Tuesday, 8 November 2011


Recently, I decided to go to a Power Yoga class. I have to confess, I'm a little intimidated by power yoga classes - I really don't like to sweat or hurt. And I feel that Power Yoga classes are wonderful for fitness, but they maybe aren't really conducive for the primary reason for asana, or physical postures, which is to prepare us for meditation. Jumping and flowing and moving quickly and sweating doesn't bring me to a place of quietness and stillness in my mind or body. That may just be my experience, but...
However, I thought I'd try this class, because I think it's interesting to try everything once, and I've heard this teacher was amazing and could still incorporate yogic philosophy into her Power class.

She began the class with a lot of focus on the breath, which right away felt wonderful to me. Then we progressed through a sequence of backbends, that really honoured the principle of vinyasa krama, or intelligent sequencing, that prepares the body for the poses that are to follow. I was personally delighted to find that there was not a lot of jumping and fast movement, but the power part came from holding challenging poses. Which I was on board with, cause I could still find stillness and quietness in holding. It was a challenge, no doubt about it, but I could find the loveliness of yoga throughout the class. She was a fantastic teacher :)

I had such an interesting energetic experience with the backbends in the class. The room was quite warm, as the sun shone in through the windows, and as we built heat through holding the challenging poses. I began to sweat. To feel just a little unbalanced and a little nauseous. I began to notice I was becoming very critical, and very angry. Critical of myself and those around me, angry at the poses, at the heat, at my struggle to hold things. Some of this came from the room being so hot - according to Ayurvedic tradition, I have a dosha that is primarily pitta - firey, passionate, doesn't like the heat, becomes critical and angry when out of balance... yep, that's me. Red-headed sparkplug - that was a common nickname of mine growing up. So the heat in the room triggered some crazy energy. Then, there is the fact that backbends are very stimulating, energetically. They build heat, they open up our heart, and often our emotions flow very freely when we open up that front body to the world and compress into our backs. Backbends are pretty vulnerable poses - your stomach, pelvis, hips, chest, organs, are opened up to the world. In the wild, animals curl into themselves to protect themselves, to cover that soft belly, to survive, and usually only open themselves to express anger or dominance (think of a huge male gorilla beating his chest). So, likewise, when we bend backwards, exposing our softness to the world, it can bring up feelings of fear, vulnerability, and in my case, anger and criticism.

After the class, I had the expectation that I would be alert, bubbly, happy, ready to socialize and bounce through my day. Well, I did feel very alert, felt wonderfully open, but I had the deep desire to go home and curl up with a book, and not talk to anyone. Not at all the response I thought I'd have to a strong backbending class. But in chatting with the teacher after, she reminded me that 1)going to a Power class is outside my comfort zone, it was a risk, 2)the backbends do put us into very vulnerable positions, and 3)I had some pretty strong anger and criticism come up, and likely needed to draw inward to bring myself back to a balanced place. Interesting!

I love this yoga thing. I never cease to be surprised by it - by the difference between what I expect and what actually happens. By the complexity of my body and my reactions. By the beautiful things that are released, and then understood, through a physical practice.

Have you had similar experiences with a backbending class or a power class? What have your experiences been like?

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