I went to a yoga class last week. For those of you who know me, you might be surprised to hear that I made an attempt at exercising. But I’ve been told by so many people lately that yoga would be therapeutic. And again, for those of you who know me, you know I’m willing to try anything. I thought to myself, “what can be bad about a sport for which I can be barefoot?”
What I learned is that yoga is not for lazy people. Thus, it was kinda difficult for me because I don’t like to work hard. Now please don’t get me wrong – I am a hard worker. I just don’t like it. I felt great for the first five minutes of the class – soft, soothing music, dim lights, lying on a soft mat on my back wiggling my toes while breathing in the smell of the scented candles.
Then the real work began. Enough with the stretching, it was time to get serious. Suddenly, I was no longer relaxed. I was sweating. While in something called Sphinx position, you have to look down at your hands, which are supporting the majority of your weight, and all I could think was how badly I needed a manicure. I was unfocused and definitely unrelaxed. Yoga seemed like a variety of moves through what sounded to me like a three-ring circus: the camel position, the cobra, the downward dog. We moved from cow position to cat position, back to cow, and back to cat. I realized I’m really more of a cow than I am a cat, feeling completely ungraceful and heavy. If there was a “bull in a china cabinet pose”, I’d be really good at that one. The best part about yoga so far? I was told that I could relax my stomach muscles – finally, I had found a place where I didn’t have to “suck it in”. But when we flipped to our backs for another animal pose I can’t recall, the tag in my pants was digging into my lower back and I couldn’t concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing. I was thinking of how looooong an hour class seemed to be lasting, and how I couldn’t wait to be done with this torturous exercise. The soft music had taken on a droning foghorn effect and just because the volume was low doesn’t mean it wasn’t suddenly incredibly annoying. I was worried about what position she would require next – could I do it? Would I tumble over mid-“Warrior” and humiliate myself? I kept praying she’d command us to assume “child’s pose” (my favorite so far) just so I could get a little break.
The instructor had a soft, soothing voice and throughout the class, she reminded us to “just breathe”, to stretch ourselves farther “little by little, inch by inch”. Funny, she sounded just like my therapist telling me to proceed through my life “day by day, little by little, one step at a time”. My therapist is always reminding me to “just breathe”, and to stretch myself a little bit farther every day. The instructor also kept telling us to “open your heart”. Well, that’s one thing I certainly wasn’t going to do. I’d opened my heart plenty this year, and it’s gotten me nowhere. And it hurts. Forget about it.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, the instructor had us lie on our backs with our legs straight up in the air. I’m thinking, “I can do this. This isn’t so bad”. That is, until she came around and placed 10lb sandbags on the bottoms of our feet, which were now pointing up toward the ceiling. Things had started to get easier, and an uncomfortable weight is suddenly added to my already-heavy burden. Yoga hurts. This class was starting to mimic my life.
I started off my recent life thinking things wouldn’t be so bad, that I can get through this. It starts off slowly and calmly. And then I’m forced into a number of uncomfortable positions, carrying around a heavy weight and having a hard time taking slow, deep breaths. I’m completely unwilling to open my heart, and nervous that I won’t be able to handle what comes next. My inability to be flexible is holding me back. I am trying to proceed “little by little, inch by inch”. I’m trying to remember to “just breathe”. I’m set off by small annoyances like a scratchy tag and bad music. And then there’s the pain. Much like my first experience with yoga, I find that life hurts.
But at the end of the class, we did something called “shavasana” (which, incidentally, means “death pose”). We all laid on our backs and stretched out our arms and legs, and were instructed to simply “relax”. We were told to let all of our worries fall away from our minds, to relax each muscle from toe to finger, one by one. To let each bone in our spines sink into the floor, one at a time. The instructor spoke softly, and led us in slow, relaxed breathing. For the first time, I felt like I could take a full, deep breath. My eyes closed and I was suddenly less annoyed by the foghorn music. My body was cooling off and I felt very relaxed. It was magical. I felt calm.
I didn’t want to get up. But when I did, the instructor provided us with a closing blessing:
“May you find peace above you, peace below you, and peace throughout your body and soul. Namaste”. It was lovely.
For the record, I’ll be back at yoga this week.