How I Learned To Love Yoga

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.

Performing with the Quinnipiac Kickline team

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.

13.1 miles in Las Vegas = complete!

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.

Enter yoga.

This is not me. But she's cute, no?

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.

The Pure Yoga studios are amazing

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!

Also not me — impressive though!

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?

Chaturanga vs. 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?



14 Responses

  1. I love yoga and I feel so amazing when I practice regularly, but I still struggle to go to class. We don’t have too many studios nearby, so I take classes at my gym. I need to be better about scheduling it in as an important workout like I would do for a run.

  2. I have yet to really try an actual yoga class. Granted, I haven’t been trying very hard to get into one. I’d like to take some classes before I attempt it by myself at home. 🙂

  3. Yoga intimidates the crap out of me. Yesterday I bought a groupon for kayoga (uh, that’s kayaking then yoga). It’s a 1hr kayak trip to an island then you do yoga for an hour. I’m going with some friends, so hopefully I won’t feel to intimidated and awkward. I have tried yoga once, for like 5 minutes and I couldn’t get into it. It was a exercise on demand yoga thing and the lady was all quite and raspy, imagine the softest voice ever like “Okay, and nowwww we arrre going to do thiiissss” ANNOYING. I couldn’t do it. I am thinking about buying the biggest loser yoga video.. we’ll see. We are going the kayak + yoga thing in 2weeks.

  4. I adore yoga, and I go through intense phases where I go all the time or rarely at all. I was going to hot power yoga three times a week for the first six months of 2010 and it was amazing. I’ve started getting into the NYRR scene and have been slacking off. But I went to a hot power class at Pure West as part of the Self promo and I loved it! I also recommend Yoga to the People’s hot vinyasa classes ($5) at 38th and 6th.

    P.S. I found your blog through Emilia (Run for your Life) and am a fellow NYC runner/blogger, although I don’t really write much about running. 🙂

  5. I have loved yoga from my first class, 15 years ago..due to the business of life, kids, school, work I have not been able to practice regularly but have started going 2-3 times a week…i am currently looking into teacher training…so glad you fell in love with it!

  6. I keep wanting to try Pure Yoga. Everyone says great things about it. I too am afraid I will pass out from the heat, but maybe I should give it a try, or just start with regular yoga. It’s just so expensive! I hear there is free yoga on St. Marks place though…

    1. There’s free yoga all over the city! At Yoga to the People you pay whatever you want, and they have tons of locations. Pure Yoga isn’t just hot yoga, they have all kinds of classes, but it’s membership based, sadly. They don’t do drop-ins.

  7. Chaturanga is a push-up specifically with your elbows close to your body, facing straight back. It is much more challenging than a regular push-up.

    I HATED yoga the first few times I tried it. It was a combination of the wrong teacher, the wrong style and me not being mentally ready for it yet.

    A few years later I joined exhale and tried yoga again and immediately fell in love. Now I can take yoga anywhere and will generally love it. At my old gym I got to take yoga twice a week for 45 minutes in the middle of the day and it was amazing. I miss it so much.

    You have to come try Kayleigh’s Core Fusion Yoga with me one day. You will LOVE her and the class.

  8. ha ha you keep posting about good subjects 🙂 I have been loving hot yoga lately and I do feel more limber after the session. I find that yoga and running go hand in hand especially when those hip flexors and IT band start acting up. The Pigeon is my favorite pose!

  9. I’ve been meaning to write a similar post (and still may do so). I took some yoga classes in college, too, and didn’t see what the big deal was. I started doing yoga this summer…and totally got what the big deal was! Especially once I learned to take it seriously enough to get into the mental part.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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