Last Monday I spied on the hatha yoga class at my Boston Sports Club to see if it looked manageable. IE, was anyone standing on their heads or contorted in some other way I could never pull off, AND did everyone have slick personal yoga gear. You might find this redundant, since I had already called the front desk and asked if the class was accessible to beginners (yes) and if you needed any gear, like a mat (no). However, a few months ago I had been given an identical set of answers about a ballet class at same gym and been completely humiliated by snooty ballerina types when I showed up in my GREEN MONSTAH t-shirt and sweats to discover that leotards, experience, and I think even French were all requirements. “I was told this class was for beginners,” I said lamely.
“It’s not,” a snooty ballerina type told me.
And so having withstood the dashing of my lifelong hopes of becoming a graceful ballerina type myself (without the snooty), I was reluctant to face the same humiliation with yoga. But what I glimpsed through the tinted windows looked human and manageable, so I showed up today for a one-hour class (ultimately with much better results).
Although stay-at-home writers can go to the gym in the middle of the day, unless I am way wrong, the majority of my class was able to because they are 1. retired or 2. a stay-at-home mother. I was the second person to show up for the class– the first was a super-thin, super-yogi looking elderly man. It was hard not to picture him saying, “The force is strong in you,” while gazing into the distance and stroking his beard. (Although I waited the whole class, this did not happen.) The next person to show was a woman whom I asked about the difficulty of the class, and she replied, “Oh, I’m sure you are much more flexible than I am, you’ll be fine,” perhaps owing to our 20ish-year age differential. I was not convinced this would be the case.
The teacher was an effusive middle-aged woman, friendly, talkative, and asked right away if anyone was new (while staring straight at me) so I raised my hand. She asked if I’d ever done yoga before and I said no, and then the class began.
To my non-yoga-trained-mind, the class could be summed up as: incredibly drawn out stretching followed by some very challenging abs exercises. We all had gym-issue mats (I have no delusion that they clean them) and did most of the class seated. I stretched more than I have ever stretched in my life, beginning with my toes (whee, I thought, I can do this) and moving up the body in increments. At first, I thought it was going to be a long hour. There were a lot of instructions on how to breathe (through the nose, which resulted in the audible breathing of about 30 people), and I found that the times at which I would naturally breathe in and out were completely counter to what she was telling us to do, so I had to concentrate quite hard.
Light background music and nature sounds played while the teacher instructed us to concentrate on our bodies, being completely in tune with them and aware of any sensations. We were to forget our to-do lists, forget the rest of our day. It was interesting to slow down and focus on how my body felt during stretching. Mostly, it felt tight, and protested a lot. I felt sore, and stiff, just trying to rotate joints or extend a certain way. I also discovered I am far more flexible on one side than the other. For example, when we did this maneuver here with my right arm above,
I couldn’t get my hands even close to touching. I was completely surprised when we switched sides and my hands touched easily.
Despite my initial feeling of slowness, the hour went quickly. One of my main motivators in exploring yoga is improving my posture, and the exercises certainly allowed me to focus on it. In the last fifteen minutes we did some “core” exercises which I found intensely difficult, and this was where the way older people completely showed me up. I couldn’t even finish the last set of “make a circle in the air with your legs,” whatever its yoga-name is.
I never completely forgot my to-do list, and for some reason I could not stop thinking about cider doughnuts, but I did leave feeling very nimble, walking more upright, and definitely more aware of my body. I didn’t leave with that “whew, I just worked out, hardcore” feeling, but with a sense just the same that I’d done something healthy. I think I’ll be back, or perhaps even try one of the other yoga sessions offered. Hurrah for accessible sports!