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Our February Experiment: Yoga

January was the cleanse.  February was yoga.

Beginners Yoga

Matt and I enrolled in an introduction to yoga class a block away from our apartment.  I did a bit of research, but not a lot – basically I chose it based on the pictures, the quality of the website, and the location.  It’s only a month, and how can we go wrong with having a 2-minute walk to get there??

We entered the first class with bright new ecologically sound yoga mats and bags.  We stretched our necks and made ourselves as comfortable as we could even though we felt a wee bit awkward.

Soon the class filled the small room to capacity.  The room was abuzz.  The instructor shut the door.

And then he turned up the heat.

Oh!  Somehow I missed that it was hot yoga!!

The heat slowly entered my pores as we sat on the mats listening to the instructor.  A show of hands: how many have are experienced at yoga or are a teacher? 1/3 of the class raised their hands.  Been to yoga many times but at an intermediate level or it might have been a while? 1/3 of the class raised their hands (including me – but it has been a long while).  Just taking yoga for the first time? The final 1/3 of the class meekly raised their hands (including Matt).

So Introduction to Yoga is being attended by mostly tenured yogis and yoginis.  It was going to be a long, hard night.

Very quickly we learned we had signed up for Ashtanga yoga.  Particularly the style taught by Baron Baptiste (who did yoga at the age of 7).  The style called Power Yoga.  Oh boy!

It was grueling.  I have pretty bad shoulder issues so I was hoping to take it slow and ease into strength and flexibility.  But there was no easing into it…

Ashtanga is a particular style of vinyasa yoga that brings you through a sequence of 54 poses done in constant motion.  It’s not really made for beginners.

In the beginning couple of classes, it totally kicked our butts.  The instructors were great in breaking down the poses into smaller chunks, but it is still constant movement in a hot room for 75 minutes.  My muscles were sore after those first few classes!!

But slowly, it got easier.  Not easy, mind you, but easier.

Benefits

I’m already seeing the benefits of yoga, after 7 classes.  So much so that I actually miss class and yearn for it during the days between.

It’s not as hard as it was in the beginning, on a few short weeks ago.  It’s still hard, my shoulders still have a long way to go before downward facing dog is comfortable and the “relaxing break in the routine” that it’s supposed to be.

My muscles are stronger.  I’m more flexible.  I have better posture.  I am more aware of my breath (good for an asthmatic like me).  I am more relaxed.  And I feel more energetic.

Matt and I love coming home to eat dinner together after yoga class.  We both smile a lot, are completely relaxed, and really enjoy the evening together.

I never would have guessed it, but I actually enjoy hot yoga.  I sweat like heck (bring a towel and a water bottle), but I really love it.  We plan to buy monthly passes to the studio.

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12 comments to Our February Experiment: Yoga

  • >:-D Glad to hear that something you would probably never have chosen for yourself has treated you so well.

    Personally I am struggling with yoga. I with a less than perfect back and being a lot more overweight than I should be much of it was expected. The problem is that I need a lot more help that my teacher is able to provide in a group class so I am struggling with feeling safe. I am trying to work out if yoga is still simply too much, as I can’t afford private tuition, or if interviewing other teachers is the way to go. I am feeling a bit down about it because I so needed this to be a positive experience despite the less than ideal circumstances.

    Kind Regards
    Belinda

    • Robert

      Hi Belinda,

      I understand what you mean when you say about feeling safe.I think it is always good to attend a number of classes to discover which one will work best for you and where you feel comfortable as each style can have a different emphasis and the class environment can feel so totally different. When I was looking around many people said to me to try a hatha style as it is generally so gentle. Perhaps that may be a good place to start if you haven’t tried it already.

      All the best

      • Thanks Robert,

        You have spurred me on to find a more supportive space.

        The first class I ever went to was a hatha class and I walked away with a really positive feeling about both the style and the expertise of the teacher. Sounds like it’s time for me to reach out to them again, even if it requires a car trip to get there.

        Kind Regards
        Belinda

        • I echo Robert’s sentiment that you may not have found the right teacher and/or style yet, Belinda. When I did yoga before, I was just out of a car accident that really messed up my back. I found that classes called “Gentle Yoga”, “Beginners Yoga”, and “Yoga for Meditation” were the best at helping me learn how to modify poses so that they were safe for me.

        • Erin

          Hi Belinda-
          I completely agree with you. Some places are just not for beginners.
          What I did was search out some videos I could do at home that had instructions for each pose in both the complete and modified positions. The two that I loved that really made it easy for me to understand the excercise were (don’t laugh) Yoga for dummies and the Earth Flow series. The Yoga for dummies is over an hour, but each position is explained both in how you should feel, but also in the best way to situate your body. I am a big girl and need a little more wiggle room, so this was really helpful. As I became more flexible, the Earth flow series that focuses on what they call grounding poses, was my next step. It also walks through each pose (I watched it first, then tried it…love that dvd remote!) and while reminding you to breathe in, then out, and how you should feel the breath move in your body. At the end of it I am tired, sweaty, worn out, but boy oh boy I feel amazing.
          I suggest trying those in the mean timebecause they are really inexpensive…and while you are working towards a better understanding at home, searching out a really great beginners class–trying one here, one there, until you find a teacher that you meld with and is willing to show modified poses as well.
          Good luck!

  • Angie

    I’m so glad to hear that you’re enjoying ashtanga yoga! I too stumbled into ashtanga by signing up for what I thought was an easy yoga class and I too ended up loving it. Typical meditation, with its long periods of stillness and silence, are difficult for me. But with ashtanga, I was able to find meditation through movement…focusing on nothing else but the next move. Unfortunately, I am not dedicated enough to continue the practice outside of a class structure and am unable to take a class right now. I’m trying to work smaller, easier yoga routines into my schedule…still a challenge. Keep at it and good luck!

    • How great, Angie, that you stumbled upon it in a similar way. It is so easy to get out of the routine, but for all these changes I just remind myself how much better I feel when I follow through, and how much clearer and faster my mind works. I hope you find the time to continue on with yoga or something that helps you in similar ways!

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  • Melissa

    Hi, I’m glad you guys are getting into yoga and love it so far! I just wanted to sound a word of warning: I hope your instructor has already told you this, but if not, it is much easier to get injured in hot yoga than in more traditional types, because the heat allows your ligaments and joints to stretch much further than they would be able to otherwise. Especially if you have never maintained a yoga practice before, I would recommend taking some more basic/traditional iyengar classes as well, if just to understand your bodies’ limitations at this point in your yoga journey! I was totally into bikram (hot) yoga at one point too, and I got such an incredible yoga high after class, but eventually my body started to rebel against me for pushing too much too fast, not so much during class but afterwards, when i was back in a more normal environment. I now take iyengar classes that are SO much harder during class but I feel a lot more knowledgeable about proper alignment and how much to push my body now. So point of story- hot yoga is great, but make sure you guys don’t hurt yourselves! :)

    • Melissa, great advice – I may have been a bit hard on our instructors for affect in this post. They have been very good about reminding us to listen to our bodies and not push too hard. I have always wanted to take Iyengar classes to see what it was like – I will search for one nearby (most of the local studios are one or another kind of vinyasa). Thanks for your thoughts!!

  • Robert

    I really enjoy thinking about your ideas and embracing the ones that fit with me. I too fell into a “hot” yoga style which I benefited from. However I always struggled with the power consumption of over heating a room. It can probably be calculated down with the amount of people attending the class, medical savings, use of power if everyone was at home and, say, on their computer, the sense of well being leading to not reaching out for external satisfactions etc. Ultimately I settled on a centre which did not use heat.

    Thankyou so much for your blog and I am so glad you are getting so much out of yoga. To me reading you blogs like yours is a form of digital yoga, stretching me that little bit extra each time.

    Robert

    • Robert, what an awesome comment. It made my morning to read. Thank you!!!

      And a great point about the heat cost. Strangely, I hadn’t thought about that. Weird, when I normally do. Thanks for stretching my mind as well. :)

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