Egos, Fallacies and Yoga
Ok yogis, let's set aside yoga's splintering history, the ancient Sanskrit language, and the patented or patent pending styles of practice and talk respect and responsibility. The opportunity to unwittingly experience what I bet a lot of could or would have been yoga practitioners lit a fire in me I have to put out with words.
Went on vacation...found yoga studio nearby to check out as a student. I'm not an advocate of hot yoga; however, thought I'd give it one more try to determine if I was being closed minded. Besides, the class was a Flow and I was feeling pretty strong. I introduced myself to the teacher/owner and when he asked if I had practiced yoga before, I let him know I had been teaching for seven years. No further inquiry.
Room has a beautiful hard wood floor emanating heat. Cool frosted glass is the wall sunlight hits. Dominant age bracket in mid twenties and a few in mine. (Let's just say the 60's rocked.) Class begins with a smooth warm up and I'm feeling good. Fifteen minutes later, my skin is wet with sweat. Twenty minutes later, it is raining on my mat. Moves are breath to breath without pause. Poses are getting more advanced and balance with a slippery body and mat don't mix. Determined to have a good practice, I push through the stupidity of it all. I glance around and see a few in child's pose, a few guys baring their buff bodies wearing only shorts and a few actually flowing through it all. I was somewhere in the middle. We're all doing the best we can.
Suddenly, the teacher stops the class and emphasizes the moves are to flow like water flows...not jerky or contrived. He demonstrates and I watch the glow of his ego as he looks at what feels like me as he declares "this is how yoga is to be done." He demonstrates an exaggerated rigid set of poses and counters with motions of fluidity. Got it.
Ok. We resume with effort to duplicate and he nods his head in satisfaction. By now, my mat is a slip and slide prop and I dread seeing what has happened to my hair. Grateful I brought water in the class, I take a good swig to replace what I'm now standing on. I'm not feeling toxin free...I'm feeling dehydrated.
Class is stopped again. 'If you must, you can drink water; however, it is best to wait until class is over. You don't want to mess up the metabolism and prana flow of your practice. Sweating releases toxins.'I wasn't the only one guilty of drinking water; but, I swear, I felt his energetic reprimand hitting me in the head. He turns the music back up and we're moving again. I'm feeling some more heat building and it is not from the room.
Wow. One hour down, thirty minutes to go. I can do the moves but unable to create and enjoy them. He stops the class a third time because he just couldn't help it. 'Everyone look at her...as he directs all eyes to a student in a pose. Now that is perfect...that is how it is supposed to look.' He gives pointers on how to do the pose like her and I am now in utter disbelief. But, I realized why fate's navigator drove me here. I got some good pointers on how NOT to teach and what to learn more of.
Here's the fallacy of "flow like water" in yoga. Water is 100% H2O. Our bodies are roughly 60%. That 40% has specific composition to respect and remember. Joints, ligaments and tendons are the harbor for your bones. Your muscles may stretch longer in a hot class; but, the propensity to pull beyond its latitude is high. Heat gets you sweating to maintain an internal temperature of 98.6 degrees. Muscles get more malleable in heat; however, it is easy to misjudge your body's edge. Muscles can and do tear. Worse...the ligaments and tendons attaching the muscles to joints and bones can get over-extended. They lack blood flow and take a long time to heal. Over-stretching a ligament is like pulling a piece of taffy...there's no natural return to original form.
Envision ocean waves with yoga in mind. The waves build up to a height until the weight of the water seems to pause at the peak and then rolls over and unravels until it reaches shore. There's a pause...delicious momentary stillness...and the ocean pulls the water back in. Motion, pause, motion, pause, repeat. That's my kind of flow.
Second fallacy: Sweat out your toxins. Sounds like a sweet, easy way to eliminate any extra alcohol, drugs, poor food choices and whatever else consumed. Sorry to stir the yoga community, but does anyone wonder why yoga is the only form of exercise that advocates do not consume water while practicing while the rest of the sweating mass drink Gatorade, electrolyte infused water and sodium replacement gels? If you have had a muscle cramp up during a yoga practice, low sodium level is the likely culprit. If your body is 60% water, why would you want to lose any? Sweat is 99% water. The remaining 1% is a blend of sodium, proteins, urea, minerals and trace metals. FYI: minerals like potassium and calcium...metals like iron and zinc. Yes, there is an inkling of lead and nickel; but, since the body is its own composition of the periodic table, a bit is apparently needed.
Toxins are processed and eliminated by the liver, intestines and kidneys. Sweat is to keep you cool or emit a scent (body odor) if your endocrine system senses a need to deliver a silent message. You have roughly 2.6 million sweat glands to keep you cool. And, sweating water without replacing water tells the kidneys to save H2O (and the alleged toxins in it) somewhere in the body for safe-keeping. I must add, heat and excessive sweating causes inflammation and the brain is not able to think as clearly.
The heat gets the heart beating faster, the blood flowing faster, and the brilliant endocrine system releases endorphins to help you keep up. That's the "rush" you get. Metabolism is a unique system in itself. It is declared drinking water slows your metabolism. Studies in Germany have shown the opposite. By drinking 48 oz. of cold water a day, the metabolism is raised by the body's effort to bring the consumed contents to 98.6%. People in the test burned an average of 50 calories a day simply by drinking cold water and not changing a single part of daily routine or diet. I would love to see a true scientific test done on the metabolic effect during any style of yoga...hot or not.
Third fallacy: There is no perfect way to do a pose. Every body is like a snowflake...no two are exactly alike. (Haven't researched twins...so leave that out of debate.) Each person is doing what they can at the moment. Isolated compliments feels like a collective insult. It lowers the energy by deflating the fragile egos most bring on the mat. And, it propels the ego dominated left hemisphere to bypass common sense. I left feeling like I had a few weeks of experience under my belt instead of ten years. I'm not sure if it was the teacher or the heat that made me grateful to roll up my mat and leave. Respectfully, I thanked him for the practice and he flips his head back and gestures a peace sign.
Very cool, my friend.
As I gratefully stepped outdoors and felt Nature's breeze cool me down, two young girls behind me are talking. "Did you see that girl in the front row? She's not exactly the right shape for this class...she wasn't flowing like you're supposed to..." "I know, right? I was thinking the same thing!"
OMG. It took everything within in me not to turn around and share a few tidbits of wisdom/opinion. But, what do I know? If this teacher says it, he/she must be right...right? The waters I've paddled uphill, cruised down, and floated on must be from another ocean. It isn't always smooth sailing; but, at the end of the day...I'm grateful, stronger beyond the physical, relaxed and inspired to restore for the next day. I approach my practice and teaching with the same philosophy. I respect myself and my students and we share a mutual responsibility for keeping each other balanced.
That instantaneous revelation made me grin to myself. I stopped eavesdropping. The 'walk' light came on and I walked away without looking back. I got what I needed. Plus, I didn't want to risk drying up or turning into sand...I felt like a fish out of water anxious to breathe with ease again.