Yoga? No-Go…at First

by Abby on July 25, 2011

Woman doing yogaIt took me a while to warm up to yoga, truth be told. I spent the early part of my childhood on a college campus in the ’70s, and I associated yoga with a certain type of bearded and/or tie-dye clad person who smells of patchouli. I tried yoga in college, and the hirsute, deodorant-averse female instructor did nothing to change my initial perception.

I tried it again in my 20’s when the word on the street among single professionals in my neighborhood was that the “yoga Nazi” at a local studio would change your life. People lined up on the sidewalk clutching the $5 “donation” for his class, held in a musty building on a busy street. The room smelled like, yes, patchouli and feet, and our mats were crammed an inch apart on the floor. The yoga Nazi, true to his name, strode imperiously into the room and without introduction, began barking orders at us for an hour. I never went back.

A few years later I was lured in by a yoga/Pilates hybrid called BodyFlow offered at my gym. The classes were choreographed to music, which I liked, and included segments designed to target specific muscle groups like the quads and abs, which I also liked. It was a BodyFlow instructor who encouraged me to try one of the gym’s “real” yoga classes, offered not in the main group exercise studio but in a smaller, private room down the hall. It’s exclusive, not for everyone, was the unspoken message.

The room was small, dark, and hushed. Women of all ages and sizes floated gracefully into the studio and unfurled their multicolored yoga mats. None of the gym-issued squishy blue mats here. These ladies were serious. The instructor was a blond woman of indeterminate age, with a soothing, rhythmic voice and peaceful aura about her. She used the exotic-sounding (Sanskrit?) names for the poses — Baddha Konasana, Trikonasana. “Pay attention to the breath,” she urged us, explaining that that’s what makes yoga different from other types of exercise.

I discovered I really like yoga – this kind of yoga, anyway. And I’m good at it. (Although that’s a very non-yoga thing to say, because you’re not supposed to strive for mastery, but focus on the practice.) As a kid, I was dismayed to find that my tall, skinny build was not ideal for gymnastics. Nor did I have the necessary strength to execute a powerful tennis serve. On the track team, I was fast but not the fastest. But yoga, it seems, I was built for.

Bow poseThat’s not to say I’m an expert, by any means. I cannot do a full forward bend to save my life, and I can’t even come close to doing a split in any direction. But I can do a mean crow, and my bow pose rocks, if I do say so myself. I don’t get to yoga as often as I’d like, but when I do I leave feeling refreshed, thoroughly stretched, and an inch taller. I’m glad I gave it another shot. Or 3.

READ O’ THE DAY: Claire Dederer’s “Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses” is an interesting and often funny memoir about a Seattle woman’s coming to terms with her family history and new motherhood. I could relate to much of it. Here’s an in-depth review of the book.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Mello July 25, 2011 at 8:01 am

I think that Yoga is one of the things that I will do when I retire in a couple of years. Right now my exercise regimen is done at 4:00 am 5 days a week as that is the only time I can squeeze it in. I have always wanted to find a way to be a bit more flexible and event though I do a lot of stretching, it really doesn’t do the trick.

I hope that it will help me to feel refreshed and relaxed….and an inch taller would be a pleasant bonus.

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Kim July 25, 2011 at 9:40 am

I tried yoga in high school and then in college, and I found the instructor either made me love it or hate it. When it leans on the meditative side with fewer uncomfortable positions, I love it 🙂 I think I’d probably be more into pilates if I had the time to work out. I miss working out more, but I take the 5 minutes here and there that I get!

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Angie Mizzell July 25, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I’m so jealous of your crow! (How’s that for a non-yoga thing to say?) I. can’t. do. it. But I enjoy the balance poses, focusing on the breath and the overall flow of yoga. I’ve tried Body Flow, but I enjoy a “real” yoga class. Years ago, when I worked at a gym, I took tons of yoga classes… a type called “Jivamukti” and we did lots of chanting and meditating. During the practice, one instructor would lead and another would walk around and help guide us into positions. The classes were easily 2 hours long. I loved it! These days, I’m back doing strength training… I like weights better than cardio… but I’m still a big fan of yoga.

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Malia Jacobson July 27, 2011 at 10:33 am

I discovered Hatha yoga in college and loved it. Like you, I stuck with it until I discovered I was sort of good at it. My flexibility (left over from gymnastics and cheerleading) helps. Also, I have a talent for standing on my head that’s not really useful in any other context. These days I don’t do much yoga, because my workout time is so scarce. When I do have a chance to exercise I feel like I need to get some cardio in (although my Hatha yoga workouts could get pretty intense!). I’m looking forward to getting back into it one of these days. Thanks for the reminder!

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