About a hundred years ago, a friend invited me to go to a yoga class at the fancy gym where we were both members. I was athletic and, although I knew my flexibility wasn’t great, I was a dancer once upon a time, so I figured I’d have no problem.
I was wrong. It was hard, and it hurt, and the instructor basically stood over me, moving me into stranger and more uncomfortable positions. I sweated while everyone else seemed nice and cool and serene, and I shook like a leaf while the 90-year-old man in the corner easily held pose after pose.
I hated it, but I didn’t quit. I went to a few other classes at the gym with a few different instructors, and while I got marginally better, it never clicked. And, of course, I stopped going. There are too many classes and workouts I love for me to waste time on something I don’t enjoy.
Several years later, I went to some classes with other friends in a kind of hippity-dippity “temple.” For the first time, I began to enjoy the practice. It was still hard, but I got it. The instructor would occasionally give me some gentle instruction, but I didn’t feel like I was doing it wrong, wrong, wrong, which makes it much easier to focus on breathing, let me tell you. But, it was a long drive and classes were at an inconvenient time and, you know, I quit going.
I’ve been doing yoga on my own and with videos for the last few years but recently started attending some classes. I’m still a member of my big fancy gym, and they now have a branch just a couple of miles from my house, so I decided to give them another try. Now, I don’t know if it’s the class, the instructor or me, but this time around? It’s a whole new ballgame.
I suspect it’s a little bit of all three, but the biggest difference is probably my experience. I’m not an advanced yogi by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have a decent understanding of how I should be holding my body in each pose. And I’m not shy at all about modifying; the first thing I do when I arrive is find a yoga block and strap. Plus, I’m focusing as much on breathing and letting go of stress as I am on getting a good stretch and workout. And, let’s not forget, it’s not easy to embarrass me.
Still, even now, if the teacher were to hover over me and constantly correct my posture, I think I’d start losing my confidence all over again, and that’s so not zen. Maybe it’s just this instructor, or maybe the gym has worked with its instructors to be a little more chill, but whatever it is, it’s working for me.
Have you ever had a yoga experience that was anything but zen? Did it turn you off or did you find a new place to practice? —Kristen