Saturday, July 19, 2008

Yoga... Is it for Me?

Thursday night I kept a promise and went to my first Yoga class at Promatx. I popped out to Walmart and got one of those long rubber mats, - not a fancy schmancy one like this handsome young man from has. I put on something stretchy that wouldn't let my personals pop out of the bottom of my shorts when I was upside down, and trundled off to class like a kid on - well, the first day of class.

I was about five minutes late (faux pas) and the only spot was in the middle, right in front of the teacher. This turned out to be an ok spot because it gave me multiple views of what the poses I was approximating were supposed to look like.

So what was my first yoga class like? The teacher spoke softly while an eclectic mix of new age, and smooth jazz music played. I was one of three men in a class of maybe 20 people. The lights were off, so the only light was the ambient glow that came in throught the open doors. The students were a mixed group. Some seemed to be pretty experienced, others were struggling. Some heavy, some lithe. Some were very focused and others were carrying on a pretty constant conversation under cover of the music. I definitely didn't feel like the odd one out, but I got a sense that people were checking out to see if I was there to learn or to check out the bendy women.

I got my mat situated and joined in with the warm ups that had already started. These were familiar to me. Poses like the Cobra and Downward Facing Dog had been part of my acting classes in school. There was one called Cat that the lady in turquoise is doing below. This is actually something a physical therapist taught me when I hurt my back. There was a gentle relentlesness to the poses. They appear to be still, but each is actually a movement a little closer toward perfection. I had a sense of big stretches - like when the teacher invited us to try Pigeon where you reach back over your heads and grab your upraised foot! Then there are the thousand tiny muscle adjustments when trying to hold my balance on one leg like a heron. It was sometimes strenuous. There is a lot of upper body strength required. But it is also forgiving. When a pose is too hard, you can back off without accusation from the teacher or the group. Since each pose is a journey, you just go as far as you can go today.

Yoga doesn't require a lot of gear which may be one reason guys don't get into it as much. I was glad I had a mat, though I wish it were about 10 inches wider. My shoulders are a little broader than the material and I had to go off onto the floor for some of the movements. I didn't get a strap, which it turned out I needed, but the teacher let me borrow one. I didn't get one of those foam blocks either, but I don't know what I would do with one at this point anyway.

I did not have any sense of spiritual consciousness or mumbo jumbo, but when the class was over and I was out walking in the sunlight, I really did feel refreshed and a little more - I guess the word would be present. I felt a little more awake and alive than I did before. Yoga is a legitimate physical workout, but the afterglow is very different from the spent exhaustion I feel after a run or a good session in the weight room. I could have done either of those things after my class, but I didn't want to interfere with the strange new feeling I was experiencing. I think Thursdays are going to continue to be Just Yoga nights for me. I like it, and I want to know more.


These images are from

Rawganique - an online source for hemp products
The Yoga Learning Center - an online resource for learning about yoga with lots of images and video
DK Images, an online encyclopedia of images

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