2016 Yoga Journal Entry #1: A Venture in My First Slow-Burn Class of the Year

From GraphicStock This is NO WAY resembles me in a yoga position.
From GraphicStock
This is NO WAY resembles me in a yoga position.

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!”

Mrs. Magoo’s Post-Zumba Experience

Picture from Anisha Clarke website
Picture from Anisha Clarke website

A Body at Rest
I made a huge mistake about an hour ago. I sat down to check my email and became absorbed in Facebook with a detour to VarageSale and then a perusal through Craig’s List. I think my feet were propped up for 45 or 50 minutes. My doctor would have been pleased. Breaks are important to reenergize, and putting up one’s feet helps circulation. Everything was fine, until the buzzer on the dryer assaulted my ears. Like the donut man on commercials in years gone by my Pavlovian reaction was, “Gotta get the laundry.”

I tried to get up from my lounge chair. That’s when my body failed me. Okay? Again, I kicked back my legs to close the leg lift, but all I managed to do was thrash around like a fish dropped on the side of a boat. “What’s going on?” I thought as I flailed again. I was making some grunting and puffing noises and was afraid these sounds would alarm my husband, thinking I was having a seizure or a heart attack, so I paused to get my act together. When you are stuck in a lounge chair and flapping like spawning salmon in need of water, you really don’t want an audience.

While catching my breath, I realized that it was my muscles. My shaky muscles were failing me and my joints were screaming in pain. “Oh yeah, I worked out,” I said, which was the understatement of the year because Zumba is not really a workout. It is a torturous form of advanced aerobics set to cool Latin music meant to distract the participant into thinking she is salsa-ing through an exciting street festival on Calle Ocho in Miami.

I had to get out of this chair before my kids walked by, so did a micro-meditation to make my body and mind as one. Previously, my mind was saying, “Cara, just push back on the leg lift and stand up and walk.” But, my body was saying, “OMG! Why are you moving? No, no, no. I’m not going anywhere, girl!”

My micro-meditation went something like this: “Get your shit together, Cara. It’s just a lounge chair. Use your core muscles. Use your power legs. Use The Force if you have to. Just do it.” Okay, this was hardly an inspirational meditation, but it (along with some adrenaline) worked. I grabbed onto the ample cushions attached to the chair arms like a passenger on a 747 hitting an air pocket. I stretched my diaphragm like an opera singer doing warm up exercises and sucked in a roomful of air. I steeled my abs, lifted my now leaden legs, and with the help of The Force, I was able to pound down and lock that lift into place. “Mission accomplished,” I said as I held up my jiggly arms in a Rocky Balboa victory sign. Unfortunately, my triumph was short-lived.

A Body in Motion
When a post-workout body is at rest, you are lulled into a false sense of the pre-workout status quo. You have no idea that you have wreaked havoc on every muscle, every joint, and well, every cell in your body until you put that body in motion. I tried to walk to the laundry room. “Oomph!” escaped my mouth as I hunched over and shuffled my socked feet across the tile floor. To bend my ankles required thought, but to move my knees required a Herculean effort. This is when I realized how very complicated my knees are and exactly how many bones are in my feet. Why? Because every bone in both feet creaked and crackled, and I felt alternating pain all around my knees. My patella was like a stadium dome where tiny leprechauns were playing football. It was the Tendons vs. the Ligaments, and let’s just say there was an abundance of turnovers in the game.

I managed to make it the two yards to my dryer, which continued to buzz with annoying loudness. Because I hurt everywhere, all my senses were heightened, and that buzz sounded like an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo in deafening decibels. I bent over to open the door and quickly learned my pain was not limited to my limbs. “Oh dear!” I said, “Bending over is a big mistake.” My husband passed by and saw my face contorted in pain. “You okay?” he asked.

“Yes. But, did you know you had muscles in your back and neck?”

“Uh, yes, I knew that.”

“Well, did you know you had muscles in your ears, scalp and forehead?” I asked. “I know it because apparently all my muscles have been hibernating for years, and today I woke the beast, and I can barely move. Well, no that’s not right. I can move, but then the beast roars back at me and swipes its razor sharp claws at parts of my body I previously ignored. Take my sternum. Other than a boxer or possibly a football player, I don’t think it is normal for a person to have a sore sternum. Is it?”

My husband stood there with genuine pity in his eyes, but since he was on a mission to raid the snack closet, he said, “Well, my advice is to lift with your legs.”

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