I could have handled either the heat or the pace, but not both. It took me a couple hours to recover, but we agreed to try another hot Vinyasa class the next morning. The morning class lacked the fun of Rick James singing “Super Freak,” but it did reassure me that I could carry on with my yoga practice under normal circumstances.
Which brought the two of us to discussing how our very own practices–the personal experience exclusive to me and my mat– could vary so much from class to class. How the instructor leads us through a class changes our perspective and practice. But was fun to discover some common ground between mother (M) and daughter (D) as we thought back on the three distinct classes.
- Setting intentions. M and D agree it is impossible to set just one intention for the hour. If given a few seconds, the list goes on and on, setting intentions for ourselves, our family, our ancestors, don’t forget to walk the dog, and what’s for dinner? Beets sound good.
- The perfect class includes stretching, balance, cardio-vascular, and meditation. Three out of four ain’t bad, and music helps.
- Breathing does not always come naturally.
- Breathing in and out to movements is complicated. And we thought we were coordinated.
- Narrated relaxation is an oxymoron. For M, the idea of relaxing cell-by-cell gets hung up somewhere behind the knees, or wherever the sportswear is binding. For D, being directed to think of relationships is tantamount to fingernails on the blackboard. For both, the natural world might signal a call to the bathroom, and the odors in the studio a call to do laundry or clean the apartment.
Distractions aside (take this with you the rest of the day) we laughed that we were our own worst distractions. And that, fellow travelers, is a very good reason to find yoga on the go-ga.