Practicing yoga is quite a lovely journey. And like all journeys, it starts with your very first time. Do you remember yours? Was it in a classroom full of people? Was it at home in front of your computer screen or TV? Was it just you and a friend trying out some yoga poses? You always remember your first one. I certainly remember mine. Okay if I tell you about it?
It all started when I told Marcia, a friend of mine from work, that I wasn’t feeling as fit as I used to and I wanted to do something about it. I wasn’t interested in the same old fitness stuff. Weight lifting hurt my shoulders and I blew out my knee doing leg presses, so I had no interest in trying that again. Running gave me lower back pain. Marcia said, “You should try yoga. That’s what I do.”
Marcia is a petite, sweet, fit, and happy redhead, who is full of energy. Yoga worked great for her, so I kept listening. She described the particular style of yoga she did as athletic and challenging. She said, “You sweat a lot, but it makes you feel amazing.” At the time I could use a dose of amazing because I was dealing with back pain and I was stressed from work. I kept listening.
Then Marcia did something clever. Winking at me, she said, “Betcha dinner you can’t do it as good as me!” Being a competitive guy, her challenge hooked me. To this day I don’t know if Marcia was serious or kidding about her challenge. Yoga isn’t supposed to be competitive. I have a feeling she was only trying to get me interested in something she knew would be good for me. It worked because I decided to try it.
The next Wednesday morning I drove to the yoga studio Marcia attended. When I arrived, Jeanine, the owner, was there getting ready for the day. A lovely woman with beautiful posture, a slim build, slightly graying hair, and a bright twinkle in her eye, Jeanine greeted me warmly and described what the class would be like. She said this style of yoga is rigorous because it is done in high heat and humidity. However, the actual positions were simple enough to do. I was pretty confident I could handle this class with ease. I found a spot in the back corner of the room and waited a few minutes for class to start.
At least thirty-five people showed up for this class, which seemed like a large number for 9:00 A.M. on a Wednesday morning. I thought to myself, “This yoga thing sure is popular.” The temperature in the room was very warm and getting warmer by the minute, like 102 degrees. Plus, the air was moist due to two large humidifiers. I later found out that the high heat and humidity made it easier to stretch.
Jeanine guided us through a highly targeted series of 26 yoga positions, each of which were designed to do something specific for the body. Jeanine was right. The poses were simple enough. No bizarre pretzel yoga poses. However, this was no easy yoga class! I was sweating like crazy and even though the poses weren’t complicated, I was challenged by them. For example, one of the poses was a back bend that my back had absolutely no interest in doing. However people older than me were doing it gracefully and effortlessly. Same with the balance poses. While most of the people in the room could easily stand on one foot, like a flamingo, I kept tipping over. The strength poses made my legs shake, even though they still were strong from my basketball days.
I was intrigued by my inability, at the young age of 35, to do these simple exercises that people twenty years older could do quite well. Had these people discovered the fountain of youth? It seemed logical that my body would be healthier, stronger, and feel better if I could train it to do these exercises.
After the class ended I had an unusual feeling of aliveness I hadn’t experienced in years. My body felt stronger and my mind felt calm. Even for me, a former jock, getting into yoga seemed like a worthwhile pursuit. Maybe Marcia was onto something.
A few days later I tried the class again, this time with Nancy as the instructor. Tall and athletic, with long auburn hair and a soothing voice, Nancy was a fantastic instructor, like Jeanine. During this second class I did the poses a bit better, and once again had that same serene feeling after class.
I decided to continue doing this style of yoga, attending Jeanine and Nancy’s classes three or four times a week. Something in me was changing for the better. After only a few classes I had more freedom of movement, my balance improved dramatically, my legs weren’t as wobbly, and I was able to bend my back much more than when I started. Also, my chronic back pain disappeared after the first month. After repeating this yoga workout for several months, my body was transformed from weak and tight to strong and flexible. My mind was a bit calmer and I was breathing deeper too. What incredible benefits!
If hot, sweaty yoga doesn’t appeal to you, no worries. Room temp yoga works great too. I don’t do heated yoga anymore. I’m able to find all the benefits I need with room temperature yoga. If you’re interested in getting stronger, more flexible, and better at balance, starting a regular yoga practice might just be your ticket!
Above all, do something that feels fantastic today. You deserve it, my friend.