Downward dog. Chair pose. Warrior one. Warrior two. Triangle pose. The first time I heard those names was from a workout dvd. Like the rest of the nation, I had gotten into P90X workout program after seeing the infomercial around 1AM. What is it about infomercials after midnight? I swear they can sell ice to an eskimo. Beach body sold me into the 39.99 deal for 3 Months and bam! Tony Horton would be my trainer!!
The 3-5 business day shipping seemed to take forever. Eventually, my P90X shipment came through and I opened it faster than a kid on Christmas day. I was looking forward to a banggggging body in 90days!! All the hours spent on the treadmill machine catching up with my INSTYLE magazine be gone! Nothing came out of you anyway.
In was Tony Horton, chiseled jaw a la Jaime Lannister, body with -3% body fat, with a booming voice, hilarious quips, and charisma galore. I was ready to Bring it! Whatever he asked for I would bring. Started day one pumped and fired up. I could already see my beach body!!
P90X program schedules a yoga day in between your other Xtreme workouts and I was looking forward to it!! When I first played the Yoga X dvd, I sat back and watched it like a movie, forwarding it in areas where one had to repeat a sequence! This will definitely be a piece of cake, is what I thought. Looks like a whole lotta stretching. My treadmill sessions were tougher. Ha!
I had gotten a yoga mat from Walmart which smelled like an open can of tennis balls and of good fortune, after all, it’s yoga. There is something about a yoga mat! It makes you seem cool and zen. Makes you want to put your palms together and Namaste everyone you meet. You don’t have to be doing yoga. Just carry a yoga mat, see your zen like status rise like sunlight from the sea. No shade needed!
I decided to get down to business and nail my yoga day. Tony initially tells you how yoga is amazing. It will help with your flexibility yadah yadah yadah!!
Sir, am ready bring it!
Let’s just get this party started.
We started with breathing sequences. To open up the lungs. Told ya! Piece of cake. Next came the sun salutations. Ok. Weird names but I dig it. Then as the sequences progressed. My poor little muscles somewhere near my elbow started shaking as the minutes went by.. I didn't even know there muscles there! Anatomy be damned! At one point Tony quipped do your VINYASA! I had to stop and watch this vinyasa. Vinyasa, in swahili means shorts!. Why we doing shorts? I was baffled. My sister Flo swears I do not sweat heavily when we work out but I was ten minutes in and sweat was running down my temples. The workout was an hour forty five minutes long!
Get out of here!!!
Since I live by the mantra NEVER GIVE UP, I kept doing my sequences trying not to fall off my brand spanking new mat.
I made it to the 25th minute and then I sat down and watched them as they progressed to balance poses and other non rookie moves. Piece of cake huh! That was my intro to Yoga. In 2008.
I did the program for close to 45 days, shed some weight. Yas!! It must have been my new found confidence, my zen like status after falling off the mat and getting back on like an undeterred buddhist monk or the little biceps that were forming because of Plyometrics. Who knows. Sneaky little fate stepped in and I met a boy, a date here, a date there, you know how that goes. You miss a workout for a day, then it’s a week. Then…..The end!
The boy is not around but my P90x program still is. Somewhere on my bookshelf. Collecting dust!I am sorry Tony.
Fast forward to 2016, I met Shiro at a house party of a friend of mine. After chit chatting, we discovered we both enjoyed working out. Gym buddies yay!! Shiro mentioned Bikram yoga during one of our Leg day workouts. Bikram yoga is done in a 100 Fahrenheit room resulting in greater elimination of toxins from the body through the increased production of sweat. As in yoga in a room that is hot as a pot of Githeri! Or Black beans. Nope!
You must be mad! I remember the little muscles quivering at the elbow and kinda let that yoga story die a swift death.
I had done Bikram yoga two years prior in Baltimore with my buddy Stephanie. Bought those groupon deals. 10 classes for $39, not too shabby! Figured I could hack Tony, what’s a hot class going to do to me. Scorch me?
Boy was I wrong.
It was the most humiliating class of my life. Remember I sweat in 10 minutes at room temperature. Hike the temp to 100 degrees and my pores become dams releasing tsunami like quantities of sweat. It was a 6am class and I had not practiced yoga in eons and here I was standing like the tin man in a hot room. My moves were off and falling of the mat was my comfortable pose. Sigh! Those were the longest 90 minutes of my life. The class ended and so did my relationship with yoga. I never showed my face to that sauna of a room ever again.
Then here comes Shiro urging me to try Bikram yoga! She tells me I will love it. Love! She is Hilarious. I eventually acquiesce since am a team player and all that. Plus I give second chances, what the heck! Yoga was good to me. It’s that heated room I frowned upon. Back to groupon. We settle on a Saturday class at a beautiful studio in Herald Square.
Eat a banana. Drink tons of water at least two hours prior. Carry a water bottle. See you soon.
Thats a text from Shiro. Just making sure I will show up.
Here’s the thing!! I LOOOVEDDD IT! LOVE!
Loved it so much. I went to all ten classes and signed up for more. I had checked the attitude I had outside the door and told myself I would Ace this yoga in a hot room business.
The instructor was amazing. The whole focus was on myself. Every move I did, every sequence no matter how HARD, I breathed through it. If a pose was a little bit extreme, us beginners were instructed to do the little we can and just breathe.
Just breathe. How beautiful is that?
Dang! I should have mentioned this was going to be a looong post, we have come this far so hang on. Here are the five things I have learnt about yoga from the classes I have taken.
BREATHING IS KEY
The amazing benefits of just opening up your lungs is beyond. Pranayama - breathing is incorporated into the exercise positions encouraging you to be conscious of your body. It also aids in restoring balance of the body and mind. I found some poses tough but remembering to breath through it made the poses a little bit easier.
STOP COMPARING YOURSELF
If you are a beginner, it’s ok to fumble about and even fall off the mat. Laugh or smile about it and breath. Do not look at the pros in the class who have been practicing for eons. Just do what you can. Remember that at one point they were also beginners. No one is born a pro. Do the best you can and forget the rest.
From tin man to the rubber man. True story. Initially, touching your toes and doing a back bend will seem like a far fetched notion. With constant practise, you will notice a gradual loosening. Seemingly impossible poses will be possible.
My mind is a rollercoaster of ideas and activities. Things to do. Things that need to get done. A hub that is constantly on the go from the moment I wake up to the time I go to sleep. With yoga, an important component is focusing on the present. It’s calming and restorative which then makes me coordinate and solve problems that may come my way. Quiet the mind, focus on the present and the recurring loop of scattered thoughts and little distractions fade away. How awesome is that?
The basic foundation of all body goals is a healthy lifestyle. Practising yoga got me moving and burning calories. My face is radiant and my skin feels amazingly soft thanks to Bikram yoga and sweating off all the toxins. I have become a more conscious eater which in turn has enabled me to shed off some stubborn pounds and even increase my strength and endurance during my gymmy dates. That endurance can be channeled into other things as well. Wink* Falling off the mat is less frequent meaning my balance has improved, and my posture is about to rival the Queen. No not Cersei, my Game of Thrones fam know what I mean! Plus I sleep like a baby. No lullaby needed.
Seriously! The benefits of yoga are numerous. Hopefully this has encouraged you to contemplate taking a class at your local gym. Or try one of those groupon deals. They have one in every town trust me. Find a buddy who is willing to try it out with you. If you are not into this class things. How about trying out a dvd in the comfort of your own home. Or even better the internet has numerous yoga videos done by certified yoga trainers. For free! All you need is a good wifi connection.
Yoga is for everyone. I love the fact that you do what you can. It’s not about being good at something, it’s about being good to yourself. Here is beautiful quote I read about the goal of yoga by International Yoga teacher, Rachel Brathen.
"The yoga pose is not the goal. Becoming flexible is not the goal. Standing on your hand is not the goal. The goal is to create a space where you were once stuck. To unveil the layers of protection you’ve built around your heart. To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates.
The goal is to love, well...You!
Come to your yoga mat to feel; not to accomplish.
Shift your focus and your heart will grow."