Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Flexigirl at Yoga Class

Most of my fellow students at Tuesday morning yoga are gray-haired women. Sometimes men show up. There’s even one young man who shows up because he loves the yoga music. Last Tuesday, Flexigirl joined us. She said she was a beginner. Didn’t know much about yoga. She looked no older than 20.

I look forward to days when new people show up because then the teacher reviews the basics. When to breathe in. When to breathe out. Which muscles to tighten and which to relax. Our class has a mirror so we can watch ourselves and correct our alignment. We also watch each other. We can see when someone else improves and congratulate them. I watched Flexigirl with curiosity. She could do every pose at least as well as the teacher.

The teacher always spends extra time with the new students. But her advice is usually applicable to the rest of us. For Flexigirl, the teacher showed her how to grab her own right foot behind her head with both hands (while standing on her left foot). Flexigirl made us laugh by asking, “Is that your hand?”

I love watching the kinds of special attention different students get in yoga class. Usually I’m watching modifications to help people get the appropriate stretch even if they can’t get into the official pose, due to injury, pregnancy, or just plain stiffness. The classroom is equipped with bolsters and pillows to hold up recalcitrant hips. There are straps for arms that aren’t long enough (okay hips or back aren’t flexible enough) to reach the feet. There are walls and saw-horses to lean on. Ropes hanging from the wall to grab if you need support, or to hold your hips up in downward dog. This was the first time I’d seen special attention for someone who could do more than the rest of us.

I wonder if she’ll come back. I remember being 20. I was more flexible, and I took my body for granted. I took yoga for a while because it was fun to see what my body could do. But eventually, I stopped because gym yoga was not a challenge. This is not gym yoga. This is Iyengar yoga, which continues to challenge our gumby-limbed teacher.

I came back to yoga when I became stiff. Now I’m back in yoga without the flexible body, and since it’s a challenge, I have to keep trying. I’m hooked. I wish I’d stayed with the practice when it was easy – I might not be so stiff today. I hope Flexigirl comes back to class, so I can learn what more advanced poses look like.

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