Please meet Mike Gluck. He is Mind Body Flow Yoga’s featured student for this month’s newsletter. He has a beautiful yoga practice and was generous in sharing it with us, as he demonstrates Balancing Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana).
Mike Shares His Yoga Journey
The day before my first class at Mind Body Flow Yoga, I spent at least an hour on the MBFY website and Google and Yelp and anywhere else I could think of, trying to learn everything I could about the classes.
How hot would the room be?
Would I be the only guy?
What if I got really sweaty and started dripping sweat on my yoga mat?
Did I need yoga pants, or were gym shorts and a t-shirt OK?
I told myself I just wanted to be prepared. But really, I was anxious and worried about walking through the door. Did I belong there? Was I good enough? What if I wasn’t?
Being anxious wasn’t anything new for me. I’ve been this way for as long for as I can remember. As a kid, I worried about whether my grades were good enough and if my friends liked me and whether 15-year-old me had bad breath (true story – I once ate a whole box of Tic-Tacs before a high school dance).
As a grown-up, I worry about whether I’m raising my kids the right way and if I’ll have enough work for the next month and how long I can put off having the house painted before the neighbors say something about the mismatched window frames. When I leave the house, I worry that the stove is on (it’s always off) and the garage door is open (it’s always closed). Even now, I’m worried about whether or not you’ll enjoy reading my story, even though I’ve probably never met you.
I started going to yoga because I could barely touch my toes. Yes, I’ve worked out since high school, off and on, mostly running and lifting a few weights. But, with a desk job – and the fact that high school was many years ago – my flexibility was getting worse and worse.
So, I took a yoga class at my gym and loved it.
It was (a lot) harder physically than I thought, which gave me something to work toward. And it helped my flexibility, one twist, and stretch and fold at a time. But more than that, I loved the way that it quieted my anxiety. I felt like a different person walking out of class – and the feeling lasted for hours and hours – sometimes for days.
The gym only offered yoga once a week, so I decided to check out MBFY, and I’ve been going there ever since. For me, it’s like paying for the gym and getting therapy for free. (I don’t think it’s an accident that “Mind” is the first word in the name of the studio.)
Yes, I’m still anxious about things. I still worry. I still have all the issues that I’ve had for years. But, not as much. Because yoga gives a way to recognize these feelings, accept them for what they are, and then keep going.
I breathe deeper.
I stay calmer for longer.
I let more things go.
And because I’m less anxious, I’m also less stressed, more patient and more present, which means I’m nicer to people (including – most importantly – my wife and kids). I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed the change – at least not yet. But, I can tell the difference, especially in the hours right after class. And for now, that’s what matters.
While lowering my anxiety is one of the biggest changes, there are certainly other things I’ve picked up along the way, including:
1. Confidence. Thanks to Marina, Rebecca, Carly and the other teachers, I’ve learned a lot more about myself – like the fact that I miss out on things because I hold myself back. Now, when I catch myself thinking that I can’t, or I don’t belong, or I don’t deserve something, I can reframe my thinking and, as Marina says, “be a yes” (like saying “yes” to writing this story, even though I hesitated at first).
2. Presence. Everything is temporary, as the teachers say. So you better enjoy it, whatever you’re doing.
3. Balance. There are moments in class when I feel weightless when I find the perfect point between getting as far into the pose as I can and not falling on my face (or other parts). Those moments keep me going.
4. Focus. When I’m dripping sweat and my shirt is untucked and my arms and legs just won’t bend that way (even though everyone else is doing it), it’s easy to compare myself to, well, everyone else. But, as Marina says, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Once I stopped thinking about what everyone else thinks, I realized that – thankfully – nobody else cares how I look. Nobody else cares if I fall. I’m doing this for me. That’s enough.
And so, that’s my journey. Although to be honest, it feels a bit strange writing about my “journey” when I only just started a few months ago. Sure, I’ve learned a lot so far, but I really don’t know what comes next. Does that make me anxious? Yes. But, that’s life. And thanks to yoga, I’m getting better at accepting that I can’t Google all the answers ahead of time. I can’t control everything. Life is always going to be full of things that can worry me – but only if I let them.
What is this Pose About?
This is a standing balancing pose, which lengthens your spine and opens your hips. The resulting shape is a deep opening through these areas, as well as the chest and shoulders. Watch Mike enter into this asana from Mountain Pose (Tadasana). He will exit the pose and land back in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) as well.
Here are a few things to keep in mind, if you decide to try this pose, or if you have already started to experiment with it.
Tips for Balancing Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
- Stand at the top of your mat in Mountain Pose. Take a big step back (approximately 3 feet) with your right foot, turning your foot towards the side of the mat while keeping your left toes pointing forward. Your two hip points are now facing the side of the mat.
- Take the arms out in a “T” with your palms pointing down; your shoulders are relaxed while moving your shoulder blades down your back.
- Place your right hand on your waist.
- Start to bend your left knee, gradually shifting your weight into your left leg as you lift your right foot off the floor. Maintain equal weight in your inner arch, outer arch, forefoot, and heel of your standing foot.
- Simultaneously allow your left hand to float towards the floor or a block, “spidering” your fingers so that you are on the finger pads with your fingers spread.
- Your hand should be roughly 12 inches in front of your left foot, stacked directly under your shoulder. Look down to begin, finding a Drishti, or gaze point that is unmoving.
- Keep reaching out through the top of your head to encourage length in the spine and neck.
- Flex your right foot strongly to align the shin, keeping your toes pointing to the side wall.
- Pressing out through your heel to lengthen the leg, raise your leg so that it is parallel to the floor or eventually slightly higher to be in a long line continuous with your waist.
- Keeping your left kneecap lifted so that the quadriceps is contracted, begin to straighten your standing leg. Imagine your tail tucking under gently so that your right hip opens further to the right wall.
- To deepen the pose you may extend your right arm up towards the sky, palm facing the same direction as your right toes. You may also turn your gaze to the side wall, or up to your right hand, continuing to lengthen out through the top of your head.
- Breathe comfortably for at least five breaths.
- To exit the pose, exhale looking down towards your left foot, lower the right hand to your waist, gracefully lowering the right foot back to the earth just as you began.
- Draw the low belly in, root down through your feet, and inhale as you rise up.
- Return to Mountain Pose and repeat on the other side.
- Expands your chest and shoulders
- Increases mobility of your hip joints
- Increases neck mobility
- Lengthens your spinal muscles
- Stretches your hamstrings and groin muscles
- Strengthens and tones muscles of your thighs and calves
- Traditionally thought to improve digestion and menstruation, relieve stress and aid in healing diseases of your legs
- Neck Pain – Keep the head level and look straight forward.
- Low Back Pain / Sacroiliac Pain – Ensure you are drawing in the muscles of your lower belly and the muscles of your pelvic floor (used to stop the flow of urine) to support your pelvis and low back before entering the pose.
- Low Blood Pressure – This pose is similar to other inversions, where the head is below the heart. Use a block under your support hand (see below) to raise your head to the same level as your heart, or above.
Have you tried this pose before? What has been your experience?