Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I own a yoga mat now, so. . .

Yoga has never appealed to me. Maybe because I can’t sit still. Maybe because I’m not very flexible. Maybe because I don’t know anything about it, and new things tend to frighten me. Maybe because of the pretentious manner in which most people tote around their yoga mats. I'm guessing it's a combination of these things.

I could only ignore the hype of its benefits for so long and purchased Jillian Michaels’ (of course) Yoga Meltdown DVD a few years ago. After doing it twice, bored out of my mind, I never used it again, convinced yoga was just as ridiculous as I thought it was.

After all my time watching quite a variety of yogis vigilantly attend classes at the gym, my curiosity started creeping in again since I had never actually taken a yoga class of any kind. The closest I got was chickening out of using a hot yoga Groupon I once bought – but, really, what was I thinking with that one? I sweat way too much as is for any good to have come from it. When I realized my schedule allowed for me to attend a yoga class immediately following a Zumba class two weeks ago, I thought why not go ahead and completely embarrass myself two classes in a row?
Luckily, I convinced two pretty cool friends to go with me and then went out and bought my very own yoga mat over my lunch break- and I have to say, I felt anything but elegant or refined trying to carry it back with me, weaving in and out of people and hitting most of them with the rolled-up magic carpet that was about to help me completely transform myself.

I cannot even begin to imagine the variations of yoga classes and instructors that exist, so I really had no idea what to expect, although I assumed I would either be bored and stifling yawns (and giggles) or miserably failing at contorting my body into impossible positions – and also still stifling giggles. I had heard good things from gym members about the instructor that day, so I was excited to see what all the fuss was about.

The lights went out, calming music started, and as we settled into child’s pose, the instructor encouraged us to quiet our minds and let go of all the negative thoughts holding us down. As she talked, I was surprised at how easy it was to relax  - and also at how good it felt. Over the course of about an hour, she led us through sets of pretty basic poses. Even I had heard of most of them and had a general idea of where my limbs should be, but I did often have to peek around at class members to try to figure out what I was actually
supposed to look like. I also admit to doing a little extra peeking out from under my legs when advanced participants were told they could go into headstands or crow pose or what have you. I wanted to attempt some of them just to see exactly what level of pathetic my strength is at, but I didn’t think anyone would appreciate having to see and hear me come crashing down.

I loved feeling like I was actually getting a bit of a workout in since my legs got a little shaky in some positions. It was also fun to just flow from one position to another, feeling weightless (though quickly being reminded of the truth since I stood right next to the mirror), and to really only be focusing on the movements and how I felt physically instead of on the  random thoughts usually running through my head at a ridiculous pace. I did giggle a little (I mean, come on, my butt was literally in my friend's face at one point), but I kept it to a minimum.

At the end, we lay on our backs with our eyes closed as the instrumental version of one of my favorite songs played and the instructor told us to thank ourselves and our bodies for taking the time to complete the class. I never thought it would feel so good to lie on my back on a dirty floor surrounded by strangers with no shoes on, but it was pretty awesome – awesome enough to go back again the following week.

I plan on going at least once a week now that I have an appreciation for it and can view it as an enhancement to my workout routine rather than the only workout on a given day - which is why I think I was so frustrated with it before because, mentally, I just have to feel gross and sweaty to feel satisfied with a workout, even if that isn’t a determining factor of success in reality.

I doubt once a week is enough to truly reap the benefits, but I will at least start there and see how it goes as I gradually dabble in it a bit more. I don't think I'll become the next yoga fanatic sashaying past you on the street with my mat, but I am happy to say that just the word yoga used to get nothing but an eye roll from me, and now I would honestly recommend it to anyone who might bother to ask my thoughts on it (although hopefully you know there are many other people that question is better suited for).

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