About 6 weeks before leaving Portland I started taking a beginner yoga class in the school of Iyengar yoga (at this time I had no idea that I would be homeless, unemployed and hitting the open road within less than 2 months!).
As was to be expected, I was stiff and sore, making the asanas (positions) difficult to assume and more difficult to maintain. My teacher was patient, however, and often lent a push or a shove to manipulate my body into a spinal twist, a boat pose, an archer pose or - more dramatically - a shoulder stand.
I am sure that this course would have done me some good, but in retrospect am glad that I did not continue in that style of class - which i am fairly confident is typical of the North American style of teaching yoga. Asanas range from simple to complicated - with the former necessary as preparation for the latter and the latter being potentially dangerous if done without adequate preparation or knowledge (via the former).
I was not ready for shoulder stands!
Here in Nepal, my teacher, Thakur Krishna Uprety, takes a very different approach to yoga training - and it is not glamorous! To date I have focused on a group of asanas called the rheumatics, which target the joints and aim to build flexibility and strength in the flex points of the body that will support later, more complicated (and impressive) poses.
Much of my sessions are spent bending my toes and and feet back and forth, raising and lowering my legs and arms to trace circles in the air (wax on, wax off), rotating my head to various positions, etc, etc. These practices seem so simple and benign - but I already feel my entire body starting to slowly loosen up and yield greater ranges of motion. I am also able to add more interesting poses from time to time, and am growing to love the universal spinal twist (ahhh, refreshing) and the leg lock poses.
To date I can see nothing but promise in what I have embarked on, but am often frustrated and hard to console, feeling that my body is betraying my best intentions with its stiffness and susceptibility to injury - a pattern that has often been repeated in the past, and is a major factor behind my decision to be here.
Patience is the key - I have 33 years of virtual atrophy to overcome, and my joints, muscles, tendons and organs are not quick to forgive me. After 3 weeks I can touch my toes with ease for the first time in my life and can raise my leg quite high before the hamstring screams - I have also, however, pushed my ankle to the point of sprain and reached a stage of poses that my hamstrings simply will not allow me to embark on without further coaxing via the simple, unadorned, basics
I may extend my time in Nepal based on how slowly my body is yielding to this practice, and due to the fact that I am planning to start learning silver work this week. I have no idea yet if the man who has offered to teach me will prove an apt mentor, but hope that it will yield an exciting new aspect to my life here!