My Yoga Diaries – Session 1: Intro Vinyasa

Allistair Santiago

Yoga Diaries 1So today I tried yoga for the first time. It’s been a few hours now but my limbs are still feeling the effects: my legs are wobbly and my arms feel shaky; I’m kind of sore and everything’s heavy. Honestly, I haven’t had that good a workout in a long time. I also haven’t been this exhausted in a long time. However, despite being tired, my muscles feel loose for once and I have to say that feels pretty good.

Now, I’ll admit it: I was really apprehensive at first – I guess I still am a little, to be honest. I was on intensely unfamiliar ground right from the get-go. From the moment I walked in the doors, I was plagued by an acute sense of self-consciousness. I’m prone to these things, you see, and I’ve never had the nerve to exercise in public before. I also felt extremely self conscious about being a guy in a yoga class.

The studio itself was nice, with a calming feel to it. Instead of calming me down, though, for some reason it set me on edge. I had no idea what I was doing. This was a peaceful place and I was incongruously apprehensive. No, make that downright anxious, feeling like I didn’t belong. I stiffly went through the motions of picking out a spot (terrifyingly close to the front). Then I sat. Other people were stretching and warming up; some were on their backs, eyes closed. I didn’t know any stretches and I wasn’t about to sprawl out casually on the floor, so I sat, uncomfortably cross-legged, until the instructor began.

There was a lot to take in, a lot to pay attention to. Our instructor, Beverly – I think her name was – explained as we went along. Almost immediately, two things struck me as remarkable about Yoga. The first was something I started noticing right away. As we sat and focused on our breathing, I realized that there’s a lot of force that can be generated through our breath. It’s a complicated matter of learning how to control it. But it’s just breathing, right? Sounds easy, right? I can tell you it’s not – especially when you’re going through unfamiliar and strenuous motions. The fact is you lose your breath. I don’t mean like after a marathon; I mean it goes away. You stop breathing. I do anyway. But if you can manage to calmly find a rhythm, it works. It even feels good. I couldn’t maintain it for long, but practice, practice, practice, right?

As we progressed into the session, the second thing struck me. It’s not like I wasn’t expecting exercise, but I was surprised – I mean honestly surprised – by the sheer amount of effort that Yoga asked for. It was faster and more fluid than I imagined it, and it required a strength I was afraid I simply didn’t have. By using no more than your muscles – no weights, no oversized rubber balls, no dodgy step apparatuses – it works everything. Hard. I was sweating within minutes.

The theory is a workout that marries one’s breathing to kinesthetic motion, using the force of your breathing to keep the flow from pose to pose. It’s not easy, but by the end of the class I felt I almost understood what I needed to learn.

Then there was the great finale. The class ended in a manner I strongly feel all classes should end: everyone lying quietly and calmly in the dark, listening to soft music. Brilliant. The muscles relax; the brain finally shuts up. There’s suddenly space. That was the hook, I’m sure of it.

All in all, it went better than I feared it would. I’ll not be as apprehensive next time. I’m obviously still self-conscious about being a newbie – that won’t go away anytime soon, but I’m open to the possibility now that I might actually get to like this. I never thought I would, but it’s possible.

My Yoga Diaries:

[tags] first yoga class, self-consciousness in yoga, anxiety, yoga diary, breathing, motion, relaxation [/tags]

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