BY: MURI ASSUNÇÃO
PHOTOS: CHAS KIMBRELL
t’s almost like dating. You try something new, fall in love, obsess over it, then somehow you lose interest. Before you know it, you’ve parted ways. That was my first affair with yoga.
I was in a fully committed relationship, practicing three to five times a week with two teachers I really liked—but then life happened. Both my teachers left New York, work got in the way, and in the blink of an eye, I’d gotten a divorce. A yoga divorce. Four years later, I decided the new year would be the perfect opportunity for me to rekindle my relationship with yoga. Or even better, build a new one.
I chose a style of yoga I had never tried before, Mysore Ashtanga (sorry, old exes Vinyasa, Anusara and Bikram) and went in with an open mind. It took a great deal of willpower, but I was able to fight the urge to Wikipedia, YouTube and hashtag-search everything about Ashtanga. I picked Land Yoga, a delightful and cozy studio owned by Lara Land in a very hip part of Harlem.
The first thing I recall from that cold, rainy Sunday morning was Lara’s smile as she greeted me at the door. She spoke to me about breathing and focus, and explained how the class was going to work: I’d go through a sequence of poses on my own, and my guide throughout the class would be my breath. That worried me a little bit, I must admit. I’ve taught fitness classes for almost two decades, and having somebody in front of the room, leading you through a routine is part of my DNA.
In the beautiful and spacious studio, there were already some advanced yogis going through their twists and balances which normally would have been a little intimidating, but somehow that day it just wasn’t. Lara’s instructions were minimal and precise. By continuously adjusting me, she made sure my body understood how to get into the poses. The symphony of breaths that surrounded me reminded me of that yoga group energy I’ve always liked so much, and listening to my own breath made me feel like an important part of that community. Hands up, reach, breath in. Exhale, arms down, fold forward. “Oh, yoga,” I thought, “how I’ve missed you…”
Mysore Ashtanga worked well for me because your teacher identifies your level, and will give you the sequence of poses that’s right for you. They will start adding newer poses when you’re ready, and you are encouraged to practice six times a week with the same teacher. Initially, I was a little concerned that Ashtanga would be too gentle, a slow-flow type of yoga. My favorite practice has always been the more athletic ones, where breath
and movement take over, and sweat just pours down onto the mat. That’s what helps me focus, and keeps me present.
Thankfully, my concerns were unfounded. Ashtanga is pure meditation in motion. By going at my own pace and following my own rhythm under Lara’s guidance and corrections, I was able to let my mind and body go through the continuous moving and breathing. After about forty minutes of intense work and sweat (I had forgotten how challenging the holding – both physically and mentally – of a pose could be), Lara told me to bring my mat to the back wall for my least favorite yoga pose ever: savasana. I’ve always had trouble trying to tell my mind to calm down and unwind, but this time it somehow felt a little easier. I swear the constant voice in my head yelling “You need to relax now, please let it go ” was finally silenced for a brief moment.
After hanging out in the Land of Lara and getting to play Ashtanga-style, it’s safe to say that yoga and I are back together and happier than ever.