So I'm fully aware of the benefits regular yoga practice can give and I can hardly wait for it to heal my busted knees, lessen my back pains and grant my clarity of mind, but I just can't afford it at this point. I know, preventive measures are less costly than surgeries, chemotherapies and the likes. And this promo is definitely the answer to my prayers to slowly veer away from my desk jockey job! So...how did this student of life do in class, you ask?
The forever newbie
Day 1: Flexibility Not Required (FNR) with Lasse and Maricar
Any first day in class can be exciting and intimidating at the same time. The additional attraction was the company of my raw food support groupies Ingrid and Andrea. I haven't seem them in a while (last time was in May, next to that was December 2011) so imagine the tight hugs and loud whispers (mine, of course) as we settled ourselves inside the studio. To my shock, it was huge. Turned out that night's classroom was equivalent to 3 rooms converted into 1 to accommodate the large number of confirmed attendees. (In my calculation, 1 room can accommodate 18 students. You do the math.) Now intimidating felt an understatement.
How the studio looks like
My body needed to remember all the asanas I've repeatedly done in the past. And it sure paid in the form of buckets of sweat. I admit I was being competitive - and it didn't help that I was being competitive against others instead of myself - and I found it difficult to keep up with them. It made me wish we were practicing under dim lights and there were soothing music in the background to direct my focus.
Urban Ashram's restroom
Day 2: Vinyasa Flow with Martin
I brought my digestive discomfort with me when I went back the following day. Thanks to my boss, I arrived very early in the ashram again so I have ample time to freshen up. During the shower, I was praying hard there'll be no sequel to yesterday's sob story. I would really like to endure all the asanas that evening.
It was a very challenging class. I found it hard to find my balance, particularly when I'm standing on my right foot (it must be the knee injury). Warrior poses proved to be hard that time, too. I struggled for both arms to be aligned and for my right knee to be deeply bent above the second toe. I was always the first one to quit on these poses out of ngalay and, in one instance, Martin asked me to widen my stance and activate my quads. When he asked the class to externally rotate the upper arm and internally rotate the forearm, I struggled and went straight to not locking the elbows. Next time I'll try harder, I promised.
The hard part didn't end there. Before we get to do the corpse pose, I watched fellow students do plough pose, wheel pose and inversions while I did modified poses.
Martin in arm balance pose
Photo lifted from Urbah Ashram.
Savasana pose with Ingrid
Day 3: Off the mat.
The evening classes are full. Still nursing that gassy feeling.
Day 4: Off the mat.
Heavy workload + sudden knee pains by the end of shift.
Day 5: Vinyasa Flow with JP
It's my first day on the mat without the company of Ingrid and Andrea. Their 15-day pass had expired. I missed them, but it's a great reminder that I'm there for the practice, not for social activity.
Since it's vinyasa class, I braced myself for 1.5 hours of sweet torture. It wasn't as challenging as the last time, but I felt my body started to sweat profusely even before we get to do sun salutations. The highlight of this practice? JP spotted me cheating on upward-facing dog and asked me to lift my knees. See, downward-facing dog is my second favorite pose as it gives me a good stretch while resting at the same time. I typically rush in doing upward-facing dog for the much-awaited repose, not realizing the knees should be off the mat. I felt my lower limbs tremble each time. When it was time for inversions, JP cautioned yoginis having their period not to follow suit. It was my second day, so I did a butterfly pose while my upper body was lying flat on the mat instead. (Sorry, I don't know how that pose is called.)
Inspite of the combined post-yoga and menstrual period pains, I felt strong enough to take a long walk from the ashram to Shangri-La for lunch AND from Shangri-La to POEA area to meet friends for some ukay ukay adventure. Under the heavy rains, mind you.
Day 6: Off the mat.
With an intimidating line-up of classes comprised of level 2/3 of vinyasa flow and mysore (read: self-practice), I decided to chicken out. I remember how Dona Tumacder-Esteban discussed rule # 2 in yoga: be gentle to yourself. And so I did.
Day 7: FNR with Martin
The moment I saw Martin taking a peek inside the studio from outside, I already knew it's going to be another painful practice and soothing sleep later. Since I promised myself to try harder, I pushed the mat harder, pulled myself longer. After lifting myself higher for the bow pose and the likes, I groaned along with the students. I tried harder to externally rotate my upper arm, internally rotate the forearm, too. Hence, when Martin encouraged us to try salabhasana, I was momentarily out of strength. I can't lift my legs anymore.
I found it difficult to execute crescent poses, too. When I emerged out of the studio, the full moon greeted me and I felt guilty for not doing my best that night.
Day 8: Off the mat.
Thanks to the typically toxic workload during quarter-ends, I was too tired to attend yoga class or Bible study that night. Forgive me.
I noticed how my regular practice so far tamed my appetite. Put menstrual period and stressful conditions together, my appetite should be in haywire already. I recall how unbelievably starving I get after swimming sessions to the point that my consumption is equal to the calories I burnt earlier. Whereas my stomach feels satisfied in a banana after yoga. Wow, this is amazing!
Day 9: Vinyasa Flow with Maricar
Maricar greeted us, "Are you feeling strong tonight?". It made me swallow hard. Just like her husband Lasse, she started her class recounting how her lower back pains made her committed to her yoga practice. How inspiring.
I felt her nurturing energies in instructing us. She was generous in explaining the anatomical focus in almost all poses, reminded us that it's our practice, not a competition and asked us to execute them in a slow pace and made us stay there for a few minutes - which is good news for newbies like me but bad news if you can't pull your torso lower in plank (with or without straps) and if you tremble in doing upward-facing dog. In fact, the pace made me shake in doing downward-facing dog, too.
My greatest take-home? How to stand on and off the mat without straining my weak knees. In doing the tadasana,we must put big toes together and lift the inner arches. I encourage you to try it. As much as possible, I try to stand like that eversince (much to my boyfriend/boxing trainer's chagrin. Boxers don't stand that way, I learned.)
Again, I was feeling light and strong after class that I managed to walk from the studio to Shangri-La. I had light dinner when I made it to Cubao. I laud how patient and low-maintenance my stomach had been!
Day 10: Off the mat.
Again, the evening classes are full. What's with Thursday classes? I must be missing a lot!
Day 11: Off the mat.
The first Friday of the quarter-end.
Day 12: Off the mat.
Woke up really late for the 08:00 class. Sure, I can take a cab. But I was worried about doing yoga practice with an empty stomach. I subsequently found out from Grace that it's ideal. She normally grabs a banana or drink coconut juice before the practice. Worse, I fell asleep and woke up late for the 10:00 class. Sayang!
Day 13: Vinyasa Flow with Martin
Martin made us all face the wall. With our respective blocks (I needed 2), he made us squeeze our knees against the block in doing the warrior and triangle poses. I felt my knees protest in pain and my arms in ngalay. He also asked us to use the straps to achieve the 45-degree in doing planks. Yes, it was painful! I was so tired after that Martin had to pull me lower to correct my child's pose. And I'm ashamed to admit I was unable to do the external and internal rotation of the arms right. Definitely, I'll miss Martin.
Day 14: Hatha Yoga with Tanya (substituting Janaka)
Knowing it's going to be my last practice, I lingered outside the studio before class to stare at the beautiful clouds above. I was already nostalgic!
Reception area with overhead lighting by Kenneth Cobonpue
I felt very fortunate to catch the hatha class before the end of my 15-day pass. It was, after all, my introduction to yoga. The class began with lots of breathing exercises. I recognized how my lower back disliked doing backbends and how my lower abs ached in leg raises. Tanya asked us to imagine Janaka's abs in doing the latter, but I can't relate.
Then, a confusing twist happened. I found it effortlessly easy to do upward-facing dog yet I felt restless in downward-facing dog. I'm totally clueless why.
Day 15: Off the mat.
The last class was held at 16:00 due to the holiday. My shift ends at 17:30. *sniffs*
Needless to say, I truly enjoyed my yoga experience in Urban Ashram. I like how passionate and inspiring the yoga instructors are, how eco-friendly the establishment is and how relaxing the studio is (except for the occasional sounds of vehicles outside). For newbies, it's reassuring that they provide yoga mats, blocks and straps and for those who live and work far from Pasig, it's comforting that they have shower rooms with organic body wash and shampoos. I hope to bring my energies again for more practice. Namaste!
Special thanks to Yogini From Manila for the photos. You can see more photos here.