I took my first yoga class ever this week.
A necessary disclaimer
I am not an exerciser. I can always come up with something better to do, always. Read a book, watch a movie, shop, call a friend, eat something yummy, sleep.
Sure, I go through spurts. I think, I’m going to be a walker, and I go on walks a few times a week for two weeks. But then the books or the movies or the sleep wins. Or I think, I’m going to do whatever exercise classes I can find on my OnDemand. But then, I get bored. I look up gym info, but the cool ones are too far away, and if I’m going to actually Stick To Something, I need to diminish the possibility of excuses. So five miles away is much too far. Or the classes seem interesting, but they’re during my work hours. Or I worry they’re too popular, and the fit girls with the perky pony tails and cute belly buttons will judge my (fabulously) curvy ass and (less fabulously) uncoordinated body.
Recently, a conversation with my husband led me to realize that I need some kind of destressor in my life. I am not a naturally stressed person, so when I found something that regularly made my spine stiffen and my guts churn, I wanted to fix it immediately.
After going through a number of remedies, my brain turned to the potential of yoga. I hear it helps calm people. And it gets people active, which makes this wildly out-of-shape gal think … that would be nice. But honestly, it’s the stress thing.
I emailed a local studio last week and shared my newbie status. Did I need to bring anything? Did she recommend any particular class? I was told that the studio had anything I would need, and I should try Jen’s Wednesday class, which was perfect for beginners. She suggested I arrive early so she could show me around.
I had dinner plans with a friend on Wednesday, but when I noticed the iffy weather forecast–my friend lives 25 minutes away–I threw some clothes in a backpack, just in case she couldn’t make dinner.
When the fog rolled in and she cancelled, I decided to go ahead and give the class a try.
I walked into the studio in my work clothes. I was quite out-of-place in my floral-print tights and dark gray jersey knit skirt. I felt even sillier when I removed my brown heeled booties, per the sign at the front of the studio.
The space was dimly lit, and the floor was concrete. A woman sat in a waiting area reading a magazine, but no employee was to be found.
“She’s taking the class,” the reader informed me. “It should be almost done.”
So I waited around for 10 minutes, feeling more and more awkward as each minute passed and more people NOT wearing tights and work clothes filed in.
A door on the far wall opened, and the class began to let out. I stared each yogi down as she walked out, willing the employee to come talk to me and make me feel less like an out-of-place idiot.
One walked behind the desk, and I all but jumped her.
“Hi. I’m new here. I’ve never done this. I have no idea what I’m doing.” (I know how to make an impression.)
“Oh, you’ve never done this?” Duh. “I’ll take care of you.” Thank you.
She took me into a storage area full of mats and hard foam cubes. I take a mat, and she hands me a cube.
“Here, take a block,” she says.
“OK. What’s a block? Seriously,” I reiterate, “never done this.”
She goes on to explain that it helps with balance. If the instructor says to touch your toes, for example, and you can’t bend that far, you can use the block.
She pointed me to changing areas and a bathroom in the back. I had to walk through the class space to get there, and I made it a point not to look directly at anyone waiting for class to begin, somehow afraid I’d be found out, some ungraceful interloper who doesn’t know downward facing dog from Grumpy Cat. I made note that no one wore shoes or socks in here and silently thanked Sunday Jaclyn for painting her toenails.
I changed, and I stored my bags in a locker. I took my mat and
cube block and set up shop in the last available space–right in front of the instructor. This would prove fortuitous.
Look Ma, I can yoga!
The instructor began class stressing that if we at any point felt uncomfortable, to stop and get into a pose that felt comfortable. She didn’t want us straining or hurting ourselves. Luckily, I was paying attention to this.
We would be working on our shoulders and hips, she said, and we started with a series of simple breathing exercises and stretches.
Her instructions acted as a kind of hypnotism: As I breathed in and out with my movements, my mind became blank. As I listened to her instructions, reaching for the ceiling, folding down, dropping to the ground, stretching out specific limbs, I didn’t even realize that I’s stopped thinking about anything else. When I caught sight of her clock and saw a half hour had already passed, I didn’t believe it.
After doing work close to the ground, the instructor had us transition, move-by-move, into something called warrior pose, which looks like this:
As soon as I lifted both my arms parallel to the ground, I started to feel funny. When she instructed us to raise our left arms in the air, fingers pointed straight to the ceiling, I started to feel lightheaded. I saw spots, and I got tunnel vision. The world started to wobble, like a slow-motion earthquake. I wondered why she was speaking through a towel–her voice had become completely muffled.
I broke the pose and began to rub my ears. As the spots I saw got darker, I focused on my breathing, completely ignoring the class and willing myself not to pass out. When the spot lightened up, I tried warrior pose again.
Nope, this is not going to end well.
I walked past the instructor and whispered, “I’m getting really dizzy. Can I get some water?”
She thanked me for stopping and told me where was a water cooler just outside the classroom, in the main lobby.
As I filled up my cup, the employee who checked me in said, “It’s really warm in there!” and it dawned on me what had just happened.
“Yeah … I gave blood earlier today,” and her eyes got wide. “I didn’t even think of it.”
“Are you OK??”
I was fine, but as I sucked down four glasses of water, I debated going home. I had been intimidated as hell even walking in there, and now, to have to leave in the middle of a class because I got so dizzy it affected my hearing??
I gave it a few more minutes until I felt 100 percent and decided, oh what the hell, at least I didn’t actually pass out, and I went back in the room and finished up the class.
“Are you OK?” the instructor asked me after.
“Oh, I’m fine,” and I explained, apologetically, “I gave blood today.”
“Oh, no!” she said. “I mean, good for you for giving blood, but …”
Yeah, you don’t need to tell me that the first physical exertion I’ve had in months should have come on ANY OTHER DAY POSSIBLE.
“I am so glad you didn’t keep going!” she said. “That would have been terrible if you’d passed out?”
“Oh my gosh, I know, I’m such a dip shit.”
Because really, what else can you say?
Now: Will I go back?
Absolutely. I have been led to believe that some people actually look forward to this kind of physical exertion. I felt dubious about it before, but I really enjoyed that class. This particular instructor is fantastic for a beginner. She didn’t do any kind of hopping-headstand-through-a-flaming-hoop moves that would require a stunt double–in fact, she told me that when she takes the power yoga class, she just laughs at her friend who teaches it and refrains from some of the more crazy pants poses.