My First Day Of Yoga

An occasional feature of this blog, we’ll be following one woman’s introduction to and experience of Yoga. Enjoy!

I’m a Yoga virgin. Or was (…blush…). The stars aligned and I made it to my first Yoga class at the gym today. Where to begin… 

Given what I know of my gym, I didn’t expect candles, incense, and recordings of sandstorms raging beneath Buddhist throat singing. In that, I was spot on. The gloriously fluorescent lights at the gym are on motion sensors, so the only way to turn them off is to not move. Yoga. Movement. So lights. Buzzing, icky lights. But whatever. I’m here, and this is gonna be great! In place of incense to relax or stimulate the mind and body was the undeniable bouquet of eau de petroleum-based solvent. So the doors stayed open and the fan stayed on high. And while I have to admit some throat-singing monks would have been cool, well, I’ll get to the music in a minute.

A smiling, welcoming instructor and one other student invite me in and immediately try to put me at ease. Kind of like the nurses in the OR just before risky surgery, “Hey there! Oh, don’t worry, you can do this! Just relax! It’s always hard at first, but you’ll be fine!” (Ever notice that similarity? I wonder if I should check for hidden incisions…) The nice thing was, and I didn’t realize it until after I was home, I felt comfortable from the get-go. If I had gone to a more formal class, perhaps with a less enthusiastic instructor, or with a room full of Yoga debs who didn’t want their auras smudged with a newbie, I would have been a lot more anxious. But retrospectively, I felt none of that. Rachel’s instruction was oddly laid back, accompanied by some very interesting music choices (g’head…try to keep a straight face in Yoga class when “I Got the Moves Like Jagger” is chirping away from the corner). Her gentle correction to my unbelievably wooden posture wasn’t the least bit awkward (though I’m told I may have that to look forward to), and the comments from the peanut gallery (I call him Yoga Bob), were lighthearted, self-effacing, and helped me stay relaxed and confident. Didn’t hurt that I saw every single participant in the class wince at different times. My people.

Doc says I have osteopenia and that it’s not really a big deal yet and that women “that age” are going to be prone to a little bone density loss. Uh, no, thank you. So I joined the gym. I get a good hour-long workout in about 3 times a week, except when I don’t, and I’ve honestly always wanted to try Yoga. Back surgery, three kids, and crazy medical stuff have given me plenty of reasons to avoid Yoga. Plus there was that time I was trying Yoga with my class of 2nd-7th graders with this awesomely flexible (we’re talking over-cooked pasta) instructor, and I pulled a muscle in my back during the warm-up. Warm-up, people. Yeah, I was stuck on the floor in something like the Twisted Sister pose, trying discreetly to get someone’s attention. It wasn’t happening, so I managed to drag myself out of the room unnoticed, still in the pose. The aftermath involved the Jaws of Life and believe me, those kids are still scarred. Good enough reason never to try Yoga again. Except “that age” thing.

Rachel announces the first pose, and I actually understood the words she was saying. I thought I was going to have to take night classes in Sanskrit to be able to understand the names of the poses, or at least cheat and keep an eye on the dude next to me. But she spoke ‘merican, bless her heart, so I got another injection of confidence. Maybe I can do this!

So first is the Easy Pose. What on God’s green earth is easy about it?! I think it should be called the Potentially Easy Pose or the It’ll Be Easy In a Few Weeks Pose. First of all, my yoga mat, which I hauled out of the crawl space and had to scrape cat fur off of, is about .01mm thick. I think we got it as a sleeping bag mat when my son went camping. Once. He didn’t sleep well, and he’s never gone again. Maybe the mat? But I digress…

Sitting cross-legged is difficult: the little bones of my ankles are being squished into the mat without mercy while my hips are screaming, “Just end it now!!” I know all about tight hips. The St. Francis lawn ornament in our garden has looser hips than I do. Seriously. So just crossing my legs is agony (see Chris Pine ripping open his shirt…). Throw in a straight spine, taking deep breaths, and relaxing – it was just too much. I stink at multitasking. It took me too long to figure out where to put my feet so they didn’t hurt. And to keep my weight evenly distributed over my hips. (Do I list?!) By the time I had my feet arranged, we were moving on. Thank the Yoga gods.

At this point I’m actually feeling pretty good because I made it out of warm-up without requiring a muscle relaxant and bedrest. Go me! Then Yoga Bob says, “Better get some blocks.” I’ve heard about blocks – they’re going to save my life in this class, so I go grab the two biggest ones I can find. We’re doing something (I don’t know my poses yet, in Sanskrit or anything else) which requires standing on one foot, bent over at the waist with the other leg out behind. And my hands were on those precious blocks. It shocked me how unbalanced I was. I thought that years of cycling, workouts, tennis, etc. would keep me in pretty good shape. But as the spaghetti-instructor of the aforementioned muscle strain told me, “You have muscle, but you need flexibility to make it last!” Touché.

After several stretching and balancing poses, we were told it was time for meditation. Yaaaay!! So the music shifted from Maroon 5 to something a little softer. I can hear very little, so it could have been Morbid Angel at a really low volume for all I know. Anyway, Rachel was trying to create a relaxing environment given the lights and paint thinner. So I learn the Corpse Pose. For Pete’s sake, all you have to do is lie on the floor like a dead body (without the chalk outline). Here’s the catch. About 10 years ago, I had back surgery and had pins and screws and nuts and bolts and washers and finishing nails put in my back. Corpse Pose puts pressure on all those little guys and it was about the LEAST relaxing position I could have been in to finish out the session. I went ahead and bent one knee and tried my best not to think about the St. Louis Arch my back was forming. We finally sat up, slowly, and smiled at each other. We did it. I did it. And I didn’t require medical attention. Whew.

I think this environment (gym/Superfund site), with this instructor (“Ow! Nope, I can’t do that one today!”), and the wincing, wobbling, but supportive and encouraging classmates were the perfect storm for me. I will be attending the class again (with a thicker mat and the largest legally sanctioned blocks allowed) and I am actually looking forward to it. Well done, Rachel, Yoga Bob, Maroon 5, and the little girl from the kids’ corner taking pictures of us all with her DS. (I will find you.)