Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Meditations on Yoga

This is the story about how I (who am not a yoga person AT ALL) have a new hobby and it is, of all things, yoga.

I still don't think of myself as a "yogi".  I'm not a touchy, feely person.  I'm not a hugger.  So the thought of being in a room with a bunch of people saying "ooommm" a lot doesn't appeal to me.  And what's the deal with the third eye on the forehead?  My son already thinks I have eyes in the back of my head and that's quite enough extra eyes for me.  Also, for some reason, I think of yoga and vegetarians as going hand and hand.  I know, I'm generalizing. Some of my best friends are vegetarians.  Still, I can't imagine giving up bacon and somehow I think that means I am not a candidate for yoga.

Another reason I never tried yoga before: I thought it was all about stretching.  I know stretching is good for you, just like flossing is good for you and a whole host of other things that I should do to improve my health.  I've even read articles about red wine, coffee and chocolate being good for you, which is just awesome.  Really, I'm waiting for an article that says bacon is good for you but I haven't come across it yet.  If you see one, let me know.  Anyway, for some reason, I have an easier time drinking wine and eating chocolate on a regular basis than I do flossing and stretching.  

Here I am, living peacefully in my yoga-free existence when along comes my friend Debbie.  She keeps talking about yoga and how it makes her happy.   Debbie invites me as a guest to her class and, in some lapse of my normal judgement, I agree to go.  Now, Debbie and I have been friends for a long time and I've known her to eat a piece of bacon or two.  I figure I'll keep quiet about that so the people in the yoga studio don't ostracize her.

I learn that there are about as many types of yoga as there are religions.  We are going to do Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga.  It was founded in the 1940's by a man named Walt Baptiste.  It was further developed by his son Baron Baptiste in the 1980's.   The ninety minute class is in a room where the temperature hovers around 94 degrees.   At Debbie's advice, I pick a spot near the windows where it is a few degrees cooler. 

The class begins and I discover that I am really bad at yoga.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I am pretty good at child's pose at the beginning, and corpse pose at the end.  It is everything in between that needs work.  The class seems to follow a certain rhythm.  First we do a bunch of poses that have funny names like Chaturanga Dandasana but I am not fooled.  You call a push up by any other name and it is still a push up.  I am breaking a sweat, my heart rate is up and I am fully aware of my pathetic lack of upper arm strength.  Next come the balance poses, and I realize that I don't favor one side or the other--I am equally uncoordinated on both sides.  After wobbling about trying to stand on one foot for a while, we move into the exercises for core strength and I discover abdominal muscles I didn't even know I had.  Finally, we move to stretching and I concede that my lack of regular commitment on this front has not helped my flexibility in any way. 

Each time the instructor calls out a new pose, I glance around to see what everyone is doing and then I attempt it.  But as horrible as I am, I actually like it.  Everyone is so focused on their own progress, no one is looking at my feeble, unskilled attempts.  The class is fast paced and I feel like I'm getting a great workout.  But the best part is the teacher.  Along with her instruction, she gives us a pep talk, cheering us on as we go, pushing us to try a little harder and go a little further.  It's like I signed up for a yoga class and they threw in a 90 minute motivational seminar for free.   I decide to take advantage of a deal for new students and purchase a discounted class pack.   "What the heck," I think.  "I'll try another class or two."

My family took notice of my second trip to the yoga studio.  Be it coincidence, fate or just plain luck it was shortly before the holidays.   My gifts this year include a yoga bag, yoga towel, yoga shirt and book about yoga.  I look like a walking advertisement for Lululemon although I feel a bit like an imposter.  I look like a yogi and dress like a yogi but I can't hold a tree pose for more than three seconds and there's too much sweat in my third eye for me to see anything clearly.  I still don't like hugs and I still love bacon but I'm beginning to rethink my opinion on yoga.  I think I kind of like it.

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