Two days ago I went to my first yoga class of the year. I arrived early because I knew all the other end-of-the-year slackers, those whose workout routines were like medieval sailors and fell of the end of the earth in November and December, would be anxious to renew their resolves for a healthy lifestyle. I was right. The room was packed with experienced yogis practicing their pretzel poses well before the instructor came; packed with wide-eyed newbies who nervously talked to their friends (because first time yoga-goers should never go alone) and fidgeted with their mats; and packed with people like me, those in-betweeners who have never mastered yoga, know how hard the damn thing is, and keep coming back for more, even if it is inconsistently. We were the ones lying face down on our mats waiting for the torture to begin—no warm-ups and no chitchatting. We knew what was coming.
Even though I was 15 minutes early, most coveted spots were taken. When I saw all space at the back of the room was filled, I whispered, “Shit,” knowing I had to move close to where the teacher sat. That messed with my calm meditative state. Let’s face it, when you are in tight spandex clothes—even if they are a slimming black—and every bulge, including the bagel you ate this morning and the now “outie” belly button from your last kid is popping out like a strange remake of The Blob, you do not want to draw attention to yourself. I’m already a walking yoga charity case; I don’t need to advertise in neon.
Now, I am not just being self-effacing. I really am a yoga charity case. If you look up the word INFLEXIBLE in the dictionary, my picture is the illustration. I can’t touch my toes, but more importantly, I’ve never been able to touch my toes—not at 3, not at 13 when I tried out for the JV cheer squad (It’s okay to laugh), and not when I a thin size 6 in my 20s. I’ve had trainers who have pushed on my body trying to get me to touch to my toes, and to no avail. These were professionals who were certified, trained, and educated and kinesiology and human anatomy. They couldn’t do it. Despite my warnings, they all had to give it a try. The result was utter failure on their part and searing pain in my hamstrings on mine. I think I made one trainer reconsider his whole career path after working with me for months.
There seems as if there are a hundred different types of yoga classes. I am very careful to read the descriptions since the first time I took a class it was called a Vinyasa class. I am pretty sure Vinyasa is a term that means “turbo torture” because this was the fastest yoga class I have ever seen, and afterwards I was sick for three days. And, I mean In-my bed-with-no-need-for-the-latest-Hollywood-Cleanse sick. The class I took two days ago was a Slow Burn yoga class. I think the instructor got the wrong memo because the title of the class was half right. Yes, there was a lot of burn. Oh did my muscles burn, when I tried to plank, down dog, and twist my right leg over my left and put it behind my ear. So, he got the burn part down, but there was nothing slow about this class. In fact, we went at a good pace. The rough part of a yoga class with any pace at all is two-fold:
First, I don’t go often enough that I have the whole language thing down. So when I should be in a Half Moon Pose, I am in a Half Frog Pose, and I only realize this when I look up to see the rest of the class mooning not frogging. There seems to be a lot of animal poses: Downward Facing Dog, One-Legged Pigeon, and Feathered Peacock to name a few. After a series of planking and Downward Dogs mixed with some Warrior this-and-that, I longed for the Dead Dog pose and said so…out loud, breaking everyone’s collective body (enlightenment). (Incidentally, there is no Dead Dog pose. Just a little mid-yoga fantasy on my part.)
The second reason a fast-paced yoga class is hard for me is because, well because, I am overweight. I am still in the process of losing the baby fat from my last childbirth. Granted it was 10 years ago, but what can I say? I am a plugger. The Little Engine that Can (one day…when I get my act together…when that damn hill doesn’t seem so big). After having my first child, I ordered a Pilates tape, and tried that for a while, but I was so discouraged by the ballerinas on the screen who could fold over their bodies with little effort while I had this giant post-partum belly in between my thighs and my boobs preventing me from any Pilate-like movement. So, the second reason has to do more with my belly than anything else. It’s hard to do 90 percent of the yoga poses with a big ole’ belly. Plus, I sweat so much—more than any other exercise I’ve ever done—that any pose that requires me to grab, say an ankle, is tough because I am as slippery as a porpoise.
I will say, however, that I do have the Happy Baby pose down. The Happy Baby pose is when you lie on your back, bend your knees up towards your sides and grab your big toes with your hands. My belly is totally irrelevant for this pose. Sometimes in the Happy Baby pose, you get to rock your body side to side. Ah, now that is nice. I also love it when the instructor tells you to simply lie flat on your back. Of course, this is at the end of the session, but it is my favorite part. I love to relax all my muscles and wade in a pool of my own sweat and think about how much my hamstring and shoulder and even my scalp muscles are going to hurt in just three hours. This is exactly what I did two days ago.
I got through the class the best I could, taking the advice of the yogi that I had to go at my own pace because this was my own practice. I was on fire—with pride and pain—and I just wanted to meditate a bit on my accomplishment. After the Namaste ending, the instructor said, “Take your time getting up. There is no rush.” Normally, that would be the case, but because of the New Year’s Resolution Frenzy at the gym, people were already piling in the class to reserve their spot a half hour before the next class, and I didn’t want to hog a space so I go up ever so reluctantly. Besides, I was afraid I would fall asleep on the floor and be mistaken for a real dead dog. With that, I will end with the traditional “Namaste!”