Drop and Give Me Zen: Taking my First Yoga Class
A good friend texted me Monday afternoon, inviting me to a yoga class with him bright and early on Tuesday. My initial reaction: um hell no. I've never done yoga, never have really been interested in trying, and Tuesday was my long-awaited rest day. But as I was typing the nicest "thanks but no thanks" text, a hint of curiosity crept in. And considering I'm on this new YES man kick, I guilt-tripped myself into typing a "hell yeah" instead and mentally prepped for some oncoming public humiliation.
But believe me, I wasn't going to show up unarmed. So less than ten minutes later, I was in my car en route to TJ Maxx, where I planned to hunt down the perfect yoga mat (step one to becoming a true yogi, right?). Well, it turns out winter is coming and apparently, people don't work out in the winter, because the fitness section was NON-EXISTENT. But after a bit of digging, I did find a bin of about five lackluster yoga mats collecting dust. So I grabbed the best one I could find: a pink one with an intricate paisley pattern, and what seemed like a fitting #yogspiration quote smack dab in the middle: "Love nurtures all things that grow; it harmonizes and unites." (See, my logic was to snag the most "I belong here" mat, which would camouflage me in the crowd. 😉)
Well I showed up to Yoga One the next day, right on time, but as hard as I tried, I didn't fit in at all. I'm pretty sure I looked like a deer in headlights, anxiously studying the movements of everyone else before the class even began. And then the instructor walked in, immediately speaking what seemed like a foreign language, and everyone else jumped into formation. After a few moments, I quickly recognized some poses (downward dog, praying mantis), so I awkwardly joined in on the fun. But just as I was seemingly getting the hang of things, the class took some sort of "Om" break, where everyone started yelling "Om" in unison. Man, I wish I had a camera to capture the look of utter confusion on my face.
After everyone got the Om's out of their system, we were back in action, twisting and turning, and progressively moving faster and faster. The tempo picked up and it almost started to feel like a bit of a cardio sesh, which I was totally diggin. And I think I was kinda starting to look like I belonged, just a bit. Like in the really uncoordinated, very unflexible kid in the back corner kind of way.
But then I got comfortable too soon, because the instructor started throwing some curveballs my way. She yelled out "Supported Headstand", "Crane", and "Bridge" and everyone started contorting themselves into crazy pretzels and back bends (you know, the ones that only ten year olds should be doing). I must say, I am so thankful that this was hot yoga, where the room was heated up to 100+ degrees, because no one could spot my bright-red blushing that came from some epic crash landings.
After about 50 minutes, the momentum of the class started slowing down. We ended the session with some basic stretches, a bit of meditation, and what I like to call a three-minute "nap time", where we laid on our mats in complete silence with cold lavender towels over our eyes. It was pure bliss.
I had done it! I conquered my first yoga class!! Ugh wait, not yet: one more "Om" break before we go... okay now I did it! And I couldn't believe how relaxed, renewed, and limber I felt. As cliché as it sounds, I was one with my body.
Now for some key takeaways:
I never thought yoga was a real workout.
I'll admit it, I have always been a bit of a cardio snob, thinking that yoga wasn't a real workout. All this time, I ignorantly believed that it was merely a form of stretching and meditation, and only worked up a sweat if you jacked up the thermostat in the room. Well after this morning's workout, I will be the first to swallow my pride and say I was totally wrong. Sure, yoga might not be the intense strength or endurance exercise that I'm used to, but it absolutely pushes your boundaries in different ways.
Yoga is just as much about flexibility as it is strength. And even though I would like to think that I've built up a good amount of upper body strength over the past year, it only took about 10 minutes of downward dogs and plank poses for my shoulders to feel the burn. Being able to lift and support your own body weight requires so much more power than you would think, and for that reason, I have no doubt I will be achingly sore tomorrow.
Yogis aren't competitive creatures.
I don't know what led me to assume that I would be met with twenty judging pairs of eyes when I walked in the room, but contrary to my expectations, not one other person looked down on me because I was the newbie. Everyone was completely in their zone the entire time and rarely even made eye contact with one another. It was such a relief to hear silence instead of snickers when I couldn't get my arms to play along during the Eagle pose. And there was even an assistant instructor circling the room to tweak our movements and provide assistance if something (or someone) looked out of place.
Breathing is kind of a big deal.
One of my main takeaways from this session: don't hold your breath. Inhale, exhale, and don't forget it. Even be as loud and as obnoxious as you want when it comes to breathing. The human humidifier next to me certainly was (haha throwing no shade, he was in his element. 🙌) All jokes aside, it turns out that proper breathing is a huge component of yoga, because it allows you to be present, relax, and connect with your emotions. This is definitely an area that I need to work on, because I'm often guilty of taking very shallow, irregular breaths during exercise.
To wrap it up, this yoga experience wasn't at all what I expected.... and I absolutely loved every bit of it. Being out of my athletic comfort zone was thrilling, and discovering a workout that was challenging for me makes me want to conquer it even more. I'm already looking at my schedule, planning how I can regularly squeeze in one yoga session a week. Oh my gosh, guys, I think I've become a YOGI!
Photo Credits: Yoga One.