Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Yoga for Round People

When I fell while hiking in Joshua Tree, I realized that I was not only out of shape but also had really poor balance. I decided that when I recovered I would start taking yoga to improve my flexibility and balance.

I have never done yoga (friends know how the atrocious "Laughter Yoga" was the bane of my existence in Hayward). But Pat used to swear it helped her marathon training. And a lot of Mike's friends do yoga and Lisa R. does yoga and they're cool so, of course, I want to be cool too.

It took a couple of weeks to screw up enough courage enough to actually attend a class at my 24 Hour Fitness. It's intimidating to start with a class that's been together for a long time. It's also intimidating when you know you are going to suck at something and everyone else is much better.

I arrived early and put my brand new bright orange mat at the back of the room, so as to be less obtrusive. The teacher, Rachel, asked if anyone was brand new to yoga and I raised my hand. I think I heard some sniggering but it could've been my paranoid imagination.

The teacher was really practical and physically oriented so not so much of the spiritual stuff that can make me uncomfortable. I was doing OK, surprising myself at my flexibility when - BAM - hot flash! And it coincided with the transition from easy warmup to actual work.

I expected to gain a nice gentle hour of relaxation and "centering  breath." I didn't expect to be sweating and so exhausted that my legs were wobbling and I was worried about steering the car. I should have known better. Within a few hours, every muscle in my body had seized and I felt like a guitar string that had been over-tightened and was ready to snap. The next day was better - sore muscles I can deal with - and even be proud of.

I have been going twice a week for a month now. I would be able to follow along better if the poses didn't have all those long, weird Indian names. I can only do about half the "plank" poses they run through. The rest of the time I am just trying to catch my breath. And every teacher seems to pop in some suggestion that seems actually insane, like putting one leg behind your neck.

I actually do feel more graceful.  I am definitely getting stronger and more flexible which should benefit Chris - if you know what I mean. (Sorry, Mike.) I never thought of myself as a yoga person. I want to crack jokes when everyone else is so serious and thoughtful. One of the most difficult things for me is to be silent and still for the "corpse pose" or Savasana. Do they have competitive yoga?

A note about these illustrations: I do not dress in revealing clothes - ever. I wear huge T-shirts and sweats to the gym. But this image of "child's pose" demonstrates why some yoga positions are impossible for me at this time. You try folding a rubber ball into thirds.