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Yoga Newbie: Sweat and The Vinyasa Flow Class

I finally felt it: A moist droplet of sweat slowly rolling down the side of my face during my latest yoga class

I finally felt it: A moist droplet slowly rolling down the side of my face.

I didn’t think perspiration would ever form while doing yoga. I was wrong. The Vinyasa flow class pleasantly surprised me; it was more intense and a little different from and the .

In the Vinyasa Flow class at Oasis Yoga Spa, instructor Holly Zager immediately got down to business, leading us in a progression of poses. She had us start by standing up and reaching down to touch our toes.  We then moved our torso halfway up, paused with a straight back, exhaled, and moved back down to touch our toes. Finally, with an inhale, we returned to the straight back position.

The progression didn’t stop there. It just got more advanced.

We went straight into a pillar pose, and then proceeded down into a low push-up position, (that was not fun) I’ve always hated doing push-ups, but I gritted my teeth and did it anyway.  Next the cobra position performed by arching the back upward towards the sky. This was followed by moving up into a downward dog position, and then we repeated the progression. Each pose was only held for a second or two. I think it was the fast pace, and the heated room, that probably caused my perspiration.  

The second progression of poses started in a downward dog, followed by a three-legged dog, which you do by lifting one of the legs upward. We then flipped the three-legged dog into a flat back bridge, rested on the ground, and then went up into an arched backbend (I grew familiar with this as a child when I took the beginning classes of gymnastics. I was always doing cartwheels and handstands). The backbend was easy except for the part where the blood was running to my head (not fun), a feeling that I’ve never felt before while doing a backbend.

These two progressions of poses were intermittently broken up by resting, for example child’s pose and at the end lying flat on the back. I couldn’t help thinking to myself in what other physical practice do you get to lie down or rest? It’s a definite perk of practicing yoga. In all three of the other sports I’ve done at some point in my life resting is not an option.

In swimming the body has a choice of four different motions, the competitive strokes: front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke and butterfly. Slowing down or resting will cause a swimmer to lose a race. Swimming is about constant, flawless, precise, repeated movements without rest.

In rowing the motion is more limited, but it does utilize the entire body. A hard leg drive followed by a backward pivot of the torso and pulling in of the arms. This then reverses back up to the start of stroke. Fast arms away, torso pivot forward, bend the legs back up to the catch (that’s rowing jargon – it’s the name for the beginning of the stroke. The blade is already in the water. During continuous rowing it could be called “catching” when the oar grabs water with each new stroke. Rowing is all about a collective perfection of the stroke. There are eight other people in the boat and timing is critical.

Running is even more limited. It’s about pounding your feet on the ground as fast as you can, or pacing yourself in order to reach a specific distance or destination. In all three of these “physical activity practices” there is no adventure in the movement of the body. In the other sports the adventure is an external experience, whereas in yoga, it’s an internal exploration of the body and mind, or at least that’s how it seems to me.

 I found myself enjoying the new poses the most: the airplane, the three-legged dog, the warrior two pose. Flipping the dog was a new adventure for me, but the airplane pose hit home the most. It reminded me of when I was younger.

I took all kinds of classes when I was little. Mom encouraged me to take ballet, jazz dance, and ice skating – I think each of those uses what resembles a modified airplane pose. It was oddly comfortable; it brought me back to my childhood, a period of my life I haven’t revisited in a long time. Isn’t it funny how doing the airplane, a yoga pose, led me down memory lane to my childhood?

Even though yoga is calm and slow moving, it works to awaken the muscles by moving the body in new positions; the more abnormal the position, the harder your muscles work to hold it in place. It’s the concentration required to keep the body tight and in a correct body position that causes sweat to roll down your face.

Join me next week as I share my new discoveries of yoga during the Kundalini Yoga Class.  

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