Monday, May 3, 2010

Yoga on the Bay: Loosen Up Already!

I forget how I heard about this particular free class, but knowing that the weather this weekend was going to be gorgeous, and that if I don't have something specific to be out of bed for on Saturdays I'll sleep till 1pm and waste the day, I decided to give it a shot.  After all, free yoga!  Sunshine!  Next door to a farmers market!  All of my favorite things.  Which is how I found myself slathering on the 30 SPF and hopping in my car to head off to Berkeley for Yoga on the Bay free yoga classes.

I got to class ten or fifteen minutes late (mostly because I needed my weekend Philz coffee, and the line was hella long...what's that you say, I can't use "hella" unless I'm from CA?) and thought that maybe I'd missed it.  Finally I found our teacher Star sitting in the field doing a seated twist.  And by "our" I mean "my" because I was the only person there.  Apparently this is a new program and they're still spreading the word.  But Star was very sweet and told me that I was lucky - that I'd be getting a personal yoga class.

And no joke, that's what happened.  I got an hour-long personal yoga session!

Star asked if there was anything I wanted to work on, and I mentioned that I have a lot of fear when trying to do the backbend during half moon, and that I suspect I'm doing it wrong.  Guess what?  I totally am.  We did a series of poses leading up to backbends and worked on isolating the right pelvic and upper back muscles so that I wasn't crunching my lower back.  I feel so much more prepared now to go back to Bikram tonight and not hurt myself by throwing my body backwards willy-nilly.  Also, while Star did a lot of poses with me, she would also watch what I was doing and provide feedback, and it's true that I'm not terribly relaxed a lot of time.  I like to work hard and push myself, but sometimes, I really need to just loosen up.

This loosening up seems to be key to "Upeksha Yoga," which I'd never heard of; Star defined it simply as "equanimity."  I did a little digging afterward and turns out Upeksha Yoga is a brand new invention by an Oakland-based yoga instructor named Shy Sayar.  His website defines the form as "mindfulness in motion and compassion in stillness; a balanced practice of strengthening and softening, with the emphasis on opening the senses and awakening mind.  Upeksha Yoga trains the mind in non-exclusion and non-reaction, rewiring emotional stress responses and opening us to the experience of being fully alive.  It is a practice of precise alignment and integrity that brings us to our edges and challenges us to find ease within effort."  So that clears that right up.

But anyway, let me tell you, outdoor yoga in the sun is the bomb.  Maybe it was the fact that I was wearing my glasses that day and thus, not wearing them during the practice, so couldn't really see any onlookers...but even with the farmers market shoppers and dog owners and moms and dads and laughing children and random men dressed like cats to protest kitty litter all around us in this fairly small city park, I felt really present and engaged.  I got a fantastic workout, learned a lot, and then got to buy lots of fresh organic veggies!  A perfect Saturday afternoon.  Also, I think the fact that I define this as a perfect Saturday afternoon qualifies me as Californian enough to use the word "hella."

Another lesson learned, however: don't drive to the East Bay on a weekend, take the BART...cause traffic is terrible and you'll miss your 2pm Bikram class with the guest teacher you absolutely adore.  Ah, was worth it!

If You Go:
Yoga By the Bay (Upeshka Yoga) Free (Donation Based)

The "yoga supergranny" pictured above doesn't really have much to do with this post (well, she is doing yoga outside!) but she is my idol.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Danielle,

    read this soon after my noon yoga class here at church, where the wonderful instructor is always emphasizing keep this or that soft, don't muscle it...etc. so I think the idea of
    "Upeksha Yoga," permeates other practices...she is always helping me keep my neck "soft"
    keep wishing I had started Yoga sooner, you are so lucky you will be the YOGA supergranny!!
    and oh, to have a farmer's market after yoga class truly wonderful, as I cruch on my all natural but not so good for me Pittsburgh Popcorn factory caramel chocolate covered popcorn....
    Love you! MOM