Yoga Review

Today I had my first yoga class ever.

You might be asking how it came to be that a person such as me winds up in a yoga class.

Convenience is king. A group of people got together to hire a yoga teacher to come up to the Center twice a week. I was assured it would be okay for beginners. (Though Thursday’s class is “advanced” and 90 minutes long so I won’t be found anywhere near it, at least for now.)

By “beginner” I mean that until today I really had no idea what yoga was. I knew there was something about positions and flexibility and the possibility of weird cultish stuff. And it’s supposed to be good for you.

I loved it and hated it. It’s like very, very slow calisthenics. Like if you ran jumping jacks and pushups through a time-stretching algorithm. Our teacher went a little too fast (happily I am not the only person who felt this way–hopefully next Monday will be a little slower). A colleague chalked it up to the age difference–she’s 20, but knows a whole lot more about yoga than I do; I’ve never been a big believer in worrying about age differences between teacher and student. She clearly knew exactly what she was going and had a bit of that coaching/encouraging vibe that makes you embarrassed to give up, which is good. I am not flexible, nor is my balance great, nor am I certain that my body was in any of the positions that I commanded it to assume over the course of 45 minutes. There were dogs, tree, cranes, frogs, warriors, and a bunch of other stuff. There was also my stomach. It turns out that yoga is not designed for fat people. It hurts more to sit on my knees than I think it’s supposed to, and some of the twisty positions were not, shall we say, possible according to that law of physics which says that two kinds of matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time. But I spoke with her about it afterward and we will see if I can do some alternative stuff to lighten the load on my knees, at least for now.

I am now at once stiff and sore and stretched and loose. I don’t know about the whole cosmology that goes with it, but it’s less boring than swimming or a treadmill. There was a bit of that, ah, Californian positivity that one would expect from a yoga class in California. After reading “Smile or Die” I can’t quite get on that bus, but if others like it, all the better.

For all my complaining, it’s a good workout and challenging (for me at least) and what’s sabbatical if you don’t get some exercise? Especially since I’m walking a lot less and in the car a lot more. We’ve been swimming at the beautiful Stanford pool (free for visiting scholars and fellows), which is less bloggable, except to say that I am totally sold on salt water pools and will seek one out in Montreal when I return.

How I know I’m back in the US: the announcer on the Monday Night Football game says the following about a player:

“He came out of nowhere! He was in Canada for two years!”

3 replies on “Yoga Review”

  1. Hey Jonathan: this is the best description of yoga I have ever read. I’ve been taking Ashtanga for the last year or two after a hip injury got me off jogging, and your descriptions of it are spot on. If yoga is not for fat people, neither is it for short limbed people–my arms are too short to do a lot of the “binding” poses that involve clasping your hands behind some other body part, and my legs are too short and too big to ever do a lotus position. The main reason to do it is lack of boringness, as in my opinion, as you say. There’s a skill aspect that is gratifying to level up. You also get to see interesting parts of other people’s bodies.

  2. That’s so awesome you’re trying this out! Can’t wait to read your post on pilates…

  3. Don’t worry J, yoga kills me too. My hamstrings are so tight that downward dog is a spiral of pain (on the shoulders) — and that’s supposed to be a relaxing position. If you can get the the yoga tailored a bit for your needs, it can be incredibly effective in managing stress and getting your body warmed up and your metabolism going. Awesome to hear you went — keep going!!

Comments are closed.