Thursday, September 6, 2012


Last Friday, I finally decided to redeem my Groupon for 10 yoga classes, just in time for National Yoga Month (which was totally planned and not just because I realized on Thursday that the Groupon in question was set to expire this week).

Knowing that I should probably start small (and because I wanted to cram in as many classes as I could before my punch-card expired), I went to the studio's Stress-Less Yoga class right after work. By the end of the class, I realized why yoga was so great... it is the only type of exercise that you can fall asleep during and it be okay. Because it was the toned-down stress-less class, about two-thirds of the class were spent doing pretty easy stretches and breathing exercises. For the last third of class, though, we were instructed to sit comfortably against a wall, close our eyes, and meditate. "Breathe deeply, in and out," our instructor said, "and with each breath, count backwards from 108." I have no idea why she chose 108, but if you've ever tried to close your eyes and count backwards, especially after a long day at work, you know how easy it is to completely zone out. I lost my place more than a few times. Also, just to be clear, when I say that I lost my place and zoned out, I really mean that I fell asleep. In my defense, counting backwards with closed eyes is one of the first tricks I ever learned to help me fall asleep. Mix that with my tendency to not get enough sleep regularly, and it's really no surprise that an unexpected nap was the outcome. But that's the beauty of yoga. If I fell asleep weight lifting or riding a bicycle, it would end very poorly, but yoga is different.

I've gone to three more classes since then (Core & More, Beginner Yoga, and Morning Yoga), and am happy to report that I was actually able to stay awake through the entirety of one of them!

The Core & More class that I went to on Saturday was not at all what I was expecting. It wasn't so much a yoga class but an overall strength and fitness class. We did ab work, leg work, more ab work, light weight lifting, stretching, and a little bit more ab work. Our instructor ended the class by having us "hold a plank position for just a minute, because I'll go easy on you this week" (which is why I was unable to fall asleep this time). It was brutal. We did wall sits, bridges, and those sit ups where you keep transferring a ball between your feet and your hands (but with a foam brick instead). About halfway through, I realized that going on an extra long run/walk beforehand was probably a bad plan (but good news, I had finished up Week 4 in the Couch-To-5K program). It was awesome, though. Even if I had trouble with all of the moves, I felt so powerful (albeit drained) afterwards. After class ended, despite being exhausted, I decided to stay for the next class as well, Beginner Yoga.

I was very excited about Beginner Yoga, as it would be the first to involve actual yoga poses and would teach me some basic technique. We didn't do anything very advanced or difficult (obviously, because it was the beginner class), but I learned a lot about proper form and such. Apparently, they focus on a different thing each week, and the focus of that class was our thighs. Throughout all of our poses, we were supposed to imagine our thighs rolling inward or something. If I'm being honest, that imagery kind of creeped me out. At best, I could only picture moving skin rolls, and as my mind wandered more (as it's apt to do), I started picturing weird waterfalls or gelatin or amorphos blobs that would have the ability to make their actual legs roll away. It was just a little disturbing to me (don't worry, I realize that that's not normal and that most people would have a less worrysome reaction). But anyway, once I got over that, I realized that telling us to "roll our thighs inward" was basically the instructors way of making sure we kept our hips squared at all times. By literally shifting our legs to move our thighs inward, we square our hips. It took almost an entire class of me picturing ridiculous things and getting weirded out by those mental images to figure out such a simple concept. Once I realized that, everything made so much more sense! My tendency to shift my hips is probably one of the reasons doing yoga at home never really worked for me. Keeping your hips squared helps increase your flexibility and stability, and also makes your core stronger. Who knew? After working on these poses for a while, our instructor then had us lie down on our mats so that we could do some yoga thing with a term I couldn't understand and didn't bother asking about. She turned on soft music and told us to close our eyes. As predicted, I fell asleep. This time I fell asleep hard enough to have actual dreams (where Teddy Westside, Regina Phalange, and I were playing Settlers of Catan). Regardless, even though I probably looked like Liz Lemon after her first week of yoga, the instructor was very supportive and encouraging and kept me motivated throughout the class.

Here she is showing off her Downward Dog.

The last class I did was on Tuesday (and since my punch-card expired on Wednesday, it was the last I would get out of that Groupon). It was at the unreasonably early hour of 5:30AM. Considering that I am usually late to work because I can't drag myself out of bed until 7:30, a mere half hour before work is supposed to start, I'm surprised I was actually able to make it. Despite the hour, though, this class was awesome. It was more crowded than I would have expected for 5:30, but not so crowded that I couldn't pick out a spot with plenty of room. Also, because the instructor didn't know me and I was obviously new to yoga, she gave me a lot of help getting my form right for all the poses. This was an all-levels class, so it was a bit more difficult than the beginner class on Saturday, and it was fantastic. Obviously, there were some poses I couldn't quite do yet (like when she wanted us to do hand stands against the wall), but for each move, she knew of modifications to fit any expertise level. We ended the class by lying down on our mats with our eyes closed while the instructor turned off the lights at 6:15 in the morning (it's like they're daring us to not fall asleep). I really liked that the class got me up and ready for the day. I left the studio and got back to my apartment a full 45 minutes before I would have usually woken up. As a result, I was actually early for work! I tried going back yesterday, but ended up sleeping through my alarm. Alas!

I would really like to continue with yoga. Now that my Groupon is up, I may even get a membership.

Have you ever tried yoga? How early do you get up in the mornings? Is it bad that when I would do yoga at home, I decided to not care about the breathing and stuff and instead ate M&Ms while mid-pose?


  1. I think I'd need a class where there better explanations. Though I love you dreaming about The Settlers of Catan! :-D

  2. Wow! That's a good point, I hadn't really considered things from that perspective before. Great post!

    By the way, I ran across this new blog you might like. Check it out!