Learning How to Breathe

IMG_1305We had been on the road for almost 3 weeks. And because we were in Telluride, the obvious thing to do was to go to a Yoga class. Cory’s cousin Amy brought dragged us there – she promised us it would just be a class about “breathing.” I was not convinced, but I thought that yoga would be good for me. I am on a sort of spiritual journey, after all.

We arrived at the Telluride library for the 12:15 class. I assumed my position on the pink yoga mat and looked around to size up the class. We were quickly and shockingly identified as the only two “not practicing,” which I quickly discerned meant we didn’t go to yoga everyday like everyone else in Telluride. I did go to a yoga class about 7 years ago, but I guess that didn’t count.

Our instructor Susan, who was amazing by the way, told us how to breathe. After the instruction, I still wasn’t quite sure if I was supposed to breathe through my nose with my mouth open, or breathe through my mouth so that I sounded like Darth Vader. I opened my eyes, which I was instructed to close so that I could be completely in the moment, to see what others were doing. Still unsure, I opted to switch off breathing between my nose and my mouth just in case. I figured as long as I was breathing I was doing something right.

Things started out ok, pretty simple stuff – breathing and raising up our arms. Then we were told not to engage our trapezius muscles – several times in fact. I had no idea which muscles these were. I realize that most of you probably know what muscles these are – but I was in the midst of breathing and concentrating and looking around and balancing and wondering if I was doing everything right – I searched my brain for the identify of these mysterious trapezius muscles, but I couldn’t recall their identity. And I certainly wasn’t going to ask aloud – I was already identified as a beginner and I wanted to melt into the background without any more attention directed on me.

We moved beyond the trapezius muscle issue and I was hopeful that everything from that point on would be more straight forward.

Then, things actually were kind of fun. We got to do the tree pose and balanced on one leg. I actually surprised myself with this part and started to feel some confidence. But my confidence quickly disappeared when the whole class, Cory included, did the Crow pose…

Feeling pretty frustrated, next we moved to what in my mind were the traditional yoga poses – warrior, downward dog, baby – all the stuff that looks harmless enough. What seemed like an eternity to complete several positions, all while breathing and making sure I’m raising the correct arm and turning my head the proper way, then we had the whole other side to do?! I realize yoga is about balance, but at that point I was thinking – can’t we just skip it? Plus, now I’m starting to sweat – Amy said we would only be breathing, no sweating…. Did I mention Telluride is at an elevation of 8,750 feet?

I think there was another series of something on the floor to work our back and abs. I’ve blocked this from my memory because my frustration took over and the clock was moving beyond the 1:15 mark – wasn’t this supposed to be an hour class? Amy?

Finally, we were on the floor on our backs. Susan shut the lights off and I realized we were at the finish line. But wait, we’re still receiving directions. We closed our eyes again – even though there was a super cute dog in the hallway that really wanted to come in – can we let the dog in? Focus. It was time to relax all of our muscles, one by one. First we needed to picture our favorite beach and imagine we were lying there all alone. We started with our foreheads and cheeks and jaw. But wait, I was still trying to figure out my favorite beach – it’s been quite a while since I was on a beach. Then she started talking about our eyeballs. Maybe Hawaii? I didn’t know how to relax my eyeballs, but I was trying to have an open mind. 

While wondering if the dog was still there and how long we would have to lay there, Susan mentioned something about finding a cave. Wait, where? I was still working on my beach. Apparently the cave is somewhere under our breast bone – is that what she said? Crap, I lost track of where I was. Which muscle should I be relaxing at this point? Did she just say pillows? I still couldn’t find my cave and now she’s telling me to invite someone or something into my cave with me. Should I invite Cory? He had his own cave. Maybe a dog or a cat? That would be nice. But I still didn’t know where my cave was…

While I was still looking for my cave it was time to come out and face the world again. Thank goodness! We reached our arms up – slowly! Then worked our way up. But we were supposed to protect our brain so that it didn’t get jostled on the way up. Was that even possible?

So I had survived my first yoga class – in 7 years anyway. I was pretty frustrated afterwards because I knew that I did not achieve the relaxation I was supposed to. Susan said I was too much in my head. Where should I have been? Well, apparently some people can reach a place where they are present in their bodies and everything just flows together. I’ll admit that despite the frustration I felt pretty good, physically anyway. 

I know I have a lot to learn about yoga – and about myself – and life, which is why we are on this journey. So, thanks for dragging me to yoga, Amy. I will use it as an analogy for this trip – to get out of my head and just experience everything. Let things flow. Learn from my surroundings and the people I encounter. I definitely will practice this, and who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to do the Crow pose someday… Suddenly I realize, maybe the yoga class was about learning how to breathe after all.  

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