Yoga

Well, it’s happened. Yesterday, I took my first yoga class. Tavi, the “friend” who recently tried to murder me in the Hollywood Hills, has been pushing me to try yoga off and on for a while. He’s not the only one: yoga has been suggested by a number of people over the past couple years, but I’ve never had much interest.

It’s been my experience that yoga enthusiasts (and Tavi is a big one – he even teaches it) are very passionate about yoga, much in the same way, I find, that runners can be very passionate about running. More often than not, when people hear that I’m a (very) occasional runner, they assume I’m hooked, that I must love it as much as them, and that I can’t wait to start training for a marathon. That’s when I smile and nod and politely explain that I have no interest in a marathon, and, a lot of the time, I barely tolerate running at all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that exact conversation with one of my very good friends who shall remain nameless because he reads this blog (*cough* *Collin* *cough*).

I’ve had similar conversations with yoga fans, who all make clear that once I try yoga, I’ll be immediately be hooked and love everything about it and it will change my life and it’s the best thing ever and seriously I’ll fall instantly in love and how did I go for so long without it and I’ll want to take a class every single day and there’s a great teacher at their local yoga studio and what the fuck am I waiting for?

To all those people out there (and you know who you are), this post is for you. Because, did you hear? I finally took a yoga class. I met Tavi for a 9am class at our local Bikram Yoga studio:

I’m no expert, so correct me if I’m wrong, but Bikram is a specific type of yoga, developed by a guy named Bikram, that’s comprised of a certain number of yoga poses, which are performed in a specific order, for a specific amount of time. A defining characteristic of Bikram yoga is that it’s done in a hot room. Our room today was 108 degrees, and humid – two humidifiers on full blast. Exercising in that climate is not completely foreign to me – it’s routinely above 100 degrees around here in the summer (although it’s very dry heat), and I once went running on a 105-degree day (I don’t recommend it). That’s not to say that I’m comfortable in an 108-degree room, because I’m not. But it makes you sweat – oh, how you sweat – and that’s one of the goals: to draw out toxins. Also, heat increases your flexibility, which is a key component of yoga of any kind.

I don’t own a yoga mat, so I rented one for a buck. Plus, I paid $18 for the class – they tried to sell me on a week for $30, but I wouldn’t commit to that until I tried it once.

The class had 20 or so people in it, and even though Tavi billed it as a class for beginners, I was the only first-timer. I positioned myself behind two people who knew what they were doing, so I could watch them, which was helpful, because our teacher, Mary, didn’t actually demonstrate any of the poses. Tavi, in turn, was behind me, because he didn’t arrive until just as the class was starting.

I kept an open mind going into the class, mainly because I didn’t really have any expectations. I don’t consider myself an incredibly flexible person, and my balance is questionable at best (which recently led to a hilarious first attempt on ice skates and a downright unpleasant first attempt at stand-up paddleboarding). But I’m down for trying new things and trying them as best as I can, so I felt ready.

Throughout the class, I found myself holding the positions better and longer that I thought I’d be able to. Mary was adept at describing the positions and how get in and out of them, and she very kindly paid attention to what I was doing and pointed out adjustments so I’d feel more impact. Generally speaking, she spoke a lot, and at a very rapid clip:

“Knees together, heels planted, back straight, chest up, shoulders back, neck straight, chin forward, palms up, hips in a straight line, bring your leg up, hold it, push through, push up, push further, push harder, feel it in your foot, through to your knee, to your hip, your core, your muscles, your digestive tract, push more, push beyond, keep pushing, mind over matter, push longer, and change.”

Mary would rattle that off in about 8 seconds.

I modified some positions that I couldn’t execute, and held others for a little less than the rest of the class, but for the most part, I did it all. The class was almost 90 minutes, and by the end, I was drenched with sweat. Sopping wet. I’m certain it was the sweatiest workout I’ve ever had. You can’t see the sweat marks on my clothes, because there are absolutely no dry parts whatsoever.

My towel was soaked.

I could wring sweat from my bandanna.

I created an even bigger puddle when I wrang out my t-shirt.

Who knows how much of that sweat could be attributed to my exertion, and how much could be attributed to the climate, but the class was certainly an exhausting workout. My muscles burned and quivered throughout the class. It was almost bizarre how tired I felt: never had I moved so little and sweated so much. As I right this, late Tuesday night, I’m still a little sore in my arms, shoulders, and quads.

Right now, I’m envisioning all you yoga fans at the edge of your seat, or perhaps you’re in the Tuladandasana pose (balancing stick), pondering the big question, which is whether or not I liked the class. The answer is… more than I thought I would, but not enough to go rushing back. I’m glad I gave it a whirl, and it wasn’t a miserable experience, but… I don’t know… The peace and quiet of yoga was a nice change of pace, but I think I prefer more exuberant forms of exercise. I’d rather clear my mind, let off steam and burn some calories by jumping or dancing or pedaling or otherwise being more vigorous, and with my favorite music in my ear. But maybe I’ll try another yoga class at some point. Never say never, right?

Tomorrow I start my marathon training.

KEEP IT UP, DAVID!

PS. I’m kidding about the marathon.

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10 Responses to Yoga

  1. I’ve taken regular Yoga classes, and they aren’t bad…even if I can’t really do half of the poses.

    Bikram though? Ugh…no thanks. I get uncomfortable when the temperature goes above 75 :/

  2. Karen says:

    Great post, David, as always! From here, freezing in the wintry northern climes, a little peace and quiet and hot and humid doesn’t sounds so bad :) I’m continuing on my own weight loss journey too, attempting to reach the middle of the healthy range on the BMI chart (I’m currently no longer “overweight” and I weigh less than I have since about age 16 or so, after 4 kids). I know that reading Keep It Up, David! regularly gives me an extra boost to make my own smart decisions, especially when the loss is going very slowly and it would be easy to fall off the wagon. I know no one’s paying you to blog and it’s a big time and energy commitment, so I want to say thank you. So. Much. :)

  3. Sandy Cox says:

    David, your yoga entry today cracked me up! In my weight/exercise saga, i just recently discovered Pilates Mat classes. I had always rejected the idea of Pilates…thought it was too hard, too painful, etc. etc….not for me! Well, I actually kind of like it! Shocking!
    So, good for you for keeping an open mind!

  4. susan says:

    David, if you take a “regular” yoga class, instead of “hot” yoga, you’ll find a totally different experience. Not as much sweat, but an amazing stretching session that will leave you floating out, altered in body, mind, spirit. I recommend a good Iyengar teacher who will work with you to modify the positions for your best benefit.
    THANKS for the post and, as usual, keep it up :)

  5. Debbie Morgan says:

    oh my poor you…. that looked so uncomfortable. Exercise hurts me every time I do it. (yes I do it right and slow) but I hate it when I do it. The only thing I find someone fun is walking.
    Anyways, That pic of you David just made me giggle and at the same time wanted to reach out and give you a much needed hug. That didn’t look like something I wanted to do any time soon!

    Keep up the good work hon. You are a true inspiration!

  6. DidoCarthage says:

    I agree with Susan. I’m afraid Bikram is a bit of a fad; the excessive heat encourages people to overextend, which can cause serious injury. Less extreme, mindful yoga promotes a very satisfying body awareness, and improves your flexibility and balance – which you said yourself are not your best features. I alternate yoga with weight training; they complement each other well.

  7. Coco says:

    I thought you loved carnivals (of pain)?!

    “Out of the silver heat mirage he ran. The sky burned, and under him the paving was a black mirror reflecting sun-fire. Sweat sprayed his skin with each foot strike so that he ran in a hot mist of his own creation. With each slap on the softened asphalt, his soles absorbed heat that rose through his arches and ankles and the stems of his shins. It was a carnival of pain, but he loved each stride because running distilled him to his essence and the heat hastened this distillation.”
    – James Tabor, from “The Runner,” a short story*

    *I’ve never actually read this story, but I found the quote on the Interwebs just for you, running buddy.

    • David says:

      Wow, that is some quote! Are you sure it’s from a short story and not a drug-store romance novel? Seriously, all that’s missing is a romantic interest in distress and a mention of his loins.

  8. Addie says:

    Ha! I’m glad you finally tried yoga, David! I think I was one of those people who hinted ever so persuasively that you might like it, ha ha ha. Your pictures are hilarious. Personally, though I am a yoga teacher, I have never been into Bikram. The extreme heat does not appeal to me…and people do get dehydrated and sometimes overstretch, damaging ligaments due to the illusion of flexibility that the heat provides. Also, the sequence of poses always being the same doesn’t work for me – I don’t mean it’s wrong, it’s just I come from a school of thought that’s all about observing what the student needs physically/mentally that day, and designing the class around that. But, it’s so cool that you tried it, and Bikram does have some die-hard fans! There’s a lot of variety out there in the yoga world, so don’t stop now… :) And any style is good for stress relief if you enjoy it.

  9. Kim says:

    Yoga is a real pleasure for body and soul. But it requires dedication and huge physical capacities. To prepare your body for regular trainings and to improve your results the proper nutrition is vital. I am taking Military Grade Nutritionals. These dietary supplements were developed for soldiers, but they are good for everyone, who wants to keep fit. They provide sustainable results and help me improve my shape quickly.

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