showtime.

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That’s Chrissy.

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If you need proof that I was there, check out the guy in the blue bandana.

And this is the pose — a variation of it, anyway — that caused me to freak out a bit while trying to decide whether to attend Chrissy’s workshop this weekend.

Here’s your spoiler alert: I am so happy I did.

My yoga workshop weekend, Day Two:

I knew going in that I didn’t have the core strength to hold a full version of shoulder stand on my own. But that’s not really what I wanted to accomplish anyway. In a class about a year ago, we did some inversion kind of stuff at the wall; I remember leaving that class feeling that inversions were something attainable. But in the time since, I lost that confidence and enthusiasm, and more importantly, I lost a sense of how inversions felt. In my regular classes we occasionally do a block-supported thing kind of similar to shoulder stand, but my legs feel like I’m treading water in a swimming pool. Without feeling the weight, I didn’t have a feel for how the pose should work. I wanted to recover that, and I wanted to remove the barriers I had constructed in my head.

As we packed up to head home after Saturday’s second session, I spoke with Chrissy a bit about being excited and nervous about the shoulder stand class. That was the right thing to do; she made a point of checking on me as she got us warmed up and explained out our options for the pose. They included doing shoulder stand from a chair — that’s the demonstration above — which I am (now, after the fact) dying to try.

I opted to approach from bridge pose — one I’m comfortable with — set up on the wall. That was a great way to do it; I could still feel how the full pose plays with gravity — the weight in my shoulders and upper arms, and the strength I’ll need in my core to hold my legs in place — while in the relative security of the modified pose.

And that was the successful end of our two-hour trip. Listening to someone talk in detail about how the pose works removed the mystery behind it; getting my legs in the air gave me back my sense of how the pose should feel. I still need to do the core work, and I will. I’m excited to keep trying, because of the workshop.

And that’s the point, right? For me, this wasn’t just about the pose (although I would be lying if I tried to tell you that eventually getting to shoulder stand isn’t a thing for me), it’s about understanding the pieces of shoulder stand and then getting back a sense of how the pose feel. Mysteries dispelled, fears dissipated.

And the best thing: taking a step outside of my comfort zone and — with the support of my teachers and friends — trusting that it would work.

It did. It was amazing. And I’m grateful that I had the chance.

a learning experience.

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My yoga workshop weekend, Day One:

  • I got better in crow and learned some tweaks with my hands and arms that will help as I move toward other arm balances.
  • My core needs to be stronger.
  • Practicing with my teachers is inspiring — they are strong and fearless — and reassuring — they struggle with some of this stuff too.
  • I have a pretty good idea of where to not to go for a quick lunch on Carson Street. A slow lunch might be OK, though; I’ll let you know as soon as my food shows up.
  • I realized in this afternoon’s discussion of the yoga sutras — kind of the philosophy behind a complete yoga practice, rather than just the physical postures — exactly how much the mental side of the practice has helped me, especially in the last few weeks.
  • I’m still scared and excited and scared about tomorrow’s shoulderstand session.
  • I love my studio and my yoga family is awesome.
  • And so is Chrissy Carter.

See you back there tomorrow, yinz guys.

nerves.

first yoga

I took that shot as I awaited the start of my very first real yoga class.

I was nervous. Nervous enough that I almost didn’t get seated in the grass. Nervous enough that I almost left.

I had been through a couple of demonstration classes at Venture Outdoors Fest two weeks before; I did those with a friend, and I enjoyed them enough that I talked myself into following up with a studio. I met a woman who owned a studio in Bellevue, just a few minutes from my house at the festival, and geography made that choice a natural one. But I also picked up a flier for a summer-long series of classes — at Grandview Park on Mount Washington and in the little park at South Side Works — and those sounded interesting too.

They were interesting enough, in fact, that that’s where I headed for my first yoga class.

And I was fine with that decision. Until I got there.

I parked and walked up the crest of a hill in the park, the one you have to walk over to really get a look at the stunning view of Pittsburgh over there on the other side of the Mon.

I should have noticed the downtown skyline; what I noticed instead was all of the athletic-looking people — mostly women, and all at least 20 years younger than me — walking over the hill with me.

“I do not belong here,” I thought as I slowed my pace up the hill to a shuffle. “I am too old to start this. And I should just go home.”

I froze on the top of the hill, seconds away from turning around, chucking my brand new mat in the back of my car and heading to Carson Street to find a breakfast suitable for a fat old guy.

What kept me from leaving? I met the guy who was signing people in for the class, an instructor at BYS who appeared to be about my age and then seeing two friends who had already unrolled their mats and were waiting for the class to begin.

Seeing friends there was good. Seeing someone there who reminded me of, well, me — and a yoga teacher, no less — was even better. I was still nervous. But I stayed.

It’s been nearly two years since that class. There were more that summer, and more after than in the studio. Yoga — both in the broad sense and specifically with my teachers and my friends at what has become, without question, my studio — is now a pretty important part of my life.

And, oddly, as I approach this weekend, I’m feeling a little bit like I did when I walked up to that first class on June 1, 2014.

I’m signed up for three workshops with a visiting teacher on Saturday and Sunday. And I’m nervous about it.

The situation is a little different this time. Before that first class, I really had no idea what we would be doing. But I know pretty much exactly what’s coming in two of the three sessions, and one of those — Sunday’s shoulderstand workshop — is massively intimidating.

I know how this is going to go — we’ll break down poses into their component pieces, and I’ll be ready to do them or not — and this isn’t the same kind of doubt I felt two years ago. Part of what I’m feeling is excitement. But for the first time in a long time, I’m also feeling a little anxious about going to the studio as well.

No, I’m not going to turn around before I get to the top of the stairs at BYS. I’m not going to skip out on the workshop for a breakfast at Piper’s. Even if I’m feeling like a new guy again.

we didn’t die.


So when Mrs. Crappy suggested that we take a bike ride down to the North Shore Trail this morning, I said “Sure!” while I thought that the hottest day of the year so far might not actually be the best time to ride down to the trail instead of driving to the parking lot just south of the penitentiary.

Our access to the trail is actually pretty easy — a quick ride down California Avenue, being careful on the parts where we str technically riding the wrong way on the one-way portion of the street.

And it’s all downhill.

The first part of the ride was great; we rode to the Water Steps near PNC Park, where we found a swimsuit photo shoot, about a dozen dogs and Dr. Yohe, who was walking the trail Sunday morning. We had a nice, refreshing stop in the fountain.

Looking for pix of the bikini model? Here you go...

And then we had to ride home.

Getting back to California Avenue wasn’t hard, but we did pick a way that required us to drag our bikes up a loooong set of steps from down by a park and ride lot off Beaver Avenue. And when I checked my phone, I saw that we were just barely two miles from home. No problem, right?

(Ahhahahahahahahaha! That’s funny…)

That two miles is all uphill, except for the part where you get to Davis Avenue and then get to coast for the last quarter mile it took us to get home. Mrs. Crappy had to walk a decent part of that stretch, but I am happy to say that I was able to ride the whole thing, with a couple of short breaks.

We then ate mountains of bacon and I took my pre-work nap while Mrs. Crappy headed to the pool.

No, we didn’t die. Yes, we now know we can make that ride and leave the car at home.

And, yes — maybe next time we won’t try it on a day when it’s already 80 by 10 a.m.