The Solution: The Answer is in My Yoga Class

With each step,
My body moves in ways I thought not possible,
With each move,
I am free.

     Tonight I was able to do yoga for the first time in over 3 weeks. It felt amazing! The current bus strike in Halifax has been going on for 16 days now and it has resulted in me being stuck in my apartment a lot of the time. Being stuck in my apartment also means that I am on my computer more than usual. The more I am on the computer, the more soreness I experience. My back and shoulders tighten up and my neck gets sore. My legs feel stiffer and overall I feel less mobile. This is a feeling I have not experienced in quite some time, not since I was a studaholic at university. I used to get sore like this before I discovered the beautiful art of yoga. My neck would get sore, I would go to a chiropractor and he/she would tell me my neck muscles were bad and that I would develop arthritis one day. They would also point out that the ergonomics of my computer arrangement were likely not ideal and suggested that I needed to have better posture. I would get massages whenever possible and I even tried acupuncture on my neck to try and loosen up the muscles and relieve stiffness. One thing I have noticed is that ever since I have brought yoga into my life, I have felt less pain. A nice yogalates instructor I had for a onetime 6 week class back in Fredericton had told my class that doing yoga or polotes is great for people who cannot afford massages. What she said has really stuck in my mind and now whenever I stretch or do yoga I cannot help but notice the benefits it brings to my body.

     I ought not to be spending money on a massage right now because I am unemployed and just moved into an apartment that is above and beyond my means of income. At this moment in time I really feel that yoga is potentially the answer to all my problems. I should also mention that some other reasons that I might be more sore than usual is because I have been really busy the last few weekends with races and tournaments. On January 21 I participated in my first indoor track race with my guide Michelle. The following weekend I travelled to Montreal with my goal ball team to participate in a tournament. Immediately upon returning from that I moved to the third floor of a new apartment, in a building  that has no elevator, and the very next weekend I made a last minute decision to enter in a race at an indoor rowing regatta, even though I had not trained for rowing in three months. You might say I am paying the consequences! It’s really not as bad as it sounds, and now it is even better since I was finally able to get to a yoga class tonight.

     The yoga instructor whose classes I attend is the instructor who I have had for the longest. As I mentioned in my previous post I have had four yoga instructors in total and have attended three different public classes in three cities. Much to my liking, I have managed to stay with my current instructor for over a year, even though I have moved to a couple of different neighbourhoods during my time with him. Finding a good instructor can be challenging so I really have been pleased that I have been able to stay with him. To me a good yoga instructor is

(A)   Welcoming, (B) Knowledgeable about yoga and its traditions, theories, benefits and practices, (C) promotes an inclusive atmosphere that accommodates people with varying levels of abilities and (D) a good teacher. I really believe that the yoga instructor whose class I attend now has all of these qualities. There is something to be said about working with the same instructor overtime compared to changing instructors every few weeks or months. I really think that the class I am in now is the one that I have excelled the most in.     
When I first started doing yoga I felt a lot weaker and incompetent about my ability to do yoga than I do now. I mentioned in my previous post that the first time I tried a yoga class I did it privately. My private instructor was cautious because she was not sure what I was capable of doing. She told me that she thought I was beautiful but that I had a very sad look in my eyes and that she did not think that I trusted people easily. She questioned how I might be able to have children one day and gave me a DVD which she said could possibly restore some of my vision. Although I respected her, I was unsure of what to think about her comments and ideas. Hearing her thoughts was not easy on me. In a way I guess you might say I felt defeated in her class and a bit insecure. However, in the class I’m in now I feel like I am just a regular addition to the class and being successful in his class has really helped to boost my confidence in myself and in others.

     Some of the ways my current instructor has helped me to adapt and feel welcome in his class is by making a point to say hi to me at the beginning of the class and by thanking me for coming to his class. Something else he does that I have found helpful is by telling me, as well as others in the class, that there are no mistakes in his class and that there is no need to apologize when you first do a position incorrectly. I can also tell that my instructor has put a lot of effort into explaining the positions that he wants us to move into verbally rather than visually. As a class we are able to laugh when he accidently gets his lefts and rights mixed up.

     One of my biggest worries when I joined yoga was that I was going to get completely lost and confused in a yoga class. My worst fear was that I was going to be left sitting on the mat not knowing what I was supposed to be doing, while everyone else followed along with the instructor perfectly fine. I can’t say that I always know what to do in the class, especially if a new position is being introduced, but the majority of the time I have been able to listen to the instructions and follow them. I’ve gotten better at asking for clarification when I am unsure of what to do, and my instructor has become better able to physically direct or correct my body positions in a way that I can understand. In yoga verbal explanations are essential and physical assists have proven to be one of the best ways for me to learn. This is because verbally describing what I should be doing with my body is a lot more disruptive to the class and time consuming than making a physical assist that will tell my body what to do. Simply touching the area of my body where my movements are supposed to be driven from, or applying pressure to an area that should be receiving more of a stretch are extremely effective methods for teaching yoga. Additionally, simply moving a part of my body, such as my arm, to where it should be in a given position is all I need as a prompt to tell me to change what I am doing.

     Sometimes I think my instructor can almost use me as his example when he is introducing a new move. By helping me get into the correct position, the other people in the class can watch and learn. I think this is a good method because it lets him show me what to do at the same time as he is showing everyone else in the class what to do. This seems to help insure that by instructing me, he is not taking away from the rest of the class. It helps that I am flexible because it makes it more fun for the others to watch. A couple of other great teaching techniques that   my instructor has incorporated in his class with me has been teaching me to line the back of my feet up with the edge of my yoga mat when doing certain stretches and forward folds. Doing this helps ensure that my feet are straight and perfectly parallel to one another. It also helps to make sure that I don’t accidently hit my neighbour with my hands or head! My ability to balance has suffered because of my blindness. Anyone who has tried to do a balancing activity with their eyes closed will know that it’s much harder to do than when their eyes are open. However, my instructor implemented a strategy to help me participate in some of the more difficult balancing exercises. His solution is to bring me to stand beside the door to the room. This way I can do the balancing exercise but can hold on to the door handle for support when needed. Having the security of the wall beside me has really helped to support me and prevent me from falling over. It also helps that the other people in the yoga class need physical assists from the instructor. it is nice to know that I am not the only one requiring assistance.

     I know that I am not a perfect yogi and I still have so much to learn and practice. It gives me some level of comfort to know that there are great yoga instructors out there. The more I practice with my current instructor, the more I hope I never have to get used to another yoga instructor again. The more time I spend in his class, the more comfortable I become and am better able to perfect my yoga style. Knowing that there are good instructors out there helps me to believe that yoga could perhaps become one of my sports for life. Maybe, just maybe, yoga is the solution to all my problems. 🙂

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