See more articles, reviews, fiction and poetry, including more of my writings, at group blog PLUTO'S REALM.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Yoga on the Roof

The image for this one has to be in your head.

I just had a reminder that this world, this society in all its dying glory, can be a very beautiful place to live in one exact moment.

I've been very stressed this week, not least because my internet connection has been shit; Comcast, the country's largest cable provider, can't be bothered to properly maintain its broadband lines in the economically challenged parts of Nashville like the one I live in, so this is the first morning since last Thursday when I've gotten up with a decent cable connection. As I do most of my internet stuff in the very early mornings, you understand I was more than a little crabby. I did get to go shopping and look at all the incredible computer deals you can get now, but I couldn't get past the fact that broadband, when it works properly, is by far the best connection, and when there's only one provider and that provider is a negligent monster -- you see my stress.

I couldn't do my Sunday workout because I had to wait for the cable doofus to come by on a beautiful afternoon, so I was really looking forward to my step aerobics class last night. Step aerobics is a maligned art and a dying one; I've been doing it since the late 80's, and when it's done right, it's probably the closest thing to moving meditation I've ever done. Properly cued, you can totally yield control of your larger bodily movements and do amazing complex routines the first time, right. Unfortunately, the instructors who are capable of doing that cuing have either moved on to other fields or left this town, anyway. Stephanie, the instructor for the 5:30 p.m. class at the Downtown Y, is the best of them left, and she has become very good, so that the entire hour is a joyous release. However, Stephanie has a bad habit of taking on more than she can handle and dumping the class at the last minute on substitutes who are less than stellar. Such was the case last night.

Last night the sub was some large guy who talked a lot and started the class fifteen minutes late because he hadn't bothered to figure out the sound system beforehand, so I snarled and went to kill some time on a cardio machine (all of which I hate) and wait for Shawn's Yoga class. Thank, you Stephanie, for pursuing whatever lame excuse you pursued last night instead of your Step class, because the Yoga class was an unparalleled treat.

Shawn, along with Stephanie, is one of maybe four instructors left in Nashville who can still teach step classes properly, and the last year or two she's take up teaching Yoga. Usually when group fitness instructors cross over into another field, the results are not good. The worst was the aerobic boxing (generic Tae Bo) classes that flooded the market a few years back. I had a great boxing workout taught by Joanna, a black belt from Nashville's top karate school, but when she left I had to give up the bags and my arms will never be in that kind of shape again; most of the other instructors teach some sort of dance-boxing which is best not seen nor done nor remembered. Anyway... step teachers going over to Yoga have about the same record, but Shawn is an exception. She normally condenses a 90-minute vinyassa-style class into an hour so it's a very athletic yoga class.

I do yoga because I'm not good at it, and because it fills most of my fitness needs not filled by step. It's great for strength; I really hate weight-lifting and can't stick with it, and I have plenty of body weight to do all the strengthening I need without having to blow out my joints. I started doing it after a car wreck I had in 2000, for rehab (the stuff they do to you in medical offices is lame, expensive and ineffective) and because I, like most people who've exercised for a long time, had terrible short tight hamstrings. Now I do it for all the above reasons plus keeping my ageing body as limber as it can get, and the occasional great psychological release, like last night.

So I'd just finished my boring cardio workout, listened to the end of the droning self-advertisement of the step sub, and gone into Shawn's class when she suggest Yoga on the roof. The roof! The roof the Downtown Y in Nashville is an underutilized gem; it's basically unfinished, just concrete and a magnificent view of downtown Nashville. There's a pool up there that used to be great to hang out at early mornings in the summer, before the Y bureaucrats took over and decided it need a lifeguard and that it should only open at 11 a.m. (! prime sunburn time) for a few months a year. But last night I was tense as hell and the last thing I wanted was to move my long-delayed workout up the roof, mat, blocks and all. But I did. And it saved my night.

Last night was one of those magnificent sunset evenings you get this time of year when the rain has been off and on, the moon is out early, and the clouds are there for movement; breathtaking. And in this breathtaking magnificence, to be breathing in Yoga, with compassionate teaching and this physical release of pent-up tensions, was not to be missed.

I know a lot of Zen people who do Yoga. There are spiritual schools of Yoga which are based of course in Hinduism (for years the Christian Thought Nazi's at the Y wouldn't have a Yoga class: it was called Relaxation. Seriously.); and Yoga meditation is not zazen. But it is a great complement, especially with a great teacher with an open mind. Yoga is one of those activites that gets lost for me when I get busy, but every time I come back, I ask myself, why did I go?

I won't be able to duplicate last night's experience; I'm very happy that now I have the werewithal to appreciate such an experience as it happens, and not see it as a key to something more, or to something else at all. Because being in that moment is alway, enough.

Thanks to the moronic corporate dweebs at Comcast for giving me back my morning internet. And thank you, Shawn, for the sky.

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