The first yoga class I ever took was in the dance studio on campus during my freshman year of college. At the time, my main form of exercise was dancing — tap, jazz, ballet, kickline and whatever else was thrown my way.
I favored high energy, super-sweaty, butt-kicking workouts. I thought yoga was for people who liked to lay down, channel their inner weirdos and say “ommmmm” in unison.
(Don’t take offense yogis and yoginis — by the end of this post I come to the realization that my assumptions were wrong!)
So I went into that first class thinking/knowing it wasn’t really “my thing.” I felt strange being barefoot, and when the instructor —who was also my dance team advisor at the time — told us to go into Warrior 1, I started laughing. For some reason, I found the names of the poses to be really funny.
Honestly, I don’t even remember if I stayed for the entire class. I remember giggling a lot, and I remember leaving with an “I’ll never do that again” mindset.
Fast forward about five years (eh, maybe six — who’s counting?) from that day.
By this time, I’ve stopped dancing entirely — I “retired” when I graduated from college — and started running. One mile runs turned into a 4-mile race. That progressed into a 1/2 marathon…and then two more 1/2 marathons.
Running became my life. I was still in my “get as sweaty as possible while working out” groove and had no desire to stray from it.
That is, until this summer, when I was running so much that my body slowly started begging for mercy. My hips felt tight all the time. My back never really felt loose, and my legs felt tired regularly. Not to mention the fact that my knees went from those of a fit 25-year-old to those of a creaky old lady.
I needed something to change.
A few months ago I started doing some yoga research online and by talking with various friends who practice regularly. I learned that there are many different types of yoga, including Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Bikram and tons more.
My inclination was to go straight for what I deemed to be the “hardcore” kind of yoga (though, really, they’re all pretty badass): Hot Power Yoga.
I scored a guest pass to Pure Yoga, conveniently located near my apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I was so nervous about my first class! I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know if I’d like the heat or if it would make me pass out.
But once I got there, I loved it. Like seriously loved it. (Here’s my review of my first Hot Power Yoga class at Pure.)
After that class, I realized that yoga is hard. Sure, it’s a different workout from spinning, running or kickboxing. But that’s what makes it fun. I got so much satisfaction when I was able to hold certain poses as instructed. During my first (real) class I even did crow pose!
I left class on a total high. I’ve experienced some truly incredible runner’s highs, but this feeling was different. Maybe it was because it was a hot class, but I really did feel like I had stretched all of the toxins and bad energies out of my body. I felt refreshed and I felt limber.
I immediately signed up for a second class — with a different instructor — and loved it just as much. It’s safe to say I was hooked.
Now sadly I can’t afford to go to Pure Yoga regularly, but I have found a weekly yoga class at Crunch that I love. The instructor, Carl Horowitz, is a former member of the circus, and he manages to make his classes enjoyable without being too preachy, which is exactly what I want in a class.
Granted, at the end of tonight’s Power Yoga Hour class, he had us close our eyes and “imagine being in a field at dusk, surrounded by thousands of fireflies…now imagine those aren’t fireflies, they’re fairies…” Yes, I started laughing out loud. I couldn’t control it. Fairies aren’t my style. But Carl smiled at me, giggled right along at the silliness of his story, and we continued.
Getting into a regular practice has done a lot for me mentally and physically, as a runner and as a crazed NYC resident.
My body appreciates the difficult poses. My favorites are tree pose, wheel and downward facing dog. I still have some trouble with various twisting poses, and I definitely don’t have the lingo nailed yet. Isn’t chaturanga just a push-up?
I love feeling so stretchy when I leave class.
Mentally, I always feared that I would be too distracted during yoga to focus on the class. But I’ve managed to engage myself in the poses and work on mastering each movement. The sounds of jacked-up dudes dropping dumbbells in the weight room next to the yoga studio are replaced by the awesome music Carl plays (tonight it was Bob Marley — um, yes please).
I don’t like to say “om.” I don’t like chanting. I don’t like being told I’m surrounded by fairyflies.
But getting a truly hardcore stretch? Getting an excuse to wear short-shorts? Seeing that I can still do splits (meh, on my right side at least)? Going to a Hot Yoga class and sweating without even doing anything?
Oh yeah — I’m a big fan.
SHARE: Are you a yoga fan? Why or why not?