Friday, April 5, 2013

Yoga, finally

It took me two years and two months to make good on the pledge I made to myself in January of 2011, but I can finally say I’ve given yoga a try.

A small try, anyway. And I know that “yoga” is a pretty broad-based term; in fact, any time throughout the past month that I mentioned to a real yoga aficionado that I was taking classes, the immediate question was “What kind of yoga?” Mostly Kripalu, I believe. The slow kind, with lots of stretching.

It’s actually been so long since I first determined that I should try yoga that I forget what motivated me to make that pledge. But I do remember all the excuses I used in the intervening two years. I’ll be terrible at it; I have no innate flexibility. It’s too slow for me. Exercise is worthwhile only if you reach your aerobic target zone. It’s too much time. It’s too much money. I don’t want any more activities that will take me away from my family.

But when a magazine sent me on assignment to write about a yoga studio coincidentally enough situated just down the street from my house, my resistance started to break down. The studio owner was just so nice. And the studio space smelled so good. And with it being exactly seven-tenths of a mile from my front door, I couldn’t make my usual objection that the last thing I need is more driving in my life. The studio owner offered me a thirty-days-for-thirty-dollars deal: a bargain by any measure, but especially compared to the fee I’d earn from the magazine for writing the story. It seemed like fate: I was destined to follow through on my promise at last.

Besides, the thirty-day deal wasn’t only cheap; it was also finite. It provided a perfect time frame within which I could try it out. If I could get to two classes a week, that would mean more than eight chances to get to class during that thirty-day period. Moreover, I told myself that with the pass already purchased, I didn’t have to do any judging – in fact, I’d resolve not to do any judging – during that time period. No contemplation of whether I liked this new activity or not. For the month of March, I’d just go, and not try to form opinions about it.

On March 1st, I attended my first yoga class, and by the time the month was over, I’d made it to five more. And now that it’s over, I’m finally allowing myself to form an opinion about it.

It was definitely a positive experience for me. As a runner, I’m not good with slow exercise. I like to be moving fast and breathing hard when I exercise. Yoga, at least the style at this studio, involves a lot of very slow stretching. But I know that’s good for me, both physically and mentally. In yoga you pause, you breathe, you reach, you balance, you hold. It requires slowness and deliberation and a willingness to stay very still sometimes. Runners are allowed to be sloppy, since the point is just to be always moving forward: yoga requires some concentration on form. Improvement comes in inches lifted or extended, not in minutes gained per mile.

So when April began, I paid for a regular-priced pass. Because it turns out I like yoga. Yes, it’s really slow, and I’m not that good at it. But the studio smells so nice, with its candles and incense, and the stretching feels so good. And once a week or so, so does the very mellow pace of it all.

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