Friday, March 20, 2009
Long ago and far away, my wife and I took a class in yoga, as part of meditation training. Basic stuff, utilizing the postures, or asanas. While I was doing the meditation practice, I also did the poses, and even after I quit the mantra sitting, I kept up with the daily practice of the physical. I had a short and simple routine and I worked it into my martial arts warm-up.
At some point, I stopped doing yoga. I just drifted away, the time necessary more than anything. I had enough flexibility to do whatever martial art I was studying, so I didn't miss the slow stretches. I though full range-of-motion weightlifting and the art warm-ups were enough.
My wife stayed with it, hit and miss, and took classes in several styles. Like silat, there are all kinds of of yoga systems, and even the basic physical version has myriad variations -- Hatha, Iyengar, Bikram, Power, the list goes on and on.
A couple times, my wife dragged me along to a class, but I wasn't enthused. I like to say I was like the Sundance Kid -- I was better when I moved. In yoga, the breathing is also important, but they tend to breathe in when a martial artist breathes out, and vice-versa, and I had trouble reconciling the two.
Eventually, my wife found, as I did silat, a system that called to her. It's kind of woo-woo, but the teachers are good, and the way is gentle. She liked it enough to want to do and maybe even teach it, so she began taking an instructor's course, which she has been doing for most of the last year.
She is now at the student-teaching phase, and since I am an available dummy ...
I quickly discovered that while I can do djurus just fine, the flexibility I had when I was doing yoga regularly is gone. Tightest in the hamstrings and low back, but even my upper back and shoulders are stiff compared to what they once were. I can recall doing poses easily that I can't even get within a parsec of now. It was quite a shock to realize how stiff I had become.
Practitioners of this kind of yoga believe, among other things, that the key to physical being is a healthy spine, and it's not about how far you can stretch things, but about the mindset and flow, the proper form and attitude.
I've resolved to add the stuff back into my workout again, to regain the flexibility -- as much of it as I can -- and maybe avoid some of the injuries I've had in recent years. I've always thought that gymnasts and dancers had a good balance of strength and flexibility, and since silat is certainly a martial dance, better I work on keeping my instrument bendable instead of brittle.
Sometimes, it is good to be the oak tree. Sometimes, it is better to be the willow ...