Thursday, January 7, 2010

Yoga for the traditionally built

I really, really want to take a yoga class. But I cannot seem to find one that I fit into. It's not like I haven't tried or anything. It's just that . . . there doesn't seem to be anything out there just for me.

The first time I ever took a yoga class was in 1997, when I was in graduate school at Indiana University in Bloomington. A friend talked me into getting up before the crack of dawn and going with her to a 6AM "Basic" Hatha Yoga class at the Student Recreational Center. The yoga instructor was a graduate student in health and recreation, and totally knew his stuff. He explained everything he was doing, and stressed that we should not push ourselves beyond our limits. Which was good, because at the time I had the flexibility of a pencil. For at least an hour after the class was over, I felt calm and alert and blissed out. Almost like I'd taken a Ritalin or something. It was wonderful.

I should have kept going to those 6AM classes. But I didn't.

The next time I attempted yoga was in 2002. A new yoga studio opened on the opposite side of town from where I live. They offered a free Sunday afternoon class for first-timers, so I drove up one Sunday to check things out. The instructor was awesome and very knowledgable. She studied with some of the big names in yoga (whose names I recognized because at the time, I was subscribing to Yoga Journal). She even went to Kripalu a couple of times a year. I was impressed, and I signed up for ten sessions. I went two more times, but got tired of the long drive.

I realize now how stupid that was.

Still, I was optimistic. I went out and bought a yoga mat, a purple "brick", and a strap. I even bought a unique, handmade yoga mat carrier from someone on eBay. I bought some Rodney Yee videos. On VHS.

I realize now how stupid that was. (The VHS, I mean.)

A few more years ago by, and it's 2005. The yoga studio I once went to is now a mega-powerhouse, and one day I decide to actually open up one of their emails. After all, I've been on their mailing list for four years now. To my delight, I see they're about to start a new class called "Yoga and Weight Loss." It will be led by a holistic nutritionist and each session will include a minimum of 15 minutes of beginner yoga. Four Sunday afternoon sessions for $100. I signed up and went to the first two classes, but got discouraged. You see, it wasn't really a beginner class. The other people in the class already knew the poses AND the instructor AND each other. I was the only person in the class who was new, and the only one who really needed to lose weight. I felt lonely and frustrated. So I quit.

Fast-forward to 2009. I learned about a Beginner Yoga class to be held just two miles from my house. I signed up, paid the fee, and enthusiastically showed up for . . . two nights. On the first night, it became clear that - once again - despite the title of the class, I was the only beginner. On the second night, the instructor ruthlessly criticized everything I did: I didn't get my butt off the floor enough. I didn't bend my knees correctly. I didn't hold my pose for long enough.

So I quit.

Despite all this, I really want to do yoga. But here's the deal. I'm a beginner. A real beginner. I mean, sure, I've been to a few classes, and I know some of the basic poses - um, asanas - like Mountain, Tree, and Downward Facing Dog. I know what a Sun Salutation is. I get the theory, people. I'm just tired of being pushed beyond my limits, and I'm tired of being the slowest/fattest/weakest/most pathetic student in the class.

Maybe the perfect class is out there and I just need to keep looking. Maybe I need private lessons. Or maybe I should just give it up, and accept the fact that yoga is not my thing.