How I Met My Hamstrings: Behind the Scenes of a Private Yoga Lesson (And Why You Should Probably Get One): Part II

October 20, 2011 / Aaron



Spoiler alert: I originally tried to keep the instructor's identity secret, so that I wouldn't bias anyone for or against said instructor and you'd all be free to connect privately with the instructor who speaks to you, knows your practice, etc. But, then I realized that, to write about my experience honestly, I had to describe the instructor's approach fully, and that would give it all away. The second I wrote "diamond in the sky" you'd all get it, so whatever: it's Edna.

So yeah. After "warming up" (I won't lie, I was way beyond warm, and already feeling the burn), we moved into sun salutations. All I did was stand up straight at the top of my mat, and Edna simply observed me: in her professional, caring, non-judgmental way.

"Hmm," she remarked, "Your ankles are different."

I looked down at my feet. They looked pretty similar to me, but what do I know. Then she gently pointed to the humped bones of my ankles, one of which seemed to "stick out" a little more than the other. Weird. Here I've had these ankles for 27 years and I've never noticed, but she had picked up on it after only a few minutes.

"Oh well," she said, "Everyone's a little different, and it shouldn't stop you."


We started to flow through some sun salutations, and my down-dog got worked over like nobody's business. Apparently, I took it a little too literally when someone described it to me as a "resting pose." I just kinda stuck my butt up in the air, pressed through my heels until I could feel my calves sing a little, and rolled my shoulders back. I did make an effort to spread my fingers and ground through my hands, and I was pretty proud of myself for remembering to take my yoga so seriously.


The first thing Edna did was to place her hands firmly in the center of my upper back, and apply smooth pressure to straighten out my spine. She turned my mat perpendicular to the mirror, and said, "Watch this. Don't look up until I tell you." After straightening my spine, she stood up and rotated my pelvis out and up, so the tops of my hipbones were angled toward my shoulders, rather than straight down at the floor. Then, she got behind me, wrapped her hands around my thighs, and pulled back. I felt my heels inch incrementally closer to the ground, I felt the balls of my feet ground more firmly below me, I felt my spine lengthen and tailbone pointing up.

"Now look," she said. I turned my head to the mirror and saw myself, sweating and red, but in the shape of a nearly perfect upside-down V. Damn, I've never looked so good!

She let go of my legs and I shifted subtly forward, not quite the perfect V I had been a moment ago.

"Uh oh," Edna said, "what happened?" I shrugged and she came back around, tapped the tops of my quads. "Engage here," she said.

I tried. Nothing happened.

She tapped my thighs again and said, "Right here. Make this hard."

I tried, but remained squishy. Edna furrowed her brows and told me to come out of the pose and stand up. I did, and she knocked lightly on my quads until, finally, they tightened, then she said, "There! That's it! I knew you were stronger than that," and told me to get back down into my DD and keep those thighs as flexed as they had been when I was standing up.

And what do you know, I found my hamstrings.

Somehow, I had spent months listening to this same instructor tell me to do all these things: lift my chest, ground through my hands and feet, and engage my inner thighs, but only now, after being painstakingly molded and tweaked into position, did I get it. So this is down dog. Well, hello there.