I’ll be the first to admit that my attendance at yoga can be sporadic. I try for once a week, and am generally very happy with twice a week, and if I make it to a third practice, it’s both great and somewhat unusual. And because I’m retired, I don’t have a schedule that makes sense to anyone but me. However, when I want to go to yoga, I’m there. And it was going well for me until I got injured.
I’m not exactly sure where I got hurt, but I know it was from overuse. In addition to yoga, I also work out at Cageworx, and on Tuesdays, I zip over from the 4:00 yoga class to the 5:00 fitness kickboxing class, and I also go to the Wednesday & Friday noon classes. While yoga is mostly gentle, and very introspective, fitness kickboxing is just the opposite. There is loud music, it’s very active, and there is hitting and kicking accompanied by a lot of sweat. It’s a different bunch of muscle groups, and much like yoga, it’s fun to see improvements. In yoga, it’s holding chair longer or level arms in Warrior II, while in kickboxing, it’s hitting the heavy bag harder and improving on various kicks. And, for me, improving my biceps. Such a small thing, but my accomplishment nonetheless.
The injury happened at home, but it was for a sort of prideful dumb moment – I was showing off my new, improved push up to my husband. I was part way down, and all of a sudden it just hurt – what just happened?! That put a stop to that push up in a big hurry, and I didn’t think too much about it until a couple of days later when my entire shoulder and collarbone hurt. And since I’m not a fan of pain, I quit going – to everything.
So now what? The shoulder and other connected parts are feeling better, and I haven’t done a pushup since then. I ice it down when I need to. I’ve pretty much stayed home, and gone back to walking. But the problem is, I miss yoga!! I miss kickboxing!! I miss exercise that makes me sweat and contemplate life!! It’s absolutely no fun to get injured, and while I know I have to take it easy, I want to go back. And more than that, I feel disconnected from the studio and the people who are also practicing with me. I feel part of this particular community, and I didn’t realize how much I had come to rely on, and appreciate this. As I listen to my body, I’m ready to reconnect….back to the mat. Back to yoga twice a week, and kickboxing fitness twice a week. Back to my version of a schedule.
Teaching over the past year at Poser Yoga, I’ve said oh, so many goofy things. I’ve come very close to falling out of various poses, including ones I’ve done thousands of times.
At the same time, I’ve felt enveloped in a sense of gratitude — for those poses, for the studio and especially for you yogis. Morning after morning and on many evenings, you agreed to go with me on that unpredictable journey called a yoga class.
As you know, it isn’t easy to slow down and breathe deep. But when we get together, si, se puede. Thank you for this.
Now I’m heading into the great unknown: My husband Phil and I are setting out Oct. 1 on an extended trip to Europe, where we will work on a book together. It’s about the love affair between his father, who served in France and Luxembourg during World War II, and his mother, who received daily letters from her young husband while he was overseas.
We are coming back to Port Angeles in December, but for how long after that we don’t yet know. So I must resign from Poser Yoga on Sept. 30.
There’s no other way to say it: I hate leaving this place.
I’ve been working since I was 15, so I’ve seen a lot of dysfunctional environments. I don’t have to tell you that co-workers can be nasty-competitive, self-absorbed and full-up with negativity.
Poser Yoga and its people are none of these things. Instead, founder Jenny Stewart Houston and teachers Karlyn Langjahr, Ann Carlson, Sher Cappa, Brooke Cole, Deirdre Frank, Wendy Greer, Sara Shearer, Ashley Zawrotny and Zumba sergeant Kaila Calmell-Armantrout have given me sustained, calm encouragement.
These are steely women; also very flexible but not into showing off.
They’re funny and self-effacing, too. I once asked Wendy, “Did you get to a point as a teacher where you felt like you’d found your groove?”
Yeah, she said, but “then I f— it up again.”
Mind you, I’ve never seen Wendy f— it up. I have seen her rock the house with her teaching, time after time. But when you’re up there, one mistake can feel like a disaster. You keep going, and thank goodness there’s another chance, another pose, another inhale-exhale right there to see you through.
So I’ll say it again, and I’ll keep thinking it as I think of the yogis at Poser. Thank you. Thank you for teaching me about yoga and life.
I’m not an outdoorsy person, unless you count reading in the shade. When I was a teenager, I failed to see the point of laying out in the sun baking; I usually burned, and I couldn’t read, so why bother? I have actually done some things outdoors, like cycling, hiking, and skiing, but up to this point in time, all of my yoga has been done indoors in a studio, or on a tavern floor. That was all changed recently.
International Yoga Day, June 21st, Webster’s Woods
I joined a few other yogis to practice yoga on the first day of summer. If you have never been to Webster’s Woods at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, I highly recommend visiting. The small meadow is highlighted with a 7-foot tall highly polished stainless steel sculpture, “Pi a la mode”, or Pi, and was created by Micajah Bienvenu of San Juan Island.Yes, it’s that symbol for 3.1416…., used in math in the calculation of circles. Our shared practiced focused us on this gate to the meadow. We began with a guided Mantra chant with Kalei Myers, from Sacred Roots-Kundalini Yoga, and while I can’t say I was able to completely follow the chant, it was a great way to set the stage for our practice. Our two teachers, Brooke Cole and Jenny Houston, led us through a series of poses, and we ended with another Mantra chant, this one very energetic. Being out in the woods, with a blue sky with zero clouds was a great way to practice. It wasn’t too hot, the trees sheltered us from the wind that had been blowing all day, and the added bonus of watching the visiting World War II planes on their flight path to the airport just made my practice all the better. I liked the idea that I was sharing my practice, not just locally, but globally. And bonus, I won a prize – a Poser YOGA decal for my car!
Pop-Up Yoga: Goat Farm
I’m not going to lie – I kind of had to talk myself into this one! I had seen a video a year ago about goat yoga in Oregon, and shared it on Facebook. I thought, yeah, right – goats? Well, who takes an idea and runs with it? I think we know to answer to that question, don’t we? So on the second hottest day of the year in Port Angeles, I found myself at a small farm off Black Diamond Road. It was suggested that we bring a towel instead of a mat, and clothes that wouldn’t be bothered by dirt, which was possibly a way of saying goat poop. The goats, cute little 10-week old babies, were waiting for us in the barn, while we were ready in their play area/pen. When the door opened, they seemed as stunned to see us as we were to see them! I sensed a small pileup at the door when the goats in the front saw all of us laying out in their space, but once they got over the shock of seeing us, out they came. And they were cute and curious little critters, and after they milled around for a bit, they got smart and headed to the shade. One little goat ended up on the mat of a lucky little girl, who had it all – a goat AND shade! It was hot, hot, hot, with a relentless sun, and Jenny could probably see us melting in front of her eyes, so we didn’t quite make it through an hour, which was a relief! The next time I have the chance to do this, I’ll do a couple of things differently. The first is I will bring a mat – a towel is a poor substitute for a mat, mostly because I kept sliding around on it. Wearing shoes would have helped with traction. Second, I would seek out a shady spot if possible, and that’s not available, I would wear a hat. Finally, have water on hand. I did, but my metal flask got so hot I had to put it under my towel just so I could touch it.
We celebrated International Yoga Day in Webster’s Woods, just behind the PA Fine Arts Center. The location was perfect… quiet, peaceful, and private. 35+ Yogis joined in community to promote compassion, love, and kindness, and a BIG thank you goes out to our dear Diane Urbani de la Paz for capturing the event with a few photos. Also, a thank you to Jessica Elliott for opening up the space to us so willingly (with less than a week to prepare, after our original venue fell through!) and to Brooke Cole and Kalei Myers for co-teaching and generously and lovingly holding intention with me.
You know it’s going to be an interesting yoga practice when you walk into the studio, and the word “inversion” is mentioned, as in “By the way, we’re going to be doing inversions today.” Gulp.
I had stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to try a noon power class. Normally, I’m in the fitness kickboxing class on the CageworX side during that time. No big deal, I thought. I figured I could do a fifty minute practice, knowing that the possibility of having some move come up that would be challenging was inevitable. I mean, I’ve spent at least two years avoiding power classes, mostly because of the idea of power! So, when Jenny mentioned inversions, I didn’t run away. It wasn’t exactly a “bring it on” moment, but I proceeded into the studio anyway.
Things were going along well, and then we moved into squats. Squats, for me, require a block. I didn’t even think the squats were working us into the inversions; I was just wishing for more cooperative hip flexors. Jenny moved us into crow pose. I remember actually doing this as a kid, but the last time this came up in a class, I passed. And I was unable to coax my reluctant body into crow this time, too. We talked about letting go of what just happened, or what didn’t happen, the yoga version of shake it off. I let it go – it isn’t worth it to take some of this stuff personally!
Headstands were next. I’ve never done a headstand in my entire life, but at least I was good at finding the top of my head. I practiced cradling the top of my head in my hands, which is a start. Two years ago, I would have skipped that totally! I was in awe of the people in the class who were able to do a headstand, in fact, I was happy to be in the same room with them! It was amazing to see them balanced and inverted.
Jenny explained an inversion is when your head is below your heart – think downward dog and standing forward bend. Hey, I can do those. If one of the benefits of inversions is building confidence, I know this is true. I used to dread downward dog, but as my arms and core grew stronger, I got better at this inversion. Another good thing about inversions is the balance you develop, as well as literally seeing the world from a different perspective – upside down. These aren’t small things, when you think about it.
What did I get out of this? I am willing to venture out of my comfort zone of the basics class. I don’t mind trying new things, and I’ve decided that beating myself up for not being able to complete a pose is ok. Will I ever actually complete a headstand? At this point, that is unknown, but crow is probably in my future. Upside down…fear not! But I did step into CageworX, just in time for plank – something I can do.
This was a slap in the face. I did nothing whatsoever to deserve the injury: a right deltoid muscle that started out talking to me one day and then, by nighttime, yowled like an angry cat. All I had to do is raise my right arm and there it was, a hot gnawing.
Warrior 2, chaturanga, anything with cactus arms: lopsided I was, due to the bad deltoid. I don’t know when or why the injury happened. I just knew it wouldn’t stop hurting. So I took a step toward the cliff of poor-poor-pitiful-me, and figured I would stay home from the yoga studio for several days.
Several days hence, I felt like a slug. My deltoid didn’t seem any better. So what the heck, I reframed the situation and went to yoga. There, I heeded the advice I have offered scores of times during classes I was teaching.
Do what feels good. Modify the pose to suit your body on this particular day. The thing that really matters is your breathing. Send breath to the tight spot, and let it release.
What do you know? It worked. After a Power Yoga class with Jenny, I felt light. The deltoid still hurt, but the rest of me emerged brand-new.
During class, I had skipped the chatarungas and cactus arms. I let my right arm rest during Warrior 2. Nobody else in the class seemed to mind.
Circling back to another yogic principle: Practicing is not about building a particular muscle set. It’s not about having a carved figure, though that is a nice benefit.
Yes, yoga is about something bigger and sweeter: the delicious flow of energy all through the body and mind. I let my injury keep me out of class for a bit, and when I returned, I re-learned: I can receive the “ahhhh” benefits regardless of whether I do all of the poses as they’re cued.
Ibuprofen and an ice pack can also be helpful, of course. But I know now from experience that a hurt wing doesn’t mean you can’t fly. The breeze, aka your breath, is there to give you a lift.