Yoga for Dummies

All you need for a really demoralizing time

All you need for a really demoralizing time

“So this is a beginners yoga class, right, Lauren?” I had asked this question before, but after a back surgery and months of physical therapy, I knew I needed something remedial. Yoga for senior citizens with a fractured hip, perhaps.

“Oh, yeah. The class is really basic.  You’ll be fine.”

Reassured, I hit the End button on my phone and slipped a hair scrunchie over my wrist. I was wearing something called yoga pants, and I hoped they possessed magical powers that would allow me to contort my body into painless poses that would encourage the disks in my spine never to jump ship again.

I opened the glass door on the YMCA, and a girl behind the counter greeted me with a cheery smile. She looked all of 18. “May I help you?”

“I’d like to join your yoga class for the evening.”

“Sure thing!  Just sign these forms, and I’ll need to see your driver’s license.”

I dug my mug shot out of my wallet and scribbled my name across the bottom of forms that made me pinkie swear not to sue the organization if I carelessly maimed myself on their property. With comforting phrases such as “accidental death” and “loss of life” floating around in my skull, I paid my five bucks and received directions to my class.

By the time I entered, I was five minutes late, and people were already barefooted and striking poses on a series of colorful mats. I skirted the edge and pulled my own roll of teal foam from a nearby shelf and tried to find a location beyond the notice of the teacher. Turns out, there was no such place.

I tugged off my shoes but decided to leave my socks. I hate it when my piggies get cold, and between the AC and the Zen music of rushing water playing in the background, I was already feeling a draft. I put my ponytail holder to good use and then tried to imitate the stance of those around me.

It wasn’t nearly as easy as I had hoped, but I was doing a fair job of keeping up with the class. Sure, my flexibility was limited, but all in all, I was crooking elbows and standing akimbo with the best of them. Then the teacher piped up.

“We are now finished with the warm up.”

Warm up? You mean that wasn’t the hard stuff? And maybe I was just imagining things, but I thought the teacher looked directly at me when she added, “This is a power yoga class.”  I had no idea what that meant, but it had an ominous ring to it. Like the words electroshock therapy.

Fifteen minutes later I was hating life and building a strong case against release forms. How could the establishment be exonerated from responsibility when I was obviously out of my mind when I signed the papers?  The instructor kept calling out various animal names that sounded like cryptic code to me, but they seemed to cue everyone else into cookie cutter shapes. The wind talkers turned into downward facing dogs, spitting cobras, crows and birds of paradise. That last one required them to weave their arms around a leg and then yank that limb straight off the ground. I looked on and marveled as I tried to figure out how to reach my toes without a muscle spasm that would turn me into a Tasmanian devil. Every time the class struck some new and fascinating pose, I’d look on mournfully, knowing myself to be the dunce of the class as I stared at my piggies, oh so far away, and stood head and shoulders above the rest.

But hey, I couldn’t help but feel encouraged since the teacher would lock eyes with me at intervals and reiterate, “This is a power yoga class.”  I was about ready to show her how to power hurl. That sound would be just lovely against the gently croaking tree frogs of her rainforest CD.

At the end of the hour, I rolled up my mat, shelved it with a bit more force than necessary, and walked out of there without bothering to thank the teacher for the lesson in humiliation. I may have gone in there for the pain in my back, but as it turned out, yoga was a real pain in the neck.

© 2013 – Traci Carver


25 responses »

  1. You stepped where I always meant to and never did. Three years of Pilates was good but then someone said yoga would be better for all my mild issues. Was always afraid the class would be too tough for me- think I’d have been right. and yes the yoga pants are so comfy- no wasted money there 🙂

    • I absolutely see how it would be beneficial for your health, but I truly need something for the stretching impaired. I’ve been trying to work my way up to a basic course because even the video for a beginner’s class was tough. At least with the DVD you don’t have to feel mortified in your own home, though 😀

  2. I tried yoga a couple of years ago with one of my students…this was very much my experience too. I felt great after the class, but I couldn’t move for the rest of the week! Yoga pants are great for lounging! 🙂

    • Part of my problem was that I thought years of workouts had somehow prepared me for this fiasco. Not even close! And you’re right about those pants; they are comfy 😀

  3. My gym offers POWER yoga classes too, which I think is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron really. I always thought yoga meant turning off the power and letting your body and mind flow into the sublime. I did try the class once, but never went back for reasons similar to those you present in your powerful post, Traci.

    I like Pilates better! I keep my socks on and work from a purple mat.

    • How true about the contradiction! While the instructor was telling us to relax, I was feeling stressed and anxious. I’ve heard a few people talk about Pilates, so many I should look into it. Anything that will let me keep my socks during winter would be a plus!

    • I’ve tried a home video, but even that guy moves too quickly. I’ll just have to stick to home stretches until I can gain some flexibility . . . and the trauma subsides 🙂

      • David whatsisname with the hyphen? Yes, we got his video too after watching him on YouTube (where all of his sessions are available). Even though it seems that he is moving under water, and in slow motion, it took us a couple of weeks to even closely simulate what he was doing. As it turned out, our own personal (and doable) pattern of moves evolved. We don’t worry that they are not anatomically correct; it just feels good to do the stretches that we do. It takes about twelve minutes to go through the routine that we have established. Worth doing – no need to dress funny, be cold, or go anywhere!

        My personal belief is that yoga is fine for exceedingly limber people, but ordinary people are just looking for trouble!

      • I think the fact that my couch blocked my view for most of it didn’t help matters either. I kept popping up like a groundhog trying to see what he was doing, so it was literally an exercise in frustration. 🙂 But you’re so right that you have to find what works for you. Everyone must tailor a routine to their own physical challenges.

    • Yeah, even the socks were a yoga faux pas. I was so out of my element, but it seemed so much cheaper than weekly physical therapy. But then again, can you really put a price tag on your self esteem?

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