Sunday, October 23, 2011

Batizado time

This weekend Grupo Capoeira Angola Palmares (New York) had training, a batizado, and a graduation. We had a mestre from Florianopolis in town as well as a contra-mestre and instructor from London, and students from Nashville, Baton Rouge, Denver, and Portland.

Technically, it's only a "baptism" for your first cord, and a "graduation" for the rest. So we trained all week long, and then on Saturday we held the baptism/graduation. Seven of us adults were earning our first cord, which was actually the second cord -dark green. Other people were graduating to dark green/dark yellow and other higher cords. A few students received their capoeira apelidos, and so now I have to get used to calling them by new names.

We learned a few new sequences, which included a few twists on moves I hadn't seen before. It was both inspiring and frustrating to be in a class with so many advanced students!

I also managed to string my berimbau for the first time. Then, later, I also managed to string it tight enough. Later that evening, my first arame snapped, so now I need to learn how to replace it.

My friends have departed for their homes, so it's nice not to have four people sleeping on my floor, but it's also sad that the training is over.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Getting from signifier to signified

It was a lesson I should have learned when my IT was giving me issues: The location of pain isn't necessarily the source of it.

And my first clue should have been my teachers telling me that I "ought" to be able to do things that I was finding impossible, like navasana or tucking up into handstand. I was strong enough, they said; it must be mind over matter.

No, the first clue was that my lower back starting hurting.

The second clue should have been that the recommended remedies, such as forward folds, didn't do anything for relief. Neither did "tucking my pelvis" to take the arch out of my back.

At least I picked up on one clue: My slouchy posture was indicative of … something.

It wasn't until I randomly did a side stretch one day and found it to be a near-miracle cure that I realized that my lower back wasn't actually the problem. Then there was "pull up in your chest," which did a lot more for my posture than any amount of tucking.

I still don't know their name. Is it my obliques? My intercostals? My lats? Does it matter? I just know that I'm retraining a set of muscles that have somehow gone to sleep on me.

They're improving. They still have a long way to go; I still can't tuck up into handstand. But the difference is amazing - even if the amount of muscle gained is small, knowing where to focus my efforts has improved my handstand notably. It's also helped with other things along the way. The other day, I managed to get into lotus while in tripod headstand. It wasn't elegant, but doing it without falling over should earn me a cookie anyway.

It's exciting to have a breakthrough like that, even though I think, "Why didn't I know this ages ago?" Also exciting: No back pain.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yoga in NYC: On Dharma Mittra, preliminary

It's only a month into my three-month trial, so I hesitate to draw any firm conclusions as to whether or not it's for me, but I can still tell you a little bit about the studio.

Dharma Mittra actually has two locations. The West location is newer and it's where Dharma himself teaches. However, it's almost all meditation and other mental classes; the physical classes are mostly over at the older East studio. The studio has a very comfortable feel. It's not modern or sleek; instead, it resembles someone's den, or a summer cabin that has never been interior decorated in the proper sense; things have simply accumulated over the years. (The place it's most like is Joao Grande's academy, but you likely haven't been there.)

The only thing I don't like about the space is that the practice area is carpeted. It's low-pile, but I've noticed it still affects my balance, as I'm used to hardwood.

The interpersonal dynamic at the studio is a little different. Most places, students chat before class (or at least an "in" clique does). Here, they actively encourage silence. The teachers don't even make a particular effort to introduce themselves to new students before class or ask about injuries. This doesn't prevent a community from forming, as Dharma's students seem to be very loyal. In only my second class, I recognized several folks from my first.

And one interesting thing about the students - when is the last time you went to a yoga class, particularly an advanced one, and didn't see any tattoos? It took me most of my first class to put my finger on what felt so strange, but there it was. This is not a hipster haven. What you will find is a lot of men - nearly half the students in many classes - which is an anomaly.

I haven't had the chance yet to take class with Dharma Mittra; the three-month membership includes three classes at Dharma West, which I definitely plan to take advantage of. And to file under "useless trivia" - he is Brazilian, making this the second of the three studios I've tried that have Brazilian owners.