Monday, February 8, 2010

The Yoga Post (for Wende)

Ok, let's get it out of the way here. I am skeptical of yoga and all other female-targeted exercise (Curves, I'm looking at you). Also generally of Westerners embracing the newest hip Eastern trend (ahem, feng shui). However, when a friend invited me to go with her as the yoga teacher was a friend of hers, I figured, hey, what could it hurt? The answer? My glutes. Also my wallet.

I like to go twice a week now if I can. There is usually a class of some sort every day. That means I don't have to commit to X days a week, I can show up or not depending on what I feel like. There is usually a class I like midweek that I can get to after work (varying between Tues. Wed. and Thurs.) and I usually try to hit one on the weekend as well. In a nutshell, Vinyasa is super-speedy yoga, in which each pose is done within the space of one breath. It tends to give me head rushes so I avoid it if I can. Hatha is the opposite, with every pose being held for the space of ten breaths. This is called "feeling the burn" and I swear it is the Eastern equivalent of weight lifting, just with weirder angles and less possibility of me dropping free weights on my toes. Even if it's just Warrior One

when there is someone stalking the room and making sure your arms are straight and your hips are forward and you are not letting your gut sag and your hips are square... it is all I can do to hold some of the poses for ten breaths. My own body weight is plenty of weight to lift.

We usually start with some form of gentle stretching and move into the more familiar poses that work my core strength and total lack of balance. Then it gets into some of the more weird stretchy stuff, which is the stuff I ADORE. The wheel and the bow and all the mad back bends feel SO GOOD. I have been doing yoga for less than a year and I feel so much stretchier and more flexible that I am willing to keep paying real money for somebody to badger me into doing it right. I try and do it at home too but there are enough distractions (curse you, internets!) that I still think it is worth it.

I have to also point out that the instructor makes a huge difference. My beloved yoga drill sergeant is a tiny lady who moonlights as a contortionist for parties and Burning Man. She is a crazy party girl who also happens to be one of the best coaches I've had (and I have worked with former Olympians in the past). She is about a foot shorter than me and built like a teeny, cute brick wall. And she knows that the best workout is when she makes me do everything correctly. When I started I remember thinking "oh this isn't as hard as I thought it would be". It has gotten progressively harder since then. I usually go to either the Yoga Basics class or the Hatha class and either way I get my ass kicked. And the fun thing is, since it's such a full-body workout, everybody is good at some pose or other. I have some parts that are freakishly flexible and some parts that are creaky and slow, but everybody has a rock star pose. You just have to find it. And it's very satisfying when you do.

So there it is. My yoga post. I say, try it before you knock it. Take the time to find somebody who isn't all girly and relax-y and Zen about it. And it will be an awesome workout.

And the clothes are the coziest workout wear I have ever owned :)


Marianne said...

Hey, I just started doing hot power vinyasa yoga! I didn't realize it had a reputation for being 'fast.' At the studio I go to, the teachers generally walk us through the pose, then have us repeat the cycle at our own pace one or two times, and end up in downward dog or take a rest as needed. So far the only time I've gotten a head rush (which I HATE) was when I did a verrrry deep back bend.

I totally hear you about the rockstar pose. I've found I'm really good at the thunderbolt and chair pose. My goal is to get a lot more flexible and be able to do a split (not a yoga pose, but a goal of mine nonetheless)

Yoga isn't inherently feminine, so I don't think the way it's been marketed or caught on among American women should be used against it. The classes here in New York are about 90% women - and for what it's worth, the ripped-looking guys who join the class visibly struggle much more than the women :)

Anne (in Reno) said...

How do you like the hot factor? I seem to sweat plenty in regular yoga... it is doing amazing things for my flexibility! I envy you, chair pose is, shall we say, not one of my favorites. And I do enjoy being able to do lots of stuff in class that the guys can't do, it's always interesting to see what's harder for them (even when they're all buff-looking).

drwende said...

I'm not ignoring this -- indeed, I appreciate it greatly! Just haven't been up for contemplating any form of exertion that requires oh, say, breathing. When coughing becomes a fitness movement, though, I am SO THERE.

Anne (in Reno) said...

No rush Wende, I just got back into it after about a month off due to no air moving through my sinus area. I just wanted to put it out there.