Last week I wrote about my experience doing yoga with Katie, and ever since then I've felt that I needed to clear up a few things. Mostly: that I'm not a yoga girl. I don't even own a pair of yoga pants, despite reports that they are slimming. I'm not the lithe, skinny, limber, willowy chick you imagine when you think of yoga. Instead I'm short, rather stiff, and somewhat squishy, especially around the middle. None of which are particularly helpful to a yoga practice.
Yoga and I are still getting to know each other. I first heard about yoga from my stepmother. She was always doing weird pretzel-y bends and stretches while we were out in public - in line at Disneyland, for example. Naturally I was embarrassed - not only was I a teenager, but I had some serious "blended family" issues as well. So for a long time after that, I thought yoga was pretty lame.
It wasn't until many years later that I came across yoga again. I had joined a gym because I wanted to get in shape, and I discovered that I really liked group exercise classes. Step aerobics was my favorite, although I made an utter fool of myself the first few times I went. Picture me, hiding in the back with my step, repeatedly getting my right and left mixed up. Then imagine my surprise when the instructor called an "Around the World" type move, and suddenly the whole class was facing me (I didn't know I was supposed to turn around too. Oops.)
One day I noticed something called "PiYo," or Pilates Yoga, on the class schedule. I'd heard a lot about Pilates (mostly that celebrities do it to stay skinny) so even though the class had "Yoga" in the title, I tried it anyway. I really, really liked it, especially the instructor, who managed to be perky and encouraging without being annoying. I discovered that most of what we were doing was yoga, not pilates. Hmm, maybe I'd been wrong. Maybe yoga wasn't lame after all.
Next came quitting the gym (too expensive) and trying to do yoga at home, with a video. The video was pretty good, but somehow I got all caught up in not having the right props and gave up.
A few years later, I discovered a yoga studio close to my work. It was a serious studio, for people with an active yoga practice. In other words, it was hot and smelly, the instructors had names like Bodhi and Shakti (but were caucasian), everyone there was SUPER flexible, and I felt so inept that I couldn't focus on doing the poses. All I could think about was how stupid I looked. Wall to wall mirrors didn't help, either. Why does Warrior 2 do such a spectacular job of showing off my arm flab?
It wasn't until I was pregnant with Katie that I started to "get" yoga. In my search for a doula, I found Blossom Birth, a nonprofit that teaches a huge variety of prenatal classes. They have a prenatal yoga class every single day of the week! I tried it a couple of times, and left there feeling more relaxed than if I'd had a massage. (Which is saying a lot!) The poses were modified for our more cumbersome pregnant bodies, which was perfect for me, pregnant or not. We were encouraged to just do whatever felt comfortable, and to rest if we felt like it. All the other yoga studios said that too, but nobody ever did it! At Blossom I finally felt comfortable with my ineptitude, and I started to actually enjoy myself.
The icing on the cake? During the toddler yoga class I wrote about last week, we were doing Warrior 2 when the instructor came around to make adjustments. This used to be the part I dreaded the most - I was NEVER doing the poses right, because I'm not flexible enough to do them, and I always felt so humiliated when I couldn't make the corrections the instructors suggested. Well, this time, the instructor looked at my form, and said admiringly, "You've done yoga before!" Then she moved on.
You should have seen the grin on my face!
I was even able to forget about my arm flab. :)