I remember my first time taking a yoga class. I had never heard of ‘yoga’ before but my friend said it was “stretching but relaxing at the same time”. I was probably a freshman in high school and the class was held at the local nature center in town. I enjoyed it but never really got into the practice. Throughout college I dabbled now and then, but again, never too serious. About two years ago I started going once a week on Sunday mornings, and I loved it. I looked forward to it all week. The class was large, the instructor was fantastic, and the class was for beginners. For two solid months I went every Sunday and I can honestly say I had never felt better. Somewhere after the two month mark my personal life took a nose dive and I stopped going to the gym altogether and I completely forgot about yoga. My poor mat sat in its bag for two years.
Two months ago I decided I wanted to try again, but I was up significantly in weight and I felt intimidated to go to even my basic class. So I waited for the Yoga 101 workshop my gym held every two months to start.
This past Saturday I attended the workshop. I was excited to go, especially since my wrist feels tremendously better lately and I knew I could at least attend and not worry my wrist would give out. I found out there were only seven of us signed for the workshop. Nice and intimate! I eagerly arrived, slipped off my shoes and socks (meanwhile trying not to think about possible foot fungus on the floor) and walked into the room. I was immediately smacked with a dry heat. I was confused for a second that I was possibly there at the wrong time and a hot yoga class was about to start. Nope, I was in the right place.
If you spend time with me then you know I don’t handle the heat well. I do not do saunas, hot tubs, afternoon sun in the middle of summer…just no.
Apparently the description for the class changed, which I was not aware of, and mentioned an introduction to hot yoga as well. The temperature of the room made me feel slightly like I was suffocating and I was super uncomfortable and almost wanted to leave. Forget hot yoga, I don’t understand how people get through a Bikram class without passing out! Thankfully the instructor came in soon after and stated she turned on the AC for the room and it would cool off momentarily. I sought out a spot under a vent and planted it.
As I sat on my mat and soaked in the room, and it’s ::ahem:: temperature, I was extremely aware of the mirrors at the front of the room since the curtains weren’t pulled. Just like any other woman who carries weight in her mid-section, when you sit down then the tire protrudes even more and you don’t want to catch a glimpse at all, which I did by accident when the instructor came to ask me a question. I was startled. I knew I had gained some weight back but holy shit, when did my stomach get so big?! I blinked back tears as I signed my name to the sign-in sheet and handed it to the instructor. Thankfully the lights were down low in the room.
I wanted to grab my mat and run.
I didn’t want to stay.
Just like any attempt to find clothes that fit well or look halfway decent, my self-confidence took a nose dive to the point of instant depression when I saw myself in the mirror and I wanted to hide. I swear there was a slight out-of-body experience that happened. I stood up, rolled up my mat quickly, apologized that I didn’t feel good all of a sudden and fled the room. But instead I sat there, legs semi-crossed, palms resting on my knees, and eyes closed. My eyes were closed so no one would see the tears about to trickle down my cheeks. If I felt like a tear would fall, I would do a slow neck roll, open my eyes and look up at the ceiling for a moment, ::blink blink:: close them again and roll my head back around until I was facing forward. Also, for the first time in a long time, I had a mental pep talk to get my shit together, to stop feeling sorry for myself, control my emotions, and just roll with it.
Thankfully it worked.
And then the workshop instructor led us through an hour-long yoga session. I didn’t think I was going to make it. At one point my right wrist was absolutely done from all the sun salutations that I stopped, sat semi-cross legged for a bit, and massaged my wrist and forearm. I didn’t care if I was with the class. Now why couldn’t I have felt that way about how I looked on the mat? Why do I care so much? Maybe it was shock. Or maybe it was shame. I don’t know, probably a little of both. But I wondered why we were going through a full yoga class when this was supposed to be a workshop to learn about yoga, it was Yoga 101 after all. If I wanted a basic yoga class, which is what we were working through, then I would have waited to attend the (included in my membership) class on Sunday morning at 11:45am!
The hardest part for me was the inability to do most poses correctly. My stomach got in the way for child’s pose (not part of the sun salutation) and lunge (6 & 9). Due to my stomach I couldn’t lean forward and touch the ground with my hands down by my feet and leave one foot in between my hands. Instead I’d have to adjust and thus the movement wasn’t fluid and I felt so….fat. I may not be as flexible as I used to be, but it doesn’t matter at the moment, when your body rolls get in the way there’s not a lot you can do. Lowering into knee-chest-chin (6) takes strength and instead of easing up into cobra, I quickly swing from plank (5) through to cobra (7) due to lack of strength to hover above the floor. If you look at knee-chest-chin (6) I like to call it the ‘tiny plank’, even though your butt should be a little up in the air. Doesn’t that look like a ‘tiny plank’ to you? Even at the beginning of class when I was sitting on my mat with my legs “crossed”, it was really a semi-cross because my legs are too thick to even cross them…forget about the lotus pose!
About an hour into the workshop we finally laid on our mats for the corpse pose (savasana). Of course it’s the last pose of the class but it’s glorious. After twisting, bending, turning, and struggling through poses it’s very relaxing to just melt into the floor. I love it.
This is where more prep at the beginning of the workshop would have been appreciated. Covering the basics of a yoga class, what to expect, etiquette, that is what I expected in a workshop. But none of that was mentioned. After some time on the floor in savasana suddenly the instructor came over and scrubbed her hands together next to my left ear (A signal she was present?) and started massaging my head, scalp and temple. Um, okayyyy. I know in yoga that instructors will come and adjust students to help with form, but this was a little surprising. The hand scrubbing startled me and I opened one eye and looked up. Thankfully she was looking over at another student so it wasn’t an awkward eye-to-eye, “Oh, hello, why are you touching me that way?” situation.
Once she covered all seven of us with her hand scrubbing massage routine she then asked us all to sit up and sit in a circle so we could discuss the workshop. One part that was very helpful was discussing the other classes available at the gym. Yes, there are descriptions for each class but her recommendations for each of us based on need/experience was beyond what you can get from a generic class description on the roster, so that was very helpful. Several people had questions about what yoga does for the body, how it changes the body, how often you should practice, and it was all helpful. I didn’t have any questions. Well, I did, but the one question I had was about modifications for a thicker gal such as myself, and there was no way in hell I was asking in the group. I was the only one there who was obese and I was too embarrassed to speak up. Again, not usually a trait of mine to remain quiet so it was a bizarre situation I found myself in.
In all I was pleased with the workshop because of how it made me feel. I would have greatly appreciated a sun salutation worksheet so I could take it home to follow. I did pay extra for this “workshop” and all. The instructor welcomed emails with questions, comments, suggestions so I’m going to come up with some constructive comments and maybe a few suggestions that I know I would have found helpful.
I walked out of the gym feeling lighter on my feet, enriched even, and it was nice! A pleasant reminder that I need to find my way to a yoga class again on a regular basis, or even practice at home. The intimidation part I need to work on but I know I’m pressing that upon myself and it’s not imposed by others.
Do you practice yoga? Do you struggle with some of the more simple poses due to your body?