Monday, March 23, 2009

Yoga Tree

forward bendA friend was visiting town and wanted to do yoga yesterday in lieu of our planned hike in the Marin Headlands. Too windy, she said, which I'd thought was a bit strange from someone who lives in Seattle. But yoga was fine. It'd been months since I'd attended my previous class, at World Gym at 16th and De Haro. The classes at World Gym are surprisingly good considering its reputation for a muscle-bound clientèle, but I wanted to take her to the a place with more of that distinctive yoga ambiance. I had a long-neglected gift certificate to Yoga Tree, so it was time to check it out.

As our 11 am Vinyasa session was about to begin, the instructor declared we had "the perfect number" of students. "Plenty of room to walk up and down the aisles," he gleefully observed. I glanced around; the place was packed -- it had to be close to its 60-student capacity. Hopefully I wouldn't topple over on any of the balancings, initiating a domino-like chain reaction.

And so we began. First, some gentle openers, then too quickly to more "flow" to "build heat".... and build it did. I soon regretted my long-sleeve cotton T-shirt I'd chosen against the blustery day outside. Sweat was dropping onto my mat with a frequency which reminded me of my now long-past 40C-regulated Bikram days ("Bikram is the complete opposite of what we teach here", I'd earlier heard a Yoga Tree employee comment).

A 90-minute class full of enthusiastic practitioners is a long jump from my usual 10-minute home sessions. I especially struggle with the one-legged balancings. Not only am I severely balance-challenged (I learned this at a young age during my ill-fated attempts at ice skating on New Jersey ponds, back when ponds still froze in New Jersey), but my cycling-fatigued legs, accustomed to 70 to 110 rpms, don't take isometric loading happily.

But other than my wobbly attempts at the balancings, I somehow survived. I especially appreciated the help from the several assistants who provided gentle corrections, or in some cases major corrections ("you want to be on the other leg!", somehow delivered without laughter), to my postures.

After the 3rd "final" asana, we sunk into the deep relaxation of a well-earned savasana. Eyes gently closed, I even received a brief, unseen neck massage from one of the assistants, immediately identifying tension I'd been unable to isolate on my own.

Overall a nicely intense experience. There's plenty of yoga options in the Mission, and certainly I won't discourage anyone from the underutilized classes at World Gym. But Yoga Tree is definitely worth the visit. Even my Seattle friend was impressed.

P.S. One thing I'd worried about was how my left leg would feel. I'd tweaked something during the Woodside Half-Marathon trail run through Huddart Park, I think in my hamstring, and it was still bothering me. It's been showing itself during hamstring stretches, not so much in reduced flexibility but in a harder time reaching full flexibility, and during the class, I wasn't quite as loose in the left-sided Pigeon and had to be supplied with a supporting towel to ground my hip. Things continue to improve there, however, and Daryl told me during my massage the day before I just need to give it time.

added: I just remembered my favorite "new" asana in the class, The Bird of Paradise. I was sort of able to do it.


Anonymous said...

Bird of Paradise is such a graceful pose. I haven’t been able to do it yet myself. Leeann Carey, an amazing teacher, has a great free yoga video on this pose. Thought your readers might want to check it out:

djconnel said...

Thanks for the comment! I've been so neglectful of my yoga practice the past year. I look forward to starting again.