Sunday, March 3, 2013

My first yoga class (with falls and fashion faux pas!)

Namaste. (This was a re-created scene.
I'm pretty sure picture-taking
is not accepted as part of the practice.
Photo courtesy of Sarah)
I took my first yoga class yesterday.

Here's a list of things that were painful to do today: 
  • Putting on my pants
  • Bending down to pick up Jovie
  • Squatting down to clean up toys
  • Sitting on the floor
  • Running "weely, weely fast" around the house with Lily
  • Reaching for things on the top shelf in the kitchen
  • Taking off my sweatshirt
  • Lying on the couch while Lily jumped on me in an attempt to evade bedtime
For the past couple months, my sister Sarah has been telling me all about the yoga classes she's been taking and how awesome they are. Our conversations have gone something like this:

"Sue, you have to come with me," she said.

"But I've never taken a yoga class before," I said.

"It doesn't matter," she said. "There are beginners in the classes."

"I'll think about it," I said.

"You should do it," she said. "You have to see the hot guys doing yoga."

"I don't want to do yoga for the first time in front of hot guys," I said. "I'd be self-conscious."

"No you wouldn't! You'll be fine," she said.

"And it'll be with fancy people," I said. (She lives down in the D.C. area -- a much more style-conscious place than where I live).

"But you'll have me! And there are other people like us," she said (meaning other people who would laugh inappropriately and giggle about the super hip). 

"I don't know," I said.

"You should do it," she said.

Obviously, I relented. 

Brad gave me the afternoon off yesterday and I drove down to Maryland in my beloved bug, footloose and fancy free. 

I got to listen to NPR* instead of Lily's beloved "Disney princess" music. I drank a little Dark Chocolate coffee from Dunkin' Donuts. I didn't have to reach blindly in the backseat to locate missing toys or hand out fruit snacks.


I was a bit less carefree when we actually got to the studio -- Down Dog Yoga in Bethesda. I checked in, stuffed my coat and backpack into a cubby, picked up my borrowed mat and followed Sarah into a super hot room.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention we were doing hot yoga. Heated vinyasa flow to be precise.  I'm not really sure what any of that means except for the heated part. 

We settled in and she demonstrated some basic moves (positions?). I asked Sarah if I should spit out my gum. She told me she kept hers during the class because of all the breathing out ... she wanted to ensure maximum minty freshness. I shrugged and kept chewing. This decision comes back to bite me (so to speak). 

I watched the other students file in. 

"Sarah! They're all wearing stretch pants! I should've worn stretch pants."

In selecting my outfit for the class, I opted for a tank top and a pair of yoga pants I'd received for Christmas. I hadn't requested the pants because I had plans to do yoga, but rather because, as a stay-at-home mom, I felt they were a required addition to my wardrobe -- perfect for sporty trips to the grocery store and laundry day housework. 

Anyway, what with it being a yoga class, I felt like the yoga pants were an appropriate selection. It would seem I was wrong.** 

So there I was a first-timer with my bell-bottoms, chomping away on my gum waiting for the class to begin when something else unsettling happened:

The cute guy with nice arms unrolled his mat next to me.

Now, I'm a very happily married mother of two. That being said, I still would prefer not to doing my first hot yoga class next to the cute guy with nice arms.

Of course, I realize that all of my self-conscious and superficial concerns are really not the stuff of yoga. It's not about fashion or good breath or wanting to feel even slightly MILFish, it's about being part of a "supportive and loving community that uplifts, inspires and empowers every individual through the practice of yoga to live into their own greatness" (at least that's what the studio's mission statement says).

I tried to remind myself of that as the instructor welcomed us to the class. 

"Any first timers?" she asked and I waved. Wanting to make sure that everyone knew this was my first time so that when I fell on my ass, it would be OK (I know, I know. It would've been OK if it had been my 100th class ... we're all uplifting and empowering each other! I get it. Still. Not falling on my ass is preferred).

Class begins. 

Here are some highlights:
  • I kick the girl behind me in the head.
  • I take a sip of water during what I thought was a quick water break and the instructor looks over at me and reminds the class not to drink too much water because we're getting to the "twisty parts."
  • During a downward dog the instructor comes over to me holding out a paper towel in which I'm supposed to spit my gum. Much like I'm in elementary school. 
  • I close my eyes when they're supposed to be open. Failing to be present in the position ... or something.
  • I open my eyes when they're supposed to be closed. Failing to be appropriately grateful for the practice ... or something.
  • And the piece de resistance: I fall on my face causing me, my sister and the cute guy with the nice arms to snicker. I fall on my face because I was attempting to do crow position. A position, that because it was my first class, I had no idea was maybe one I shouldn't be attempting because I'm not a member of the Shanghai Circus. 
But ... (there's always a but with me isn't there?) ... despite all the embarrassment I'd definitely go back.

I was able to do a lot more of the positions (albeit not very gracefully or steadily) then I thought I'd be able to do. 

The atmosphere was supportive and uplifting (or at least, I was so busy feeling hot and trying not to fall down that I didn't feel any judgment. Well, except for the fact that the cute guy with the nice arms brought up my face plant several times after the fact, remarking how funny it was ... but not in a mean spirited sort of way). 

The instructor was half drill instructor / half zen-cheerleader -- demanding that we all believe in our own strength. She stopped by my mat frequently ... adjusting my feet or legs, challenging me to try something more difficult (but at the same time making it seem easy), answering questions. 

I think the next time I'd feel more confident. And when I did inevitably fall on my face (or ass) I'd just remind myself that it's OK (and that, because the class is in Maryland, I'd probably never see these people again). 

And in regards to my big fall, it was nice not knowing what I couldn't do (or wasn't ready to do). Not knowing my limits meant I tested them. The second you know what the limit is, is the second you start telling yourself that you can't do something. Which is exactly what I did right after I fell on my face. I didn't try again. I decided it wasn't meant to be. But I actually think I could do crow position sometime. I'm just not eager to attempt it again at the front of a class of 30 (or more?).

I liked doing something that helped connect my mind, body and spirit with a larger community (even if I didn't get that connection until the end of class when we were all breathing in synch. Together we sounded like ocean waves, it was peaceful and relaxing and something I wouldn't have experienced lying in a room, breathing by myself***). 

It's easy for me to neglect my spirit in favor of more tangible things (like feeding my body or strengthening my muscles or catering to my neuroses). I can see how practicing yoga helps unite all those parts of you. And how important it is to just let yourself go rather than worrying about everything happening around you. Maybe that's why it's called "practicing yoga" -- because it's never a completed project, there's always room for growth for everyone from newbies to oldbies.

I'm grateful to Sarah for browbeating me into joining her. I loved having the chance to see how strong and graceful she is (and to be able to giggle with her about our various missteps). 

I'm not as grateful about the prospect of getting up off the couch right now though. Cuz that's gonna hurt.

* As much as I love "The Splendid Table," I the day's discussion on city smellscapes, homemade tofu and soy sauce were like being handed parody on a platter. For example, here was part of the answer to the question, "how do you make tofu?":

"First, get good non-GMO organic soybeans. Then add good water. The kind you would want to drink -- not just any old water."

Thank you for clarifying that I shouldn't siphon water out of the toilet or head down to my local drainage pond to make my non-GMO organic tofu. I wonder if this excludes tap water, which I would classify as "any old water" but would also classify as the kind I want to drink? So confused!

** At least they were a safer choice then what has always been my go-to workout wear -- soccer shorts. (Having rejoined the gym-going community in the past month I've had the realization that I'm not fashion-forward at all when it comes to workout wear. In fact, I never knew there were trends in workout wear ... but now women wear cropped, stretchy pants to workout in (or skin-tight shorts) -- there's nary a soccer short to be found. You know, it's hard enough to try to stay on top of style for my everyday clothes, now I'm supposed to don form-fitting "performance" wear on the elliptical. It's exhausting.)

*** Ha! Jokes on you. I'm never lying in a room by myself. We have two kids, three cats and a dog. Someone's always around.


  1. You can’t avoid pain on the first try, but it will fade away as your body adjusts to the routines. Also, pain is a good sign that you are doing the poses properly. I know that you know how beneficial yoga is to your mind, body, and spirit. In time, I know you’ll feel the change. Take your time and enjoy!

    -Nicolas Ervin

  2. Thanks Nicolaas - I've been to a couple more classes since this first one -- haven't gone as often as I'd like, but can definitely see the benefits.