Monday, January 17, 2011

Finally a post about yoga practice

This is supposed to be a yoga blog and I haven't been talking much about yoga, since I haven't been doing much yoga lately.  I finally got back into my yoga practice last week and this is a report on how tough it has been after a 4 week break from yoga.

Last week I did a Rocket yoga class, which is like an Ashtanga-remix of poses from the primary, intermediate and advanced series.  Developed by Larry Schultz in the 1980s, its slogan boasts that the routine "gets you there faster!" Gets you where faster? Perhaps to the point of exhaustion, a feeling that fitness fanatics associate with the satisfaction that they've worked out enough for the day? I don't mean to be snarky; my teacher actually never mentions this slogan. I really quite like my enthusiastic teacher who is seems to be bursting to share her passionate love for this sequence with everyone.  And lots of students are loyal followers of this teacher.  Perhaps I'm not strong enough yet, but I don't find the sequence flows that well with my body.  I still prefer the traditional Ashtanga series but at the moment I'll attend whatever classes that'll fit into my schedule.

After 4 weeks away yoga, I find that my overall strength has taken a step back.  Chaturanga feels difficult again.  In fact, after the Rocket class, my shoulders were sore for 2 full days.  I also couldn't hold Warrior II with the same kind of ease I did last year.   I guess yoga was helpful for building stamina for a week of snorkeling, but snorkeling doesn't really help with yoga.  I found that I need to back off rather than push forward in my yoga practice, especially for this Rocket series. In fact, I think I might have re-aggravated the neck muscle strain that I had around Christmas time. I need to listen to my body rather than the teacher, who is very encouraging. Her encouragement are perhaps meant for conservative people who are unwilling to try moves that their bodies are ready for. As someone who is used to obeying everything any teachers say to a T, it is difficult for me not to following every word I hear. As part of my yogic practice, I need to learn to be mentally stronger and listen to myself.  It is my practice, after all.

My first hot yoga class of the year felt just like my first ever hot yoga class (described in my very first blog post)! I felt like I was about to pass out 1/3 of the way through the class, again! This time however, I was not ashamed to take child's pose while everyone else was still doing their standing poses.  I thought the dancer's pose (Natarajasana) was supposed to be the peak standing pose and then we were supposed to move on to the sitting poses, but the teacher moved on to more standing poses like Warrior III.. I thought I was going to collapse from dizziness and muscle exhaustion but I pulled through, and it felt great afterwards.

I'm so happy that my Ashtanga teacher is back from holidays this week! First Ashtanga practice of the year went really well (luckily no headstands today).  So glad to get my body through the primary series again.  Things felt very different at this practice.  Muscles that normally had no reactions during my regular practice last year were acting up today; on the other hand, I had no problem with some poses that I expected to have  problems.  I experienced tightness in totally different sets of muscles than I was used to too. It's as if I have acquired someone else's body for the New year. Time to reacquaint myself with my body again!

Sorry this is not a very interesting post, but this is the first time that I've been away from yoga for an extended period of time so I find the results of this mini-experiment quite interesting.  Perhaps this post can serve as a useful note for anyone who plans to take a break from yoga.  I'm not worried at all though. As long as I fall back into a practice routine I'm pretty confident I can get my old yoga prowess back in no time :D Cheers!


  1. Are you serious?? Rocket Yoga?? Lol, that's priceless.

    Lost flexibility is to be expected after some time away, but it will come back after a few days. I usually find my first practice after a break to be really good, the day after to be really crappy, and the third day, it gets closer to what my practice was like, pre-break.

  2. I was at a vinyasa conference in Miami a few years ago, and Larry Schultz was one of the teachers there. I never took any of his classes, but I think the idea is that his sequence is supposed to be a way to "rocket-speed" your way to attain postures in ashtanga 3rd and 4th series that would otherwise require a much longer time to attain. The Ashtanga Fundamentalist in me is going: "Hmm... really?" But well, what do I know?

    I agree with savasanaaddict about the lost and regained flexibility thing. Interesting; I've never really paid that much attention to what my body feels from practicing after a break.

  3. I think it's true that there are some poses in the intermediate and advanced series that are easy enough to be attempted by beginners of yoga. For those who have a strong aerobics or general athletic background, this series is designed for them (with lots of inversions, arm balances that do not require deep flexibility developed specifically by doing the primary series repeatedly). It's more of a work out challenge than a meditative series, from my superficial observation. Or more likely it could just be that I was overwhelmed by it.

    Savasanaaddict, your pattern's kind of like mine too. Except I'll probably have a few more crappy practices before getting back to pre-break condition :P

    Nobel, since you've done Ashtanga a lot longer than I have, the pattern's probably built into your body by now so you notice less of a difference when you come back from a short break.