Monday, May 3, 2010

Reluctant Yogi

It was the perfect summer day. It wasn’t too hot or too humid. My husband, partially because he is a nice guy and mostly because he knows I am an abnormally tolerant golf widow, had the kids plus a friend at Rye Playland. I was alone in the city and the possibilities were endless. I went for a run, bathed and showered (because I could), made myself lunch and headed back outside. I was annoyingly content and the ideal target for what was to happen next. I walked down Amsterdam Avenue and noticed a sign in front of the membership office for the new yoga place that was opening. I went inside to find out more about the studio so I could tell my clients about it. In less than 10 minutes, I left with a membership to Pure Yoga that would not open officially until December. “But you don’t do yoga” nice husband remarked when returning from his exhausting play date. “I know” I admitted “but I’m going to start.”

Months later and many degrees colder I went to Pure Yoga for the first time. In class, I introduced myself to the teacher, told him I was new to yoga and set my mat up in what initially was the back of the room. It wasn’t long before I was annoyed. I didn’t know what was happening or what “dog” was what. Seemingly, everyone else did. I was craning my neck to see what was happening and deciding I hated yoga. To make matters worse, about 15 minutes into class the back of the room became the front and I was now annoyed, hating yoga and embarrassed…not exactly my idea of the path to peace. After 90! (note to self yoga is too time consuming) minutes class ended. So what did I do after such a letdown of a first class? I went to another class later that week of course. I found that I knew more what to expect and that I that upward dog looked more like a lizard and downward dog was where I could take a breath or two. I still wasn’t convinced.

I decided to shift gears and try a Hot Yoga class. I am one of those people who likes to sweat and wanted to branch out before I threw in the eucalyptus scented towel. This room was smaller and darker. The teacher wasn’t overly yogi and played really good music and the class was 60 minutes. I thought this maybe was the right yoga for me. I took a couple more of these classes with the same teacher but things weren’t clicking for me with yoga. I told my sister in law, who was also a sucker (I mean excited) for the early membership deal, that I wasn’t getting a good workout and wasn’t loving yoga. I even went so far as to email management to cancel my membership. “You can’t cancel you know we signed up for a year, you’re locked in until December.” I had a feeling she was right or at least had read her membership contract. Now what to do?

Around the time I realized I had 11 months left on my 1 year sentence to yoga, I received an email. The email was from one of the instructors reminding me of my complimentary private yoga session (also in the contract). I made an appointment with YogaMatt (that’s his email address clever, right?). I joked with Matt about how I’m exactly the wrong type of person for yoga (high stress, intense, type A) and he said “no you’re probably someone who can benefit most.” Interesting. After a couple more yoga classes I started to realize something else. Every time the teacher offered a modification to make things a little more difficult, I ignored it. My goal was to avoid embarrassment and I was mostly successful. However, I soon realized I was going through the motions and that didn’t feel very good. Scott the Hot Yoga teacher even said in class that when you aren’t doing things to your fullest potential you become diseased (I don’t recall the exact words). I had a choice; I either had to jump in and potentially humiliate myself or become diseased. What would you choose?

I have 18 yoga classes under my belt. My goal is to go at least twice a week though I’m sure more is recommended. I know that bind doesn’t mean when you can’t go to the bathroom and that “wrapping it up” doesn’t refer to a present. At times I surprise myself with an improvement and at every class I feel I am incapable of many contortions others have mastered. My friend Wendy said it took her a year to feel she was getting things with by the end of my sentence I hope to feel that way too. As adults we have the choice to quit things whenever we want. This was a good lesson in not judging or quitting too quickly. I get the sense there are more lessons to come.
Do you do yoga? Any advice for me? Anything you’re tempted to quit? Do you think it’s good to know what’s not for you or should we, as we tell our kids, stick things out?


  1. Great post, Lauren. I think the main thing to remember with yoga is that it's a PRACTICE. There's nothing more exhilarating than kicking up to a headstand, yet nothing more frustrating than not being able to go into a pose you could do earlier that week. It's a great metaphor for real life--sometimes you've got it, sometimes not, but the most important thing is to keep on going. So glad you're enjoying's so important for someone who loves to run, sweat, and do lots of cardio (like me) Om shanti!

  2. Dear Lauren,
    Thank you for sharing your yoga experience. This practice is best if entered without any resistance or expectation. Gym and yoga are two entirely different animals. Surrender is important. Why not look at this an an opportunity to let go??? There is peace, and over time, subtle shifts begin to occur in the mind and body.

    Keep pressing on !!!! Namaste, Denise

  3. Sweet Lauren,
    I must respond to your post about yoga since you brought me last week to practice at pure yoga. I beg to differ about your poses - you look like a seasoned yogi :)
    I noticed the room we were in didn't have mirrors so you need to guess about what you look like while you're listening to next instruction. That is very difficult when you're starting out since you have to listen and "feel" the pose. The best advice I was given when I started was to breathe and not to judge. Yourself. And, since I already know you run long distances which takes tremendous mental and physical strength - yoga is right up your alley. One day it will just click. Maybe not while you're on the mat.
    Love, Wendy

  4. My brother, who is currently getting a PhD in music performance and composition, was told that he would be a much better musician if he did yoga. After poo-pooing this advice for a while, he gave it a try. Sure enough, he is a better musician because of the focus and breathing control the practice has given him. Now he loves it, but he struggled for a while. I guess when your dissertation adviser suggests something, you just do it. Me, I can't do the yoga as my adult ADD seems to kick in every time I try.

  5. Hi Lauren. Loved this post and your determination. I had a similar experience when I started (felt ridiculous). But through the support of a friend (Miranda), some persistence, and change in mindset (surrender yourself), I arrived at a place where I am happy with my practice. At a minimum I try to take 30 minutes a day for myself to do some stretching, breathing and just clear my mind. I don't even think of it as yoga just something I need to do everyday. We're in Venice! miss you... xo Amy