AUTHOR: linda TITLE: Namaste DATE: 5:05:00 PM ----- BODY:
yo-ga [yoh-guh] N.

1. a school of Hindu philosophy advocating liberation from the material world and union of the self with the Supreme Being or ultimate principle.

2. any of the methods prescribed, esp. a series of postures and breathing exercises practiced to achieve a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquillity. I wouldn't say that I've achieved perfect control of my body and mind, but this is a story about my three-year journey to an understanding of this system of exercises practiced as part of this discipline I initially thought of as a boring hour of stretching.

Three years ago exactly, between marathons and right in the middle of training, during the wet part of the year, I over-extended on the downhill of a trail run full of slippery wet leaves. Thinking nothing of the ensuing pain and a limp that hurt even while walking, I went to the Doctor's and discovered it was a muscle pull. GROIN pull, to be exact. Yuck!

As an avid runner, I was devastated. No running till it's healed -- about six months. What was I going to do for six months? But, I knew I had to take care of myself so I started yoga because I figured I got the pull in the first place because I simply wasn't stretching enough for all the running I was doing. Partially true; but... I also couldn't touch my toes.
So I started with an beginner-level morning yoga class at my local YMCA. I knew nothing of the different kinds of yoga but I heard that Hatha is the way to go. This class however was too beginner, and I became frustrated that the blue-hairs and mid-life moms could accomplish the poses better than me so I quit after a measly three months, and then scrapped the thing altogether as soon as my gait stopped aching.

I tried Bikrahm at the encouragement of a substantial friend who swore by the advantageous concept of suffering to hold sweaty poses in ninety minutes of sauna hell, but I just couldn't see it. Plus the humid funk just didn't justify the bucks. That next year I ran a full marathon, and figured with all the running I'd better get back into that stretching -- er, yoga -- stuff again.

This time I opted for a more youthful, hip beginner yoga class at 7 pm on Wednesdays at my neighborhood
Golden Gate Fitness. So easy I could walk to it; so fun I was meeting local neighborhoodies there; so cheap I could justify the $20 per class; and so inspiring I sampled other stuff like pilates. And then poof! Just like that, the entire studio was replaced by a bigger cardio center, and so no more yoga classes for me. I gallantly attempted home-sessions to Internet print-outs of perfect model poses and three paragraphs about how to do it, but that quickly lapsed into speedy half-hearted sessions, growing shorter and shorter till I stopped altogether.

Then magically, last year, a professional yoga instructor named
Rebecca Snowball arrived at my office to provide lunch-time lessons. Couldn't get any easier! I liked her style, and she taught Vinyasa -- a step up and variation of Hatha that I was ready for. After I left that job, I sampled the local community college yoga but decided that it's high time I had a proper environment studio class, so I settled with Rebecca's 7 am Friday session at Avalon Art and Yoga Center, a mere mile from work. I learn something new every time: last week was "let your story go..." and before that, "turn your shoulds into coulds."

Each time, I learn a new way how to go to my edge, and how to exhale or inhale into a movement. I can become truly calm, and I don't watch the clock anymore to see how much longer I have to bear it. I really like hanging out on my purple mat, and the poses are finally familiar to me. I'd call that a body-and-mind something that I didn't have before.