I remember my first real yoga class so well. I had just returned from four luxurious months in Italy and had the cheeks to show it–the ones on my face! My friend Caitlin and her mom, Ms. Sue, had been Bikraming their butts off for months. Cait said she knew I’d love it. I met her at the Timonium Bikram, she handed me a mat she’d gotten me at the Five and Below, and we went to work in that hot box. I had a flurry of thoughts. Why does it smell like rancid Asiago cheese? Why do I have to put my wrists under my hips in Locust Pose if it hurts so much? Where did this yoga teacher get all of these ridiculous similes? Japanese ham sandwich? What is a Japanese ham sandwich? Aside from the flood of inquiries, I walked out of there lighter, more peaceful, and ready to turn around and go right back in. Maybe two days later, I met Chas. I didn’t know it at the time but I’d just welcomed two things into my life that I would never be willing to let go.
Since that first $30 for 30 days Bikram membership in 2008, I’ve tried most of the yogas that Baltimore has to offer. While there are certain types of yoga I favor over others, I just love being around yoga and its community. But, I do realize that just the two syllables: yo-ga can incite eyerolls and sighs and snide comments. Haters gonna hate. And yoga is awesome. So, here’s why. For all y’all haters, there are jokes mixed into my yoga-doctrine so you have to read it anyway. Do haters like jokes? Hope so.
Before I get to yoga class but I’m planning to attend one, I feel a pre-yoga squee. It’s a feeling of anticipation reserved only for yoga. I feel jittery and excited to get there, sweat it out, tune into myself, do a 60-minute moving meditation, and just be in one place. Even the anticipation of a yoga class is enough. It makes my day better to know yoga is in my future.
What Yoga Does for Me
When I am in a yoga class, I push myself. If it’s CorePower, I look myself in the mirror and I say in my head, “Yep. Keep going. This is all you.” It’s a rare moment in my day in which I face myself, encourage myself, and make the woman that looks back at me feel proud about what she’s doing.
Yoga is also my sharp-edge softener. I walk out of that room and I’m softer somehow. I remember being a kid and feeling like when I left church, I was supposed to be kinder, feel more “good,” like I should talk more nicely, smile more pretty. I know church might do that for some people. At this point in my life though, yoga is my church.
This is the first joke I promised. So, there’s this guy. He’s driving along the road in his purple pick up truck. He sees a bunch of penguins by the side of the road and he thinks to himself, “What are these penguins doing here? I guess I should take them with me.” So he puts them in the back of his purple pick up truck and keeps going. Well, it becomes time to get gas so he stops at a gas station. The gas station attendant comes out and says to the driver of the purple pick up, “Hey, what are you doing with these penguins in your truck?”
“Well,” says the driver, “I found them by the side of the road. What do you think I should do with them?”
“I guess you should take them to the zoo,” says the gas station attendant.
“Yes, good idea!” says the driver of the purple pick up truck and he drives away.
A week later, the gas station attendant is back at work and the very same guy drives up with the same purple pick up truck and the very same penguins in the back of the truck. Only this time, the penguins are all wearing little blue hats and sunglasses. The attendant walks out and pulls the driver aside and says, “What are you doing with these penguins still? I thought you were going to take them to the zoo.”
“I did,” said the driver. “We had so much fun, we’re going to the beach this week!”
The history of yoga is staggering. It is thousands of years old–something that can not be said for most forms of group exercise (if that’s what yoga is for you). Purely its ability to stand the test of time impresses me. Some researchers believe that yoga is 5000 years old. A seminal document, The Yoga Sutras, date back to the years of Jesus.
I know that something being “old” does not make it right. There are too many examples for me to even list. But yoga is tried and true and practiced. In the 20th century, it leapt from the east all the way to Hollywood, California. From there, it spread.
Within our yoga teacher training, we’ve been able to learn about the principles of yoga. They truly make me want to be better at every single thing in my life. An Indian sage named Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras. Within this text are ways of dealing with the struggles of being a human. Wouldn’t the world be better if we could all just follow this?
Why did Adele cross the road? Punchline: to say hello from the other side!
My mom often breaks into half moon pose in public, continually reminding me that yoga can be anywhere. Many yoga poses could be done on a train platform. I’m not sure why, but that feels like the best guideline. Because I can only imagine the contents of a floor of a train platform, I wouldn’t break into downward facing dog there to avoid things like chlamydia and papercuts. But lots of yoga could be done waiting for a train, in your living room, in a handicapped stall, in an office, on a sidewalk. It’s just so mobile. And there are so many times in our lives when light stretching and some mindful breathing could really rescue us from misery.
Yoga is also accessible in that there are modifications and ways for everyone to access at least something within it. Common cop outs I hear are “I’m not flexible” or “My back hurts” or “I can’t even touch my toes.” First off, all of those are actually more reason to come to yoga. Second off (second off? Not a thing, is it?) yoga is a no judgment zone. No one is looking at someone else and thinking, “Wow, she sucks at this.” That’s not what it’s about and that’s certainly not part of the 8-limbed path of yoga. We’re all there to better ourselves and looking at and judging someone else, well, there’s simply not time for it.
Yoga clothes are comfortable and sexy at the same time. How do they do it? You should see some of the outfits walking around with humans in them at Core Power. It’s like a fitness fashion show. I won’t pretend these looks come cheap. The bourgeois yoga clothes are only affordable to me at 75%. That’s not a joke. At 75% they actually seem reasonable to me. Not quite Mecca (Target) or Vogue Revisited prices, but “treat yo’self Tuesday” prices.
I live in my yoga clothes now. Sometimes it’s because I have pre-yoga squee and sometimes I’m doing what my friend Morgan calls Faux Exercise Athleisure. You wear athletic clothes without getting actually athletic. It gives the illusion of exercise, without the work.
What did the finger say to the thumb?
I’m in glove with you!
I started yoga teacher training in June (then promptly left for three weeks in Europe). Since then, with one month off, I’ve been in it. It felt so full circle to me–to go from student to student/teacher. I’ve been taking from yoga for 9+ years. It’s time to give back to it. And I think I always, in the back of my mind, knew I wanted to teach yoga. When it entered the front of my mind, it was time to act.
There’s something to be said for the empowerment of taking a yoga class, watching yourself succeed, making decisions of going into a pose or skipping it, moving into something you haven’t tried before, focusing on yourself for an hour, and honoring the whole room with your practice. Furthermore, guiding people through their yoga practices is a true privilege.
YTT has been challenging. It’s been time consuming. It is expensive. And it goes until 10:30 p.m. in some cases. All of that considered, it’s been completely worth it to me and I haven’t even really started teaching yet.
Eyerolls, sighs, snide comments–bring them on. But please don’t knock it until you try it. There’s a reason yoga is really old and worldwide and so well respected.
So yea, I’m drinking the Koolaid (or the electrolyte infused water). And it’s delicious.