Friday, June 28, 2013

Chair yoga made me cry

chair yoga?
I've been on a quest for gentle yoga classes that I can take while respecting my shoulder injury.  I'd heard about Chair Yoga and just recently noticed that Shambhala offers a couple of chair yoga classes each week, so I decided to give it a shot.  The description states that it is a good option for those seeking a gentle practice or for those with injuries. I am both of those people right now.
In the studio, several folding chairs were set up in a circle, draped with blankets on the backs and seats for cushioning.  Mara was subbing the class for the first time and just stepped right in and lead us beautifully.  She asked us to grab a bolster and two blocks each. 
We started the intimate class by going around the circle and saying our names, and then reversing.  It felt kind of silly, but I also liked it.  The crowd of students was mixed in age range, race and level of yoga experience.  We were all women.  The common thread was that we all had some sort of limitation due to pain, either chronic or temporary.
Though the class was mostly seated, I still felt like I got some really deep muscular work done, particularly in the abdominal region- which is great! At one point, we squeezed a block between our thighs as hard as we could, maintaining a straight back...that was where the deep core work came in.  (It's funny because it doesn't look like you are doing anything at all, but really you are activating a lot of those core muscles)  We did some warm ups working up from the feet to the shoulders, using the bolster as a support to help open up our backs and side bodies. There seemed to be a strong Iyengar based component to the class- lots of precise alignment and deep muscular work.
Next we used the wall as a prop and played with tree pose and some plank/dolphin/chataranga type of variations.  This was a great upper body strength building focus and really opened up my upper thoracic area (the area between the shoulder blades), which is where I have been holding most of my tension lately.   It also created a nice stretch in the calves and hamstrings.  I felt strong and felt a deep release in that area around the spine between my shoulders, it felt like I was somehow massaging all of those extra large knots that have been plaguing me for the last couple of weeks.  I was happy to feel strong and stretchy.
After the wall, we returned to our chairs and, using the bolsters, did some chest openers using our arms to reach above our heads in a flowing motion.  It was in this asana that I was confronted with the reality of my loss of mobility in my right shoulder.  It seemed that I could barely open out and lift my poor arm.  I used to be able to make huge circles and move any way I want to, but not any more.  It made me sad, I felt defeated, and tears started to well up in my eyes.  I just sat there, doing the flow of the pose as much as I could, and closed my eyes and let the tears gently fall. 
So, I don't know, but I suspect that the opening and deep release that I got from the wall poses tapped into something, and then following that up with actually seeing my limited mobility was a bit emotionally overwhelming.  It's not the first time I've cried in yoga, and probably won't be the last.  That is one of the things I love about yoga so much, is that connection with mind/body/spirit.  Throughout this process of dealing with my injury, I've been strong, fearful, eager to learn and earnest about trying to heal myself.  (okay and sometimes careless and defiant)  But, I haven't really allowed myself to be sad about it, and I needed to let that emotion play itself out.  As I told my students in my kids camp yesterday, sometimes it's the quiet, gentle poses that are the most difficult.  Quieting the monkey mind and connecting with your body, turning off the mind chatter to focus inward is tough work, but necessary for us to grow, heal, and learn and to ultimately truly connect with ourselves and others. 


  1. Thanks Lori! You are my very first comment:) thanks for reading