Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yoga for Farmers

Just so I could add a new hobby to the lists, I've taken up yoga. 

Well, really, I've only gone to two sessions, one last Sunday, one this morning.  That doesn't quite say 'hobby' yet, but the experience has been...interesting.  Intense, humbling, rewarding, and...enjoyable?  Uncomfortable, difficult, confusing.  I plan to keep going for the time being.

Next year I'm going to be a farmer.  I'll be serving an apprenticeship at a vegetable farm in Ipswich from early Spring through mid-late Fall, and it should prove to be a very physical job.  I expect to spend a lot of time on my knees, bending over, lifting things and generally performing a lot of repetitive manual tasks.  I thought that it might be a good idea to try a new program of exercise to prepare myself for the job, and in particular to work on developing my core strength and my flexibility.  Learn how to use my body better, more efficiently, develop the strength to do so, and increase my flexibility to help prevent injury and discomfort.  

So why yoga?  Many reasons, I suppose.  There's a recommended studio around the corner, for one thing.  Attractive, healthy, interesting women seem to frequent it.  But more than that...I'm interested in something that is equipment-free, so I can do it anywhere, anytime (a small, roll-up mat seems a reasonable concession).  Something that combines many goals into one, in this case strength, flexibility, mindfulness, aerobic activity, upper body, lower body, breathing. Many yoga folk claim a lot more, such at detoxifying, losing weight (don't need, don't want), spiritual growth, etc; I'll suspend judgement for the time being on some of this other stuff.  

I went to a studio in Newton called Prana Power Yoga.  Power Yoga is a type of Vinyasa yoga where the studio is heated to a merciless 90-95 degrees or even higher.  Vinyasa yoga is also known as flow yoga, as the center of the practice is moving from pose to pose in a dynamic manner rather than holding a pose for a long time (though we seem to do some of that too).  

I'll tell you, I flush easily and sweat profusely in that kind of heat and humidity, and I lost gallons in both of my sessions.  Today, I think the nice lady who led the group got a little worried about me; she took a moment to quietly ask me if I was okay.  I said yes, and then worried that I would make a fool and liar out of myself by fainting.  Like I said, it's intense!  It's a real workout that seems to hit every muscle; last week I was sore in a long continuous wash from my neck down through my thighs.  It's great!

And I also really like the emphasis on breathing, though that part is as difficult as any other; it's very easy to lose mindfulness and find yourself holding your breath or breathing shallowly and quickly, out of sync with your movements.  And I value the awareness and relaxation that is integrated into the practice.  One thing that our leader, Jacqui, said that really struck me was that we can never get truly healthy if we never give our minds and bodies a chance to really rest.  In this context, I don't think she meant resting by letting yourself float along with a book or a movie, or sleep, or any of the things we generally associate with relaxation, but something harder and more empty; it's hard to explain, and I don't really understand it either.  My mind is always a whirl, and always looking for something to occupy its cascading, restless energy, but often feels just as cluttered and disconnected as always as I jump from consuming one thing to another, whether it be books or television or hobbies or work or whatever else I do in my free time.  But we took the time within the yoga session to stop and be still, to keep our breath steady, to feel the center of our strength and purpose as we lied on our backs, sweating away.  It felt good.

So I'll be back, and I'll see if I can't work out the kinks, learn some poses, find my center, and finally grab my toes with my hands.


Paulina Dent said...

Farmer Yoga, hey I think you have a new style there.

I really believe that farming and yoga can definitely go hand in hand. When you do start school you should find a great studio near you to do yoga. You use this to help me find classes everywhere I go

Brian Kenney said...

Thanks, Paulina. Will check it out.