July Feature: Slow And Steady, Keep The Pace

Steady Pace

What a difference a week makes. 168 little hours… I’m now embarking on my second week of a challenge that has me doing yoga every day during the month of July, after never having done it before. It’s been quite a journey, with plenty of ups and downs for sure!

A Bump In The Road

Last week was, what I now understand, a delightfully gentle start to this month’s yogic undertaking. Everything was great. I had some really personal instruction from the lovely Caroline Tautz, easing me into my first downward dogs and gently tweaking my side angle pose. I discovered things like namaste and Śavāsana, and I really felt like I was getting the hang of this zen thing… and then I was thrown into an Ashtanga class.

What an experience. It was a non-stop, not-a-clue hour that involved more Child’s Poses than you can shake a stick at. I think I did it — or the small percentage I was physically capable of — but I really didn’t quite know what had hit me and I quickly discovered that the ‘stop, drop and Child’s Pose’ plan was a good one.

Even though I am fully aware that I am just starting out, that little voice in my head immediately started whispering, “Well that was a failure. If I can’t do something immediately with minimal effort, what’s the point in trying?” There’s little reasoning for it, I didn’t have pushy parents growing up, but it’s there, and it likes to give me a kick from time to time. It’s one of the things I’m working on every day and the realisation that ventures like this shouldn’t be achievement-driven help me work through it slowly but surely.

I picked myself up and came back in the follow day, but I was definitely shaken. Those pesky anxiety feelings were louder than ever – I was waiting in the hall surrounded by people who had clearly been doing it for years and would all roll their eyes in frustration if I was the reason the class slowed down. Or so my brain was telling me. That, of course, was not the case. It was my first hot class, taught by Kate Lovell, and was just delightful. It was nice and slow; still very intense, but in a way that I felt in control of. I found I loved the heat – the sensation of sweating from every single part of you is remarkable. It completely raised me up, put me back on track and motivated me to keep going.

This Week’s Challenges

There have been a couple challenges that showed up while I’ve been in class. Thinking is the worst culprit; I’m still in my head, thinking about positioning, forgetting about breath, and as a result my flows are delayed or interrupted. One of the classes had a 15-minute meditation at the end – it did not go well for me. I spent the majority of it trying to get myself comfortable, and the rest of it thinking about either what I was going to say in the blog or what I was going to make for dinner. I know that mindfulness will come with time, so I’m not being too hard on myself. It’s something to keep working on for sure.

Diabetes crept up on me too. I’m type 1 diabetic, and have been for coming up to 16 years now. It’s not new, and while I’ve been very lucky with my control, there are still curve balls from time to time. I’m pretty good as sensing when my glucose levels are dropping, but it was a hot class and it caught me a little off-guard. I had to take five to get my sugar levels balanced again, kept breathing and then I picked it back up.

At the beginning of the week, when I was still feeling really optimistic about the whole thing, I pushed a little too far and overdid it. I’m not entirely sure whether it was just the shock of sudden and regular exercise, the fact I’ve not slept very well in the last few weeks, or perhaps I allowed the heat to fool me into thinking I could do a bit more than I should’ve done. I started feeling sore and my legs and shoulders weakened. Even though I took it easy in the following class, and made it through, the day after I reached a breaking point. Not even half way through I was sitting out more than I was participating. I tried to breathe and let it pass, but each time I came back down feeling worse. About halfway through I took the hint, and decided to peace out and leave the class.

Being Kind To Yourself

This was not easy for me. I felt like I’d failed myself, and we’re barely a week in! It wasn’t helped by the fact that my exit was less than graceful – a block went flying and nearly hit someone mid-pose, then my water bottle made a very loud nose-dive into the floor as soon as I got out the door. After a good five minutes of mentally beating myself up in the changing room a very kind gentleman reached out to me.

He could see I was shaken (and shaking) and we had a two-minute chat that brought me right out of it. There was no point worrying, I’d done the sensible thing by taking myself out before I did anything silly or damaging. It’s one thing I will say to anyone reading this and thinking about starting – do what you can in your classes, not what the teacher or the other people are doing.

I was hoping to be able to reflect on having gone back to a beginner class after a week, but unfortunately TfL and everyone’s favourite tube strike meant I missed the class. I did manage to get into a later class with Caroline, so I still got to check in with her for a chat. She seemed pleased, and said she could see I’d taken on board the pointers she’d given me the previous week. I couldn’t want for more than that as a fledgling yogi, and couldn’t want for a better teacher to introduce me to the world of yoga.

What’s Happening Next?

Yoga is definitely more of a work out than I anticipated. In the coming week I’m mostly looking to keep going with what I’ve done. I’ve yet to finish a full class without stopping for at least a while. Once my resistance is better, then I’ll think about branching out a little more and checking out the different styles of yoga. Though maybe I’ll leave Ashtanga alone for now…

I’m happy (and the guys over at Ohmme would be proud to know) that this last week has seen no classes where I was the only guy, and several where the male/female ratio was even. In one class guys were even the majority… until a few ladies tipped the balance at the very last minute. It’s good to see so many guys in class and around the halls, and hopefully this might inspire a few more to take on.

Have any of you started from scratch, or started a new style of yoga? Let me know how you’re getting on in the comments below! Or if you’re a well-versed yogi or instructor and there’s anything you’d like me to discuss in upcoming articles just let me know.

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