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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rock & Yoga

“Jumping from boulder to boulder and never falling... is easier than it sounds; you just can't fall when you get into the rhythm of the dance.” --Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums  
(Just want to give out a shoutout to good ol' knick-knack Kerouac, who has been quoted in what seems like almost all of my blog posts... He's just got the right words!)
View from the top of the
Thumb Butte Scramble,
Prescott, AZ. 
Rock climbing became a part of my life earlier this year, around May, and I've never taken to something so quickly and wholly. Something about my naivety around it, because as many know the world of rock climbing is incredibly comprehensive, allowed me to feel like a child in this new context, unleashed and excited and wanting to, simply put, just go up. 

My first day climbing was in an area called Jack's Canyon, a bit outside Flagstaff, Arizona. I knew virtually nothing going into it, not understanding this grading system of 5.8's being lesser than 5.11's, or the jargon of "bomber crimps" and hand jams. I was clueless, and I think it worked to my advantage. Truthfully, I felt like a cat, moving from one hold to the next with grace, but the bruises and scars on my body tell different stories about my first day finesse. Regardless, I fell in love with it. It felt natural, and real, and like my body was supposed to do it. Unlike other sports where there were rules and balls and essentially social constructs of how things were "supposed" to be done, this was more primal, more about each individual's body and how that body can get up this specific rock, and it made much more sense to me. It felt like it was exactly what I was meant to do. 

(As a side note, this BY NO MEANS makes me some kind of climbing prodigy. I fall, and bruise, and have less than 5 months of experience under my belt. I'm absolutely learning, for sure, but it still feels right for me to do.)

I spent the summer climbing here and there, but primarily anticipating what would be my Fall Block course at Prescott College: a four week introductory intensive on, as you may have guessed, rock climbing.... and yoga. 

Now, contrary to my magical eye-opening experience with rock climbing, prior to block, I had tried yoga approximately twice in my life and absolutely hated it. In high school, I was a mid and long distance track/cross country runner, and any flexibility I had once felt in my body had disappeared after that. When I tried yoga, all I felt was hurt and impatience, and little bit of anger towards my parents for not forcing me into ballet or gymnastics as a toddler. In my eyes, it was the perfect practice for someone who just was not me: calm, steady, and bendable. 

But, despite all that, I gained an utmost respect for yogis and their practice, and so when I saw that this was a class, I decided to bite the bullet and do it. Yoga is something that is even more expansive than the climbing world. It is an incredible and beautiful philosophical system, which some may argue to be a religion in itself, of which the poses (asanas), comprise only a very very small part of. 

Climbing with friends in Tuolumne Meadows,
Yosemite National Park, CA.
So from August 26th to September 19th, my classmates and I spent three days a week rock climbing in Prescott and the nearby areas, and two days a week in "The Chapel" classroom of Prescott College practicing hatha yoga, and learning about the history and philosophies of the whole realm of yoga. In all honesty, this is one of the best classes I have taken in all of college. 

Some of my gear, featuring a cameo
appearance of my kitten, Alaska.

Despite what many think, this class wasn't only about the tactical skills of climbing, including anchor building, belaying, and knot tying, or the physical posture requirements of the yoga asanas. In truth, my biggest takeaway from this course was about the mental aspect of both. Through readings such as Arno Ilgner's The Rock Warrior's Way, or a section of Bill Garrett's master's thesis on yoga, I learned so much about how the mind plays a role in not just my performance in these activities, but in life in general. I learned to slow down, breathe, appreciate the moment, and bring my awareness to the present, which has been helpful in an uncountable amount of occasions. I learned about being more present with my relationship with myself and others, and listening to an inner voice, more commonly known as a "gut feeling."

(I even started to like yoga...)

I just learned and even when I didn't know I was learning, I was. It was awesome, especially when we were learning in places like the Granite Dells, Thumb Butte, Granite Mountain, and Sullivan's Canyon. I gained so much from this class that has improved my climbing, not even so much in technique but really a lot in my self talk and breathing during a climb. 

In summary, if you're a Prescott College student, or will be, you really should take this course. In short, it will change your thinking and will make you a better person for yourself and the world you're in, and you'll pick up two pretty popular activities around here. 

Loosely put, some "yoga" overlooking Half Dome in Yosemite Valley,
Yosemite National Park, CA. 
To end the way I began, another on-point Kerouac quote, this one from On the Road:
"What difference does it make after all? --Anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven, for what's heaven? What's earth? All in the mind."
--Steph Doss, all photos are mine 

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