Monday, March 22, 2010

Contrasting Yoga Environments

In the Winter here, I typically do yoga on a yoga mat, poolside, in the sun. The vitamin D is refreshing, gives me a chance to see hummingbirds, smell my lemon tree, and humans are inexorably drawn to bodies of water. It's sort of the "standard" to which all other yoga venues are in my mind. On the pool deck, I use an old, clean, twin bed sheet - that doubles as a painting drop cloth - to keep the dusty pool deck from contaminating my mat.

In the summer here, when the sun's rays bake the yoga mat to a burning 130F+, I have to move inside, or in the the shade at least. When it is not noon +/- an hour, finding full shade can be difficult in the Arizona summer. Doing yoga indoors is not as refreshing and satisfying as it is doing it outside.

When we went to Hawaii last October for a genetics conference, we had a wide ocean view 16th floor balcony on which I practiced yoga almost every day. The breezes and view were invigorating, but the humidity made it a sweaty endeavor. It's the 2nd best place I've ever practiced yoga.

Last August, for our anniversary, Dr Desert Flower and I went to Sedona for the weekend, and there was a balcony there as well on the small Hilton Hotel room I got with HHonors points. Same low humidity and climate as home (a little cooler) but the view was not as good, over-looking a parking lot. (We Did see bats at sunset, which was really cool)

Last month I traveled back to my company's headquarters, and did yoga in the Hilton & Hampton hotel rooms where I stayed each evening. Same sheet barriers used, but Ew! The smell of hotel carpet permeated the sheet and my mat, requiring a thorough cleaning. The softness of the carpet also lead to a "sponginess" that took some getting used to. Watching the Olympics on the TV while doing yoga was also somewhat surreal.

Earlier this month, I attempted to do yoga in St.John US V.I.. The villa's downstairs where we stayed was too tiny to facilitate rolling out a yoga mat, so I attempted to do it on the pool deck just after dawn one morning. Lots of no-see-ums and tiny biting insects appreciated my close proximity to the bougainvilleas at the edge of the pool deck, and enjoyed feasting upon my flesh & blood. That made for a not-so-relaxing experience. 2 days later, I did yoga, pool adjacent, far away from the shrubbery, and this helped to dissuade the insects from biting me, but, it began to rain 15 minutes into the session, sort of spoiling things.

On two different St.John beaches, I practiced yoga. On Cinnamon Beach, I did it at the mangrove tree line, where the sand was firmly compacted. This worked well for standing poses, but seated poses were not a good idea, with the number of crawling insects busily carrying away mangrove fruits and various foliage. For the seated poses, I did those on the towel, in the softer sand, closer to the shore line. I don't like to do yoga in public, and prefer to have some privacy... except after drinking, and then I throw privacy to the wind and my don't-give-a-dern factor tends to multiply.

On Trunk Bay's beach, on our last snorkeling day, I tried to "compact" the sand near the high tide line, a few feet from the end of my towel, with my feet. Gradually, pressing down with my heel and ball of my foot, I tried to "flatten & compress" the sand, in 3 areas about one foot square - one to stand in the middle and one to do spread-leg downward poses for each foot. This was a failure. The sand was not fully compressible via the weight of a 92Kg man. While the venue was lovely, with gently crashing surf behind me, tropical mountains, palms, and soaring pelicans abundant, the shifting sands caused me to pull several muscles and strain connective tissues in the upper legs and lower abdomen. I paid for this on the long flight home the next day, and for 2 days afterwards, hobbling a little - in conjunction with my stubbed toe from 10Mar10.

I cannot recommend anyone taking a yoga mat that they want to keep to a St.John beach, with blowing sand, salt, very soft surfaces, and the impossibility of minimizing contamination. It's really impractical. If you do attempt to do yoga on a sandy beach, be very careful about "extreme" poses that could cause you any strain. Stick to simple seated poses on a large beach towel, and avoid over-extension.

Once, about 30 months ago, I did yoga in business class in a Delta 767-ER on my way back from Barcelona Spain to Phoenix via ATL. No one was seated behind me or beside me in my middle row seat (sparsely populated that flight, 2L, 2 middle, 2 right seating - only United tries to Cram a 3rd seat int he middle of a 767 in the US). The seats reclined to about 170 degrees. Dark cabin lighting gave the illusion of being "alone". The seated poses were easy. Lack of turbulence provided extended opportunities to do the standing poses without being in the aisle. As the passengers disembarked, and elderly lady asked me how long I had been practicing yoga, and that she'd never seen someone do it on a plane. It was only at that point that I realized, the 'illusion of being alone' in the plane's cabin.

As the sun's radiation continues to warm my pool, I plan on swimming in early April - il faut voir. Pool temp is 69F as of yesterday. More sun, and it will continue to climb. I documents last year the beer-pool-yoga, and I intend on renewing that. Wine-pool-yoga may be a lower carb alternative that needs to be explored this year.

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