Stranger Days #33: Breathing Through The Pose

Estimated Reading Time: 4.5 minutes

Welcome to stranger days--my blog series exploring daily life, challenges in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just sharing insights or thoughts about how to make it through these days.  

Today is day three of a new activity that my partner and I decided to pursue. Readers here (and friends in general) know that I'm a runner and like running.  But I've been trying o do more body work since just running isn't probably ideal. I've been doing some weight exercises with reasonable results (at least in terms of reps and even some muscle development).  But my partner too was looking some type of exercise that she could use because we're both sitting and staring a lot at screens--not ideal for our backs or bodies in general.
A black and white photo of a room in a house with wooden floors and a large 9 by 9 feet mat on the floor
Our current yoga studio
She proposed the idea of doing yoga in the morning and since this week, my schedule opened up even more, I decided to start.  But for those familiar with yoga know, there are many different types of yoga and finding the right one is a challenge.  My partner suggested flow yoga (not sure that's the type but yoga where there is continued movement), which sounded like a great idea.  Here's a run-down of how it has gone.

Day 1: She found a video to play but it was not quite flowing yoga. It was more sit, hold, and stretch yoga. As a first day, this was actually not a bad idea as it was a warm-up and getting us into the groove.  

Day 2: We found a video that was definitely flow but it was probably a bit more advanced than what we were ready for. Also, I had just completed a 5 mile run so parts of me were already a bit tired.  At a few points, I had to stop entirely, catch my breath, or just rest so as not to do any unnecessary harm or falter.  

Day 3:  There's a bit of Goldilocks in this telling because the first was too slow, the second too fast, and today, was just right.  Also, it had cats!  By and large, the cats mostly just walk around the instructor, but it's still fun to see.  The video is about 29 minutes and does a good mixture of poses that left me feeling good but not exhausted or overworked.  

I've never been opposed to yoga or many types of cardio exercise but I've been challenged by the format. Appointment exercise is just not something I am capable of doing (appointment exercise meaning you have to go somewhere at some place and wait for the class to start). I just easily find myself making excuses.  It's part of why I like running. Barring weather, I can go when is best for me.  

But two things, in particular, I am challenged by with yoga and though I know both of them will abate with more practice, I think it's worth talking about them today.  

Am I doing it right?  Many of these videos have verbal and visual instruction.  The verbal instruction is sometimes fast or not entirely clear and by the time I have processed what they mean with body positioning or how to get from here to there, so to speak, they are well into the post. Watching the video itself is sometimes hard to do depending upon the pose and what you are doing.  All of this creates a challenge of feeling constantly behind or concern about doing it right. Of course, repeatedly the instructors tell you to do as best as possible or just sit in the position that you can get to.  But that doesn't always feel right because at other times, they warn about how not doing certain poses can potentially do harm. So quieting the mind to just sit with the body can be a bit disorienting.  

Gulping breaths.  The other challenge I run up against is breathing. I have a belly and in general, I have a bigger build than most folks. When taking on different poses, it can feel like I'm compressing my diaphragm and deeper breaths have trouble getting in because my belly gets in the way. I'm assuming I'm not the only one challenged by this.  To add to this, there's constant directions to breath through the nose and I never get the volume of oxygen through my nose.  Thus, I feel like I can get enough air by breathing and it's compounded by not enough space in my lower half of my mid-section (I'm taking deep mouth breaths just thinking about it).  All of this is to say is that it creates breathing challenges which distract and boost my adrenaline and anxiety a bit, which is something interesting to realize in hindsight, but not as fun to observe in the moment.  
Yet, tomorrow, I will continue to do more yoga with the hopes that by repeating the practice, I will gain more familiar with the moves, find the right spots, and lean into my breaths in whatever way feels right.  Wish me luck!

Take care. Be careful. Be care-filled.  Welcome to stranger days.

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