And so the exploration on the various yoga methods / forms continues. This time we did a Dharma Mittra class. It was awesome!
We started with the beginners class. It was calm, methodical and the teacher was very precise with his instructions. There were a lot of hip openers, ab strengthening exercises and twists to open up shoulders. Remember all my rants about how stiff my shoulders were? Well they’re getting a great workout now! And I did my very first tripod headstand (well, my feet were still in crow position on my arms but my first tripod nevertheless!!) This is what a tripod head stand with feet in crow looks like:
Following the beginners class was the Experienced Dharma Mittra class. It was labelled as such so Tony and I hung about afterwards and watched the first 10 mins or so through the window just to see what “Experienced” meant.
Within the first few minutes, everyone was already doing handstands… Having never done a handstand without a wall in my life and only done 1 handstand, yup… one…. against a wall many many months if not a year ago….. I was grateful that I was outside watching!
Still, we enjoyed the beginners class so much, we decided to try the normal Dharma Mittra class ie, not the beginners and not the experienced. I thought this would be a good intermediate class and boy was I wrong.
10 mins into the class, I actually had a think about whether or not I should be there, whether or not I should pack my things and leave and whether or not it would be rude to do so. I stuck it out (otherwise I would have been waiting outside for Tony for 1.5 hours). Never in my life have I searched for a clock inside the studio to tell me what time it was but in that class, after what felt like 3 eternities, I gave into my desperation and started scanning the entire room, found the clock and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that we only had 10 mins left. After the class, I told Tony my thoughts and believe it or not, he was thinking exactly the same thing (about leaving after the first 10 mins).
crow after crow
after side crow
after one legged crow
back into handstand
and then flip into wheel, to stand then back down into forearm balance into tripod forearm balance
into handstand with feet in eagle then forearm balance or handstand with straddle splits
and on and on and on like this for 1.5 hours. Oh and let’s throw in a guillotine to the mix
and finish with a peacock in lotus…
I put the pictures there so you can see the gravity of the situation. I was floundering in that class… wondering if the teacher was making it particularly hard just so he could say without saying….. “Get out of my class”. There was a point where he demonstrated a few postures and then said “OK, let’s go, get into it how you like” and so instead of jumping from downward dog into a crow, lifting into a handstand, backbending into a wheel and then coming up to standing, I just crawled into a plank and walked my feet forward to standing…tada!!!
I smiled my way through, giggled in embarrassment in fact. I knew I shouldn’t have been there. I couldn’t do anything…. not even a bit. I kept falling out or just staying in downward dog out of fear of landing on my face 100 times and I was sweating buckets. Tony’s thoughts were whether or not we were annoying everyone by being there doing everything in the most atrociously hideous versions known to yogi-kind. It was fun (believe it or not) but I know it was way out of my league.
Tony, well… he’s good enough. He can do the splits, guillotine and pigeon and he has a very good floor bow. The only things he has trouble with are inversions but that’s because we don’t do them much in Bikram Yoga but that will come with confidence. The other students were actually impressed with his abilities and even asked him how long he’d been doing Dharma Mittra… ahem… “Today’s my first time”… hahahaha
When I asked one of the students afterwards if there were any other beginners classes, she said that there was only one a week and that this class that we just attended, has attendance of 90% teachers.
When I asked about the “Experienced” class and if this class we just did was less difficult. Her answer was no… it was pretty much the same as the class we avoided and watched through the window!! Damn it!
What did I learn that day? I’m going back to beginners!!! I got the message loud and clear.
How could I possibly expect to run when I can’t even crawl. In this case, how could I expect to do a handstand scorpion when I cringe at the thought of doing a camel OR a headstand? You know how I mentioned that we wanted to build strong solid foundations? Yup… that day made me realise that I have no foundations in Dharma Mittra and one class wasn’t ever going to be enough to fill the big gaping holes in my practice.
So until I get comfortable with handstands, tripod stands and forearm balances (which I’ve never done one before btw), there is absolutely no point in attending another “normal” Dharma Mittra class!! I swear it wasn’t normal. It was like walking into a room thinking it’s a yoga class only to find out that it’s auditions for the Cirque du Soleil. OK maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. It was more like doing a yoga class with gymnasts and acrobats.
I found myself at various points of class going “Tones Tones!! LOOK!!!!” like he was missing out on the best part of the show every time the teacher did a demonstration. Tones would never recognise a demonstration was happening because the teacher would just get into a handstand, cross his legs in eagle and start doing push ups and sound like he was still just walking around. No change in voice or breath and yet there he was doing something amazing.
Pffft… that class made all my 3 years of work practicing Bikram Yoga look like 10 mins of sitting idly in a sauna. I now feel like the biggest whinger on the planet for any time I ever moaned about being tired in a hot yoga room.
If these guys were walking, Tony’s crawling and I’m still an embryo!!! Humbling experience? VERY. And quite possibly humiliating too. And yet, inspiring.
Onwards and upwards.
Beginners it is!! All the hip openers, ab strength, shoulder mobility and spine twists they do in beginners, they’re all the things that I need to work on along with all the inversions so it’s perfect for me now!!
We made time to go back to another beginners class. Our “first” Dharma Mittra class turned into 3 in a week! The teacher saw us sitting there, nodded to acknowledge us and then cheekily said, “Back to basics I see!”
“Yes….” Tony replied while chuckling. I smiled back bashfully. Yes sir, we are.
This was definitely something else and having never heard of this type of yoga before those 3 classes, our experience left us both in awe of, and with huge respect for, the practice, the teacher, the students and the guru. Most importantly, our experience left us inspired and hankering for more.
As for all those guys we practiced with in the more experienced class, I have huge respect for them and I hope the next time they encounter me in a class (because I don’t expect to attend again until I’ve mastered the basics), the respect will be mutual.
This is Sri Dharma Mittra himself doing one of those hand stands with legs in eagle. I don’t know how old he is in this picture but he’s in his mid 70’s these days. Now imagine him doing push ups like this and speaking as calmly as if he was sitting… Absolutely stunning!