Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Finding My Inner Yogi

My beloved is a track coach. That means he spends lots and lots of weekends watching kids run around or jump/throw things inside a big oval. That also means he usually leaves our home on Saturday mornings between November and June at the crack of dawn to get to said oval. Because I like to help him get out of the door, make him breakfast and wish him well, I'm usually up at the crack of dawn with him.

Since going back to sleep after he's backed out of the driveway is nearly impossible for me, I usually find something to do - like read, jump on my iPad or sort laundry (what an exciting life I lead, eh?!?) - before I really need to start my day, but last weekend, I just didn't feel like doing anything other than watching a little TV. While surfing the 500+ channels our satelite company charges us for - I mean, PROVIDES us with - I stumbled across a woman talking about the benefits of yoga. Soon, she spread out her mat and talked her audience through a few poses. As I was already wide awake and intrigued, I slid the coffee table back and kicked off my slippers.

Years ago, I'd taken a few yoga classes and thoroughly enjoyed them, but I never kept up with it any longer than it took to undo my legs from lotus position, roll up the mat I'd borrowed and head to my car. My television guide was actually targeting the hips and added some interesting stretches before wrapping the workout up with some relaxation - and ironically, my right hip has been a little sore after gym days (which was the day before for me). I was kind of amazed at how much it had loosened by the end of the impromptu class.

Some of the poses were harder than others, I admit. More than a couple of them had me asking if my guide's body actually contained any bones at all. A few of them had me completely out of balance, rolling off of whatever body part I was supposed to be balanced on and collapsing into a laughing heap on the floor. My dog seemed to enjoy those the most, LOL.

Although I couldn't do everything with the grace, poise and, well, conviction of my virtual instructor, I noticed that I was able to do the one thing she seemed to focus most: breathing - as in when to inhale and exhale, as well as focusing on filling the abdomen with air. Thinking about all that while moving from one pose to another wasn't as hard as I anticipated (confession: I am neither the epitome of the "natural" athlete or the best multi-tasker when it comes to doing physical movements) - probably because of all the do-this-with-your-hands-while-doing-this-with-your-legs-and-screaming practice I've gotten over the years with kata and kihon. What I did find difficult was doing the movements while WATCHING - like scoping my belly's rise and fall with my chin tucked to my chest and my legs touching the floor over my shoulders (don't even ask what pose that was; all I could hear was the blood thudding in my ears). Karate calls for lots of looking up and out, not down and in. But I can see the compliment yoga can be to karate training, because balance as well as proper breathing are staples and flexibility is more important than it looks. The literal meaning of the word "yoga" is "to add," "to join," "to unite," or "to attach." How fitting :-)

Later that Saturday - after karate - I headed out and bought a yoga mat (so I don't slip and slide all over the living room carpet again next weekend) and a yoga basics book/DVD (so I can do a little hatha yoga even when I can't catch my television instructor). Figuring I can give trying to watch my mid-section expand another whirl.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gotta Be In It to Win It

I'm happy to report that I am "between schools" no more! I will be settling down in a new dojo next week. Because my karate flux lasted much longer than I thought, I feel like I just hit the daggone lottery!

My last visit to my old dojo was in early Fall. Although my attendance had slowed from twice a week EVERY week to about twice a month since summer had ended, it totally stopped one October evening. It was then that it became perfectly clear that the environment/vibe in my learning school was not, shall we say, conducive to my well-being. That was the night I decided that it was time to let go and move on.

So, yeah, I'd visited a few schools in the area, all with Okinawan roots, but none of them had quite what I was looking for. Keeping my rank was not important as I have more than a few white belts from new gis laying around, LOL - but I did want a school with some semblance of rei that wasn't a McDojo but that also offered some kobudo - specifically tonfa. Trust and believe I found a little bit of everything in my travels - and some of it was pretty frightening. It came to a point where I was either going to have to travel pretty far to train or settle for something that simply didn't completely jibe with how I wanted to continue on this path.

Basically, I wanted a knowledgable instructor who left his/her ego and the rest of the world outside of the dojo door with his/her shoes. I wanted a sensei who had been on the path for a while, but could still lead the training session by physical example. I wanted someone who was human, because Lord knows I certainly am. I'm thinking that I may have finally found what I was looking for.

I still will have to travel a bit (about 50 minutes each way) - but, heck, when you live in The Boondocks, you get kind of use to traveling to find things outside of normal small town fare. The fees are reasonable and, best of all, I'll be walking into a place where there are other black belts training besides the instructor (believe it or not, that was NOT the theme at my previous spots and I didn't realize the significance of that until some time later, unfortunately). Some of the students have been training with the sensei for 20 years, which is totally cool, I think.

So, we'll see how it goes. But it feels good to be optimistic about karate again - and to look forward to training once more, it really does.

Hey - I could be on a roll, you never know. Perhaps I should play the lottery today :-)