I would like to start this journey by confessing that I am about as flexible as a brick. I am also an impatient person, gravitating towards tasks and activities with instant gratification on their horizon. When my best friend, a fellow former athlete and impatient woman, swore to me that yoga would help me feel better during my pregnancy, I was reluctant, but agreed to try a class.
After posting about it on my social accountability program, otherwise known as Facebook, there was no turning back. I know Mark Zuckerberg is proud I use his social transformation platform to discuss my reluctance to put on yoga pants and twist my body into the Hungry Hungry Hippo or whatever the positions are called.
It’s Wednesday, 10:30 pm when I announce on Facebook that I’ve made the decision to attend a beginner yoga class on Saturday. By Wednesday 10:31 pm, I regret the decision to make this information public.
On Saturday, an afternoon date with one of my girlfriends runs long, so I decide I’m cutting it too close to get to the class on time, that I’m not prepared, and I’ll just go on Sunday. Glad I’m off to a good start demonstrating the discipline it takes to be great at yoga.
My mom calls me that night to remind me to wash my feet before I take the class because my feet stink in tennis shoes. It’s a real confidence booster.
On Sunday morning, I start texting friends as my yoga anxiety builds. What do I wear? I have to look cool because yoga moms always look cool. Do you start in tennis shoes or start barefoot? Thank God I got a pedicure. Do I need my own mat? Can I do this class while pregnant? Do I need to study anything before I go? Will I die? This feels a lot like the first day of middle school.
I decide that shaving my legs is a must, because I want to make a good first impression and because I’m an idiot. So there I am, shaving my cactus knees and shins with a beach ball of a belly and the flexibility of a steel beam. By the end, my bathroom looks like a Phil Collins-inspired scene in American Psycho. A total bloodbath. My husband wisely remains silent and kindly brings paper towels to clean up the massacre on the tile floor. I know he is laughing hysterically on the inside.I throw on some Band-Aids. I am sweating and bleeding and I haven’t even started to work out.
Time for yoga
I show up early to the yoga studio in a mermaid t-shirt with a water bottle, wallet, gas station sunglasses, cellphone, and a towel because I have no idea if they have a mat for me. That’s as cool as I’m going to get. Everyone looks amazing and calm and has dewy skin. I show up with a full face of makeup because… of course I do. I’ve never looked “dewy” a day in my life. I put bronzer on my arms so I look more fit. I am a yoga fraud. I’m scared my Band-Aids are going to slide off. Gross.
As if it wasn’t obvious, I confess to the instructor that I have no idea what I’m doing. She shows mercy and directs me to get two blocks, a mat, and what looks like some kind of stuffed body bag. Maybe this is used for stretching? Maybe it’s stuffed with the person who died in the class before me? Who knows. I sit on my mat, taking in the room.
There are no mirrors, which leaves me relieved. The last thing I need is to watch myself nosedive into the floor as I attempt to touch my toes. Everyone else seems to know what they are doing, despite this being a beginners class, so I just follow along and get comfy. Band-Aid check? Still there. We’re good.
The instructor is so encouraging. We start doing these breathing exercises and she repeats “go at your own pace” over and over. I try desperately to bury the competitive nature within. “Go at my own pace?” I think, as I literally am standing there, just breathing and rotating my arms. I open my eyes to look at everyone else. They seem so relaxed. Why can’t I relax?
This is so radically different from my past workouts. Normally if I’m not on the verge of puking from exhaustion, I consider it a failure. I could get used to this pace. I’m considered a success if I literally breathe correctly. What a world.
I catch a case of “church giggles” as the instructor starts describing the intention behind the movements, and nearly bite my own tongue off trying to control them. I glance at the clock. It’s six minutes into the class. Everyone around me seems so relaxed and I’m running through all the other things I could be doing in this hour. At this point, yoga is stressing me out more than helping me relax. I need to focus. At my own pace, of course.
Up next… balance exercises. I think fondly back to the week in lower school that I was a cheerleader before I quit to play basketball. I was a base, leaving the graceful jumping to better, more graceful girls. If they could see me now. Band-Aid check. We’re still good.
Holding up my body weight on one leg while trying not to look like a fat flamingo is no easy task, but I like the challenge. At this point, I’m starting to understand how yoga masters are in such great shape, because this isn’t easy. I imagine I look like a goddess doing this and let myself live in this delusion until I can’t hold myself up anymore. I need a break after about thirty seconds of that pose.
We then grab our personal body bags and start doing these back stretches that are…well… life changing. Between huge boobs and a beach ball belly, my back can get particularly strained.There we all are, laying on the floor, our chests open to the ceiling, breathing “at our own pace”. I pretend I’m a yoga master and start naming my own stretches because I can’t remember what the instructor calls them. I call this one the Awkward Turtle.
I must confess, once I get to a place where I can actually relax in my Awkward Turtle pose, the tide turns and I’m thrilled. Maybe this was all worth it. My back feels better and I’m no longer caught up in the stress of the day. I lay there for about four minutes and then, when I finally start to relax, the class is over. My Band-Aids are still attached to my legs. I made it. I reach for the ceiling in gratitude, like I’ve just tunneled my way out of Shawshank Prison with a spoon.
I stay behind to thank the instructor and chat with some of the other girls, who confess they too started out worried about what everyone else was doing and that it becomes easier to relax as you go on. While I won’t be opening my own yoga studio anytime soon, I definitely see the value in it and will be back in the future. I am a constant work in progress.
The highlight of the class was at the end when a woman came up and told me she was proud of me for coming by myself, as if I had just attended and survived a near-death experience. When I looked at myself in a lobby mirror as I walked out, I understood why. I looked like I had just survived something, a sweaty, makeup-melted mess. I may not be a yoga master yet, but my Band-Aids stayed intact, and that’s all a girl can ask for. Namaste.