I’ve been taking yoga classes regularly for about a year now. The initial allure was that I got to lie on a mat and breathe for an hour and could credit myself with having exercised, but I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve come to enjoy it. A few learnings to share:
Pilates is not yoga, and adherents on both sides of that equation have very strong feelings, so try not to confess that they don’t seem that different out loud. (I think the difference is that Pilates calls the positions different things and doesn’t care about your inner-selfness.) Yoga poses also feel slightly less like doing calisthenics in slow motion, and yoga teachers are much more laid back about their mat-based exercise than Pilates teachers are about theirs.
Yoga people are very genuine about their love of yoga and their enthusiasm for your own spiritual well-being is often both readily apparent and sincere. This leads the more active to occasional frustration with me when they want to tell me to stop looking so frustrated and relax at the same time that they also are redlining with frustration at my complete inability to remember to breathe evenly while doing all kinds of unaccustomed contortions. I have one especially fond memory of being unable to hold an upsidedown-ish pose successfully and loudly but involuntarily expressing my frustration with one of the lesser swears. The teacher, who sounded like the turtle in Finding Nemo, burst out laughing and said, “That is SOOOOOOO not OK!”
Restorative yoga is the best form of yoga. It’s meditating plus stretching, and, again, totally counts as exercise despite being the next house over from a nap. My favorite part of restorative yoga is when my teacher asks at the beginning of class if anyone has any requests. I like to ask for the deep cuts, the yoga poses that she rarely gets to pull out. My favorite of the deep cuts so far was “yogi pedicure,” wherein you interlace your fingers of one hand with the toes of the opposite foot, which seems Cirque de Soleil-ish but produces the most spectacular feeling.
Restorative yoga urges you to “support” yourself in poses because you hold them for 3-4 minutes at a time. This means you have to collect a whole bunch of props before the class so as to have them at the ready. There are two hard pillows, two shoebox-sized blocks, a few blankets for padding, a strap for a crazy stretch where you use the weight of your legs and head to stretch your neck and hamstrings simultaneously, a small neck support pillow, and a sandbag. Most people have a nearly organized layout. I wind up with the props strewn around me like the debris field that accompanies small children in restaurants and cars, and in all cases I don’t know how we got there but I feel compelled to apologize.
Generally, though, I’m grateful for yoga. Past the age of about 25, the discovery of a new physical sensation that one enjoys is not an everyday occurrence.