My entire life I had always wanted to be the “yoga girl.” The spiritual, really earth-friendly, wears flowing clothing, and although just got out of bed and wearing eighteen different colors, and has her hair sort of thrown on her head still looks perfectly serene and put together. You know, the girl who orders green tea while you suck down a frappacino. The girl who somehow manages to convey hippie while still being classy enough to order champagne at the Ritz. Who is that girl? And how does she do it? Well I still have no idea but I do know that I have always been baffled by her ability to withstand a ninety-minute yoga class. I have always been somewhat of a clock watcher.
My first memory of any kind of mind/body/breathing movement was in my high school history class. There was a brief stint where there were no history teachers and the football coach, Mr. Smith, was subbing until a suitable one could be found. Ah, the gloriousness of the California school system. In order to somehow tame us, he took us out onto the football field (because he wasn’t about to teach us history) and taught us tai chi instead. I remember my best friends’ mother being really excited for us. “How great is that! Tai chi is wonderful; it must be such a lovely break in your day.” I thought she was crazy. It was embarrassing and awkward and I couldn’t stop looking at Jake Williams and hoping he liked me. I think, however, Jake had a crush on the yoga girl to be, Katherine Edwards.
The next time I did anything similar was at University. I was in a movement class and we incorporated yoga poses into the class. Yoga wasn’t as popular then as it is now and this wasn’t your typical yoga experience. The teacher mixed different poses with dance, tai chi (which by then I knew a little about) and feldenkrais. During these 8 a.m. movement classes I would clock watch. They were just too relaxed for me. I couldn’t get my mind to let go and be serene. I was sure something was wrong with me. If it were happening today, I would have probably thought I had ADD, but as that wasn’t quite so popular an acronym, I simply thought I wasn’t spiritual or in touch with myself. I assumed that one must be really deep to be able to do yoga.
After University I moved to Santa Monica. A girlfriend of mine had the best arms I had ever seen in my entire life and she claimed they were from yoga so I immediately jumped on the bandwagon. If yoga could do that then surely I could figure out a way to get into it. No such luck. Oh sure, I pretended it did and I told everyone and their mother about my wonderful Tuesday/Thursday yoga classes and how great they were. And even as the teacher told us to focus and let the pressures of society release, I was staring at the girl to my left and wondering where she got her tank top.
The part of the yoga class I absolutely abhorred was the end pose. You know the one where you lie on your back still like a corpse and the teacher turns out the lights and plays whimsical music and I am just supposed to lie there and not think about all the things I have to do and the groceries I have to buy and how I have to pay rent and call my sister and do laundry and and and … that part always drives me crazy.
It wasn’t until I met a yoga teacher in the most unlikely of spots—a gym. I always assumed that to be a “good” yoga class it needed to be at a yoga studio. I was drawn to the class because it was only sixty minutes long. Finally I had found a class that worked with my schedule. Maybe I would even refrain from clock watching.
The reason this class was different for me was because the instructor was funny, mellow, un-pretentious, and friendly. He didn’t talk too much or too little. He didn’t make me chant for fifteen minutes. He was just good, my idea of good. The best thing of all was that he got me to understand and enjoy the corpse pose at the end. I asked him once why in his class I was ready for it but I had hated it in other classes. He explained that the point of yoga is the end pose. It is to get your body/breath and mind to a state where you can completely relax and for me, in order to do that, I need to exert myself physically. I need yoga to be physically demanding and challenging in order to relax at the end. Slow yoga with lots of breaks in between poses doesn’t work for me because I get antsy. I need to be constantly moving.
Yoga isn’t for everyone and for some people no good at all, but I often wonder if people rule it out because they just haven’t found their version. No yoga class will ever be the same, even if it’s the same studio or type. I suggest trying out a few. Try Hatha and Vinyasa and Iyengar. Try different studios and different instructors. Even then you may find that you don’t like it, but you might find that lovely, delectable, perfect moment right at the end of class when everything that you have been stressing about and all your worries and all your stress and all your sad disappears for five to ten minutes. It is most likely the only moment most people have when nothing is required of them. No one wants you to do anything but lie there. There are no phones, no fluorescent lights, nobody is looking at you, nobody is talking to you. It’s bliss.
It took me fifteen years of stretching to finally figure out what worked for me. How sad if I had given up after high school tai chi and never tried it again. I would never have experienced the joy I now find from it. I am still no Katherine Edwards but I no longer care. I am into yoga for the long haul and it has very little to do with my outfit.
If you have never participated in a yoga class, then I suggest you give it a shot. Even if you aren’t flexible or think you won’t look like the seasoned yoga goers, no worries. Yoga is so individual, no matter what your level, you do the level that’s right for you, not your neighbor.
Yoga has a wealth of health and fitness benefits including increased flexibility, better circulation, and increased lubrication of ligaments and joints. It improves balance, strength, and posture, and it is a massage for the organs. If those aren’t enough of a reason to at least give it a shot, then try it out in hopes that you too may find that blissful moment in an otherwise very hectic world.