Monday, March 23, 2009

Not your mama's yoga class

I’ve been a little bored with my workout routines lately. Ten minute warm-up, thirty minutes of playing with the machines. Then it’s done. A couple of times a week when I’m not too tired from work. Week after week. My body stopped responding months ago and now my mind was stopping too.

It was time to shake things up. Try something a little different. Make my mind and body work a little harder. I didn’t know how I was going to accomplish this until I came across something on the internet that looked, um, a little interesting.


Don’t the words sound like they should be yelled from a cliff, high across a desert canyon so that they are echoed in the distance?

I had taken one yoga class a couple of weeks ago when I was up visiting my brother’s family in Fremont. That was my first class and it seemed easy enough. A couple of body positions. Soothing music. Some breathing. The helpful instructor came around and gave me some gentle hints. It was like exercising in a spa. I felt a little girly doing it but there were other guys there who appeared to be taking the exercises seriously so I felt like I should do the same. At the end of the hour, I felt more limber, rejuvenated, a little euphoric. Yoga was something that I wanted to do again.

Power Yoga, according to the description, was yoga like a workout. I scoffed at how hard it could be. After all, there were no manly weights involved and I was sure that it was just a matter of moving your body from one position to another. Kinda like Tai Chi and if eighty year old Chinese women could do it …

The class was this past Sunday. Because I’m neurotic and self-conscious and don’t have any friends who are crazy enough to do the shit that I do, I didn’t know whether I was going to the class right up until five minutes before it began. I tried to talk myself out of going; it was too expensive, the class was probably cancelled, I was tired, I was going to be the only guy present … Strangely enough, it never occurred to me that you should have some yoga experience before trying Power Yoga. I’m never very rational in situations like this. I sucked up all my desires to run in the opposite direction and made a determined path to the front door of the studio.

As soon as I walked in, I was met by a younger guy sitting at a desk. I’d like to say that he greeted me warmly but he didn’t. He looked up and acted as if I had just interrupted something terribly important, which as I found out later, was a game of computer solitaire. I told him that I wanted to know more about the class that was starting shortly. He paused dramatically as if to emphasize that he was soon going to be gracing me with his voice. Then he told me that it was a yoga class and acted like this was sufficient information. At this point, I had several options. 1) Thank him and leave. This was, in retrospect, what I should have done. 2) Smirk and tell him that it was a good thing he told me it was yoga because I was trying to find Big Boy’s Family Restaurant. 3) Punch him in his smug face. Or 4) Stumble my way through more questions while letting him look at me like an idiot and then sign up for three consecutive classes.

Of course I chose option number 4.

He emphasized that this was not yoga for beginners. I told him that I was under a different impression because the class was indeed called Yoga101. He clarified it by saying that it was a beginning class but not for beginners. At that point, I gave him my damn money and figured that I had come this far, I had to find out what was going to happen next.

The yoga area was small, bare. More like a dance studio. There was no soothing Indian music. No tapestries covering the walls. No incense burning in the corner. It seemed like it was all business here. No joking around. I heard RuPaul’s line echo in my ear, “You better work.” There were three other people; one guy and two women. Nobody spoke to each other. Friendly, I thought. Glad I came here to make some new friends! I laid down my mat and started to do some stretching exercises, a little worried about what was about to happen.

The instructor appeared and didn’t make an introduction. He didn’t ask us how we were or how our day was going. He didn’t address us by name. He allowed us to do some deep breathing exercises and then he launched into the movements. Those goddamn movements. Stretching and pulling and reaching and squatting and diving and all the while trying to keep everything in sync with the deep breathing. I felt like telling the instructor that I could either do the movements or do the breathing but not both at the same time. It wouldn’t have mattered. He didn’t care. This was boot camp, baby. This was power yoga. Better shape up or ship out.

I snuck at peek at my watch. Half an hour had passed. I was seriously wondering what I had gotten myself into. My muscles were giving out and whenever I tried to do the goddamn warrior pose, my thigh muscles shook like a jackhammer. Sweat was dripping down my face and I was starting to forget the sequence to the more complex moves. I looked over at the other students. They were doing amazingly well. No signs of pain. No fear in their eyes. No twitching muscles or low-level groans. Even worse, they were taking everything so seriously. I wanted someone to fart, to giggle, to break the military atmosphere. They were experts, I thought. Professionals. Professionals taking a beginning class. Then I figured it out. This was an introduction to power yoga for those already good at yoga. I was a yoga newbie and in this class, I was trying to run before I could walk.

I was sooooooo thankful when he announced the last pose. The corpse pose, which I thought was very appropriate. Basically, you lie there and act dead which, at that point, was extremely easy for me. Five minutes later, the instructor announced that the class was over. The torture had lasted an hour and a half. I packed up my stuff, put on my shoes and grabbed my keys. The instructor was waiting by the door and I thanked him as I passed. I thought briefly about passing by without saying anything but that may have given him the impression that he had won. The drill sergeant had planned to crush another soul. I wasn’t going to give him that pleasure.

I’ve prepaid for two more lessons. Do I go back? Do I spend next Sunday hiking instead? Or maybe reading a book? Or even sleeping? Hmmmmm, sleeping …

I have a feeling I’ll do a repeat performance. I don’t give up that easily. I did look ridiculous and stupid but there were no witnesses who cared and 48 hours later, I did feel better. No gain without pain, they say.

I never knew this could be applied to yoga.

1 comment:

MyPianoMan said...

I could not help but giggle when I read this! Parts of this entry were hilarious! I love the way you write. I can understand how you felt, because that was how I felt when I first attended Vicki's class at Club Sport. The fact that you thought Vicki's class was "easy enough" means that you have the basic skills needed to do real yoga. Congratulations! I think you should give it another try.