Learning Number One: Come Early
So, it turns out Yoga is quite the popular lunch hour activity. First day of class, I need to sign up for my monthly membership and get situated. As is usually the case, I'm running late.
Class starts at 12:05, I get to the studio at 12:00. There are two people in front of me paying for a massage and checking in for the class. I peak my head into the studio room and see front to back people, no less than an arms length between the mats.
Dang my tardiness!
I apologize to the girl and guy tandem at the front desk (they brush it off with friendly smiles, since they are so zen and cool). Quickly get into my workout gear in the eucalyptus infused change room and (quietly) rush into the full classroom.
Luckily I was able to sneak into the guys corner -- back right -- where a mats space was left between the burly athletic dude and his friend the lean middle aged gentleman with his lulu tank top. Lesson learned
I've been learning this lesson slowly in life: you get what you pay for.
I entered this yoga challenge with the Walmart special yoga mat -- at a glance it appears to be your standard yoga mat, but upon further inspection it's thin, stays curled up when you roll it out, and is slicker than a freshly waxed car hood when any amount of sweat gets on it ('hello warm room and moderate intensity physical activity, meet sweaty hands').
By my second down dog/chaturanga/up dog flow series my hands were slipping off the front of my mat. Note to self -- don't be so cheap. Throughout the class I was slipping around, having to readjust my mat as it got caught on my feet as I moved, toes catching the slightly curled-up outer edges, etc.
A part of me is afraid of being that guy that shows up to the proverbial golf course with full tweed get-up, flat cap and matching bag for his Callaway Apex irons and Big Bertha, who proceeds to hit his opening tee shot into the waterfall feature 30 feet from the tee box (hard left). In this case I feel like investing in the right gear before I get good is going to save me embarrassment rather than lower my head in shame.
Learning Number Three: Stay Focused
There is a lot that goes on in a Yoga class that can act as distraction.
Attractive females in yoga pants - check, old men with too much chest hair sprouting from v-neck t-shirts - check, grunting and heavy breathing - check, complex verbal instruction describing the next contortion named in a foreign language you are to force your body into - check.
Jokes aside, the best advice I've received on getting the most out of Yoga has been to "focus on your breathing".
In Yoga your breath is a way to calm your mind, a way to get into the rhythm of your body and to 'feel' the movement in your body and push past discomfort. It's surprisingly hard to completely clear your mind, but directing your mental gaze onto your breath is a great way to start getting there.
In a lot of ways I find it very similar to the mental state I have the most success with in the gym. If I'm staring down a new PR squat or looking at another set of 6 to 8 heavy shoulder press, knowing that the last one near killed me, I find I can get through it if I stop thinking about anything and just allow my body to complete the motions it already knows as second nature.
It's a powerful thing to not allow your head to stop your body from completing something it's capable of -- it's one of the coolest challenges that Yoga presents and something I hope to get better at over the next three weeks.
So, I've been referring to Yoga in the general sense, it turns out there are many different styles of Yoga. I have been attending general 'flow' or 'vinyasa' classes. This covers a broad range of different types of Yoga, and from the various classes I have attended I have got a bit of a taste of that range.
Vinyasa in the original Sanskirt translates as 'connection' and refers to the fact that you connect your breathing with the motions. I've had the chance to take classes with several different instructors now and found things I liked about each.
Some classes are faster moving and get your heart rate elevated quicker where as other instructors focus on longer stretches and getting deeper into each pose.
I actually prefer the longer pose driven classes that challenge your flexibility, balance and core strength. I have yet to try a super athletic style like a Power Yoga or Asthanga class. I'm looking forward to trying one of these!
So far my Yoga experiment has been just about what I'd expected. I feel like I've picked up the different poses with relative ease, though my flexibility limits me still and I want to see it improve more. I don't find classes overly challenging from a muscle standpoint yet, but that is probably more related to the type of classes I've been taking.
One of my main drivers for doing this challenge was to give myself a mental and physical break from heavy lifting, and that's been great. I really like the mental relaxation part of yoga, though I still struggle with some of the spiritual stuff that is attached to a lot of that. I'm also really hopeful of the potential mobility improvements I may see after 30 days of practice.
If anyone has a good idea on ways I can monitor my flexibility (metrics baby, love 'em) and take note of improvements, I'd love to hear them.
Tune in next week to hear more about my exploits and get another update on how things are going. Until then,
Live your best Life!