A first yoga class brings uncertainty, but rest assured, the rewards pour in during and after
I stared at a “Groupon” for a five class yoga special for thirty eight dollars. I knew it was a steal because one, yoga taught by a professional isn’t cheap and two, it was for a full hour and fifteen minutes. I outwardly fearlessly (while nervous on the inside) clicked on “buy now” and printed my voucher and set up my first yoga class with “Frank” at the “Yogamaya” Studio located on West 20thstreet in Manhattan New York who had ravishing reviews all over the Groupon site. Showing up for my first class Wednesday at 6:45pm, the teal colored rug welcomed me. Everyone looked like they knew exactly what they were doing and I, not so much. I tumbled over everyone’s shoes (the ones you take off beforeentering the area), clumsy me, but calmly continued to take mine off and hang up my coat.
I was greeted with soft voices and smiles. I felt so welcomed and loved, which was funny because I knew no one.
The actual yoga room made me feel like I was in Bali. The windows had wooden carvings and the candles lit the dark corners of the room. Frank welcomed us with a soft smile. I rolled out the yoga mat they provided and copied everyone else.
Then, it kicked in.
First few initial thoughts? “What am I doing here?” and “what if I break something?” “I have no idea what I am doing”. To my surprise, yoga wasn’t anything like that at all (so DON’T freak out when you go). Frank started with light breathing and soon, I was downward dogging and light planking before I knew it. He watched each “yogi”, e.g. fixing their hips and stabilizing my foot as I warrior-ed through the next two minutes. I was shocked! Me?! The person who couldn’t even do a split, was easily lifting my right and left leg to the ceiling while listening to direction. ME!
That evening, I left as if walking on clouds. I had been struggling with tightness in my muscles for a while because I took up another new sport, running. Foolishly, the first week I ran fourteen miles, non-stop, not understanding that my body would be in shock afterwards (and tense). Stretching at home just didn’t cut it. I also was going through a lot on an emotional level. Experiencing a lot of stress while attempting to work 40 plus hours a week, going to school full time, affording New York living and doing it all, on my own.
What brought me to yoga, was stiffness all over my body that just wouldn’t go away, accompanied with a few difficult decisions I had to make (and was potentially running from) within a current relationship that had me up most nights trying to balance my disappointment and anger (what a combo!).
I needed a chance to center. To breathe. I needed help letting go of the stress and irritations I had been carrying around with me for months.
So, when Frank started his class talking about anger and how it is important to learn how to let go of our emotions and how to stay calm and present, I took it as a total sign that I was in the right place.
Frank mentioned that despite the fact that he taught many levels of yoga, there still would be times where he would experience frustration when trying to master a pose. He talked about how the practice of yoga taught him to be more aware of not only his emotions but other people’s emotions too. It taught him how to react more calmly within many diverse life situations instead of letting feelings take over. I needed a refresher course on that but, don’t we all at times? At the end of the class, Frank dimmed the lights and everyone just laid on their backs with their eyes closed for about eight minutes. No one moved. For the first time, I was aware of everything around me and less aware of the stress, anger and many other emotions I had been feeling. I was focusing on my breathing, inhale-exhale (repeat).
The next morning, I was expecting soreness and tightness (the kind you can get from a general workout). I thought I would have a hard time walking down a flight of stairs or picking up a coffee cup (big deal-I love my coffee). But, I felt, GREAT. My body felt relaxed and at ease. Not to mention, I had some amazing sleep and the anger I had been feeling wasn’t there anymore. The stiffness was gone.
So, I did what anyone who felt that good would do, I went again.
My second yoga class was with another Instructor but same level 1. As I followed through her “flow” of things, I found myself hearing Frank’s voice in the back of my head, reminding me to keep breathing no matter what and focus on the present practice. I was now convinced that my brief reading about the benefits of Yoga on the American Osteopathic Association website was actually true. Improved respiration? Check! Energy? Check! More relaxed state? Check! Reduced Insomnia? Umm did I mention I didn’t sleep for weeks before my first yoga class?
Are you thinking of trying yoga for the first time? This is what you really need to know. Bring some water (you’ll get sweaty), bring a mini towel, wear something super stretchy and light on fabric. If you are starting yoga, there is a lot of ‘stretch-like’ movement involved. The downward dog and warrior poses are introduced to you as you go along and get easier throughout the class. There are no head stands (only if you are seasoned and really want to show off) just kidding, there are no hardcore hand stands or cartwheels.
Everything. Just. Flows.
Quite honestly, Frank made me feel like I was a pro! (A good instructor will be extremely supportive.) Most importantly, if you are looking for a place where you can breathe, recover (physically and mentally) and really give yourself some “me time”, then Yoga is it. Not only will Yoga relax your body and get the blood flowing, it will give you a chance to re-balance yourself. I can tell you that this was the best $38 I had spent.
So stop watching those YouTube videos of people balancing their entire body on their toes. IF you are new at this like I am, it would probably frighten you and make you feel like you won’t ever get to that place. One thing that Frank said that really hit home was that Yoga was a practice. Like anything in life, if we want to learn it and be good at it, we practice it. We make the effort. So while you are ‘yoga-ing, listen to your body, listen to direction, take your time, don’t compare your ability to that of others in the room, BREATHE and most of all, stay present. This is all a form of true healing — and healing from the inside takes practice. Trust me, I’m healing too.
>You may also enjoy reading Yoga: Beyond Movement, by Aditi Shah