Monday, February 27, 2006

Yoga Master

The newest thing in my life is that I have started yoga classes! Well, officially it is just a “stretching” class. Here in the home of “yoga as a religious practice” there are those at the school who are uncomfortable with the staff learning yoga, since it could be a way of Hindu religion making its way on campus. Oh, the horror! However, my group, all Americans, is interested only in the “yoga as healthy thing to do” aspect, so we disregard the frowns and call our class by code names.

In any case, my friends had been learning all last semester and raving about how fabulous the experience was so this semester I took the plunge and signed up. We meet three times a week: two hours on Monday and Wednesday evenings and an hour Saturday morning. And let me tell you, it takes some serious will-power to make it to an 8am yoga session on a Saturday morning when the classes take place 40 minutes from your house and you’re on foot. Bleah.

My mental image of yoga, created largely from movies, was of lots of deep breathing and graceful poses with interesting names, like “downward facing dog” and “warrior one.” We would glide from pose to pose, much like a ballet, and end the session refreshed and relaxed.

Ha! The reality of yoga involved a serious ab workout, lots of sweating, and a general suspicion that I might die before we finished. We started with a grueling series of pilates-style “trunk strengthening” exercises like leg lifts and bicycle leg movements and I was unprepared for this nasty surprise. Our instructor is big on not over-doing it, which is nice, but when he came by me for about the zillionth time to say “don’t push it—if you can’t do it, don’t,” I began to have self-confidence issues. Of course, the truth was, I couldn’t do it. I don’t have abs apparently. Or arm muscles. I am flexible, which is a plus, but it didn’t help me quite as much as I had hoped.

The only part of the session that was more like I was expecting was the “final relaxation” where we all lay on our mats with our eyes closed while Ravi (our instructor) talked us through some deep breathing and relaxation techniques. That was very peaceful, although I very nearly disgraced myself with a fit a giggles when he solemnly intoned: “relax your pancreas….relax your spleen…” My spleen? I don’t even know where it is. How am I supposed to relax it?

But despite the altered expectations and the sore muscles, I think yoga will be a good experience. If I survive. Our next session is tomorrow and I’m a bit nervous because I have the athlete’s sure knowledge that it will be harder than yesterday’s. My muscles will not have magically toned over night—they’ll just still be sore from the first class. Wish me luck!


At 12:34 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Oh, downward facing dog! I HATE that one! My last yoga class (and I do mean my last one) was led by a sadist who apparently thought that DFD was the answer to all physical imperfection. So he would park us there, heads down, shoulders and wrists burning, and leave us for up to ten minutes. Not so bad you think. Neither did I, until we did something else for a minute and then he put us back there again for another ten. And another. At that point I took an exaggerated look at the clock and acted like I was late for work to avoid any more pain.


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