Thursday, March 7, 2013

Yoga and Nature

Apparently I need to earn 4.5 graduate level credits to renew my teaching license. This could have been done to some staggered expense if I'd thought about this about two years ago. But now it's due in May. Lucky (?) for me there is an entire program through PSU for continuing education that offers these credits for $55 each. The only catch is the course fee. These are typically in the $300-500 range. Bummer. I skimmed through the course catalog and stumbled across a class that was only $150. This I can figure out. 

So now I'm registered for a class called "Psychological Elements of Global Citizenship". The last time I took an online class it was for my cluster courses that were my alternative to general education classes. I took gender studies. It was basically an exercise in arguing with people who all agree with each other to be more liberal. Just because someone "identifies" as "male" doesn't mean he has an anger problem. It was pointless and I learned nothing I didn't know already. There are stereotypical gender roles that are projected onto us as a result of our individual, community, and global cultures. Not everyone is defined by these stereotypes. There are always exceptions. Blah blah blah. 

I consider myself pretty open minded. But I signed up for my Global Citizenship class with the expectation that I would be contemplating dirt and "opening my mind". Perhaps I would start a drum circle and hope for a cameo on Portlandia too. Jaded much? 

I started to do the reading and I could feel my barriers start to weaken. I was asked to write a sort of biographical introduction for class about my life as it connects to nature. In the process I realized that I really do have a deeper bond with natural things than I typically care to acknowledge, specifically trees. 

Something I've come to learn in this class is that nature can seem chaotic in moments but it is always reasonable and purposeful. Charlotte and I learned from Dinosaur Train this morning that forest fires may seem to destroy, but they clear out the dead plants to create an environment that is conducive to new growth. It's cyclical. Humans are natural beings and as crazy as I feel like I sound saying this sometimes the universe brings us to things that we need. We feel natural attractions. For instance, there's this guy in my yoga and zumba class that just seems incredibly fun. I want to say hi and find out who he is. But I suppress my natural attraction (this word is so sexualized isn't it? I mean it in that I find him interesting or I just want to find out more about him) to him because I don't want to be the weirdo that says "Hi you're neat! Wanna be my friend?" So instead I get to be the weirdo that he catches staring at him unintentionally. Don't lie, you so do this too!

I have lately been feeling a natural attraction towards yoga. Something about it draws me to it and has for a long time. This is my opportunity to trust my instincts and to follow them where they will take me. 

There is this big open window that overlooks the Willamette near Ross Island at the 24 Hour where I go to yoga. My first class I remember noticing the gray clouds over the West Hills and the rain on the windows thinking "When I see images like this from Japan I consider them beautiful and mysterious, but when I see this at home they feel depressing and mundane" Yesterday I decided to practice closer to the windows so I could enjoy the scenery more.

You may be wondering what all this granola has to do with fitness? I'm getting to that. 

 I'm so judgmental of myself when it comes to athletic things because I never follow through with anything and my body is a physical manifestation of my own weakness. I'm an incredibly efficient self-loather. So I typically don't notice the things that I do really well because I'm so hard on myself for what I could and should be doing better. This started to change for me yesterday.

downward facing dog
I found my yoga practice yesterday to be far less about fitness and far more about breathing and feeling my movements. Downward facing dog is a pose that we return to through each sequence. As we go through the pose sequences I'm mentally dreading when we have to go back to downward facing dog. The first two classes I felt like I was going to die. I sucked at downward facing dog. I felt like a jackass with my butt up in the air. Yesterday I didn't. Yesterday it felt comfortable and inviting. I think it helped that our instructor directed us to spread out our fingers and allow our entire hand to be grounded. This really helped me. I also started to really feel my strength and grace in the movements from one pose to another. I had to modify several of the planks because I'm just not strong enough to hold them, but I didn't feel down on myself for not being strong enough. I was actually able to be nice to myself. Like really. 


I think I'm on the verge of something very good.



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