It makes me question what, exactly, I am missing. Same thing with running, but that’s another story for another day.
The truth is, I know what it is I am missing when it comes to enjoying yoga. And it makes me feel exactly the same as that moment when you decide you want to lose a couple pounds and realize that you are going to have to give up your afternoon cookie habit for a while.
Yesterday I taught a group exercise class that included about 20 minutes of different yoga postures. Because it had been a while since I had done any yoga, it hurt. I mean, a lot: a few times I wondered why I had thought putting the yoga into the routine was a great idea. I didn’t feel injured-hurt, just hopeless/inflexible/out-of-shape-hurt. My hips wouldn’t twist in the direction I wanted them and my shoulders pulled big-time. If I hadn’t been teaching the class, I likely would have dropped out of the poses, I definitely wouldn’t have been smiling, and there’s a high likelihood that instead of encouraging, “Breathe!” I would have let slip a few of the words that were ricocheting inside my head.
But then, when I was done, I thought: ‘I should do more of that.’ And, then, because I was born with a strong critical thinking gene, I thought: ‘Why?’
First, as I wrote above, it hurts. Second, getting into an awkward position and holding it for 60 seconds doesn’t feel very … ummm … workout-ish, does it? I mean, you don’t break a sweat. It doesn’t feel like there are a lot of muscles being built. Mostly, you move into a position, hold it for a while, move further, hold longer (probably while mentally reciting your lengthy to-do list, stuff you could be doing instead of yoga), twist around and feel like you’re going to fall, try your best not to, and don’t forget to breathe. A lot. And then you do it some more.
But then there are a lot people – the bendy yoga folks – who swear by it. I looked on the Amazon fitness bestseller list the other day and it was populated with yoga books. Seriously: yoga books even filled the strength-training bestseller list. Clearly, there’s something to all this yoga love.
I do know I feel and move better (not just in class but in life) when I do yoga more often. Yesterday during the wide forward folds, I could still get my head and elbows to the floor, which was a victory because I am not a naturally flexible person. But I also felt like I was locked up tight doing almost everything else and that it wasn’t a good thing, not at all. In fact, it explained a lot to me about why I feel so achy lately.
I used to regularly teach a cardio/flow class that included 30 minutes of fitness cardio followed by 30 minutes of yoga. It was a perfect mix for non-benders like me. The cardio warmed us up and then the yoga stretched us out and sneakily built some strength. Because we worked up a sweat during the first part of the class, we felt we had “worked out.”
But then work got busier and I had to let the class go. With it, however, I also let go of my own yoga practice, which apparently was a mistake. I remember how sore and grouchy I was when I was working on my certification — I joke that I had to do “angry yoga” for a while to learn the proper form. Now, I have to go back to the beginning, to the discomfort, in order to get to happy(ish) place.
It’s hard to look forward to the gutting-it-out period that seems to come with almost change we make in our routines. It takes a lot of faith and patience to wait for the payoffs — whether it’s giving up the cookies to lose weight, holding the pose a few seconds longer to gain strength and flexibility, stopping at the gym on the way to/from work to improve our fitness — to come, and for the habit to be built.
So I’m back to angry yoga for a while, which makes me feel like someone stole my cookies. Before long, I know, it won’t hurt quite so much, and then — just maybe — the silent curses that float through my mind when I’m in revolved triangle or reverse warrior will turn into happy calm thoughts. I might never look like one of those serene yoga folks, but if my muscles feel looser and happier, it’s all good.