Last month I crafted a list of all the things I wish I made more time to accomplish. In order to get my butt in gear, I decided to choose 20 things I’d like to do before turning 30. Deadlines always make me work harder. Three years might sound like a long time, but my list is pretty extensive. For instance, I’d like to become fluent in Mandarin, which I’ve been practicing for several years and made little progress on. Mastering yoga also made the cut even though I’ve only taken two yoga classes in my entire life.
For me, going to a yoga class feels a lot like being the awkward kid in a beauty pageant. While they tap dance flawlessly across the stage, you’re flailing your arms and spinning in circles until you accidentally trip on the curtain. If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not super coordinated. But that’s not the only thing. I feel like yoga teachers give instructions that are impossible to follow.
“Surround yourself with your yellow chakra” or “Pull inward and melt your heart to your spine” or my least favorite “Tuck your tailbone.”
I frantically look at everyone else in the room to see what these cryptic phrases mean, but no one seems to move the slightest bit. My favorite is when the teacher says to close your eyes. What? No way. I don’t know the names of poses. I have to constantly look at the girl next to me. I literally pick the person to sit next to based on how much they look like they might know. Clearly they should own their own mat, but if they are doing warm up poses then they are too good. I want to be near someone who knows what they’re doing but not enough that they’ll be mad if I fall over onto them.
I decided to overcome my fear of the yoga cult and its modelesque members by taking a class last weekend. I walked in confidently, grabbed a mat, and acquired a space close enough to the front to feel rebellious but far enough to the side that people wouldn’t see too much of me. I proudly laid out my mat and stretched until the yoga teacher strutted in, took one look at me and said, “You know that’s a Pilates mat, don’t you?” and kept walking without even waiting for an answer. Clearly this was going well.
After exchanging my mat, we began practicing breathing, which was more of a challenge than I’m happy to admit. Apparently, I’m a chest breather which is sacrilege. I concentrated extra hard on moving my belly in and out as I took long breaths. Then it was time to do some poses. I won’t bore you with the details but my inner dialogue went a little something like this…
Hold it. Hold it. Hold it.
You can’t fall out of a pose this early. These are just the warm ups.
What does she mean by curl your ribs? My ribs don’t curl.
God my posture is awful. I’m gunna have a hunch back one day.
New goal: do yoga to avoid hunchback
This hurts. Pain is gain?
…but should it hurt this much?
Oh no! The teacher’s coming over.
And now I’m the example of what not to do
I wish she’d mentioned the blocks earlier.
Ha! That girl fell.
I’ve totally got this. Wait. I don’t got this.
Ah! She’s coming over again.
She said that looks okay. A compliment!!
Hold it. Hold it. Hold it.
At some point in the craziness I began to relax. The instructor was really hard on me, but she was hard on everyone. No one taking the class was an expert and soon it didn’t feel like we were laughing at each other, but rather with each other. I used one of the blocks to prop up my butt during a pose, and as we moved into the next pose I was balancing solely on the block. My body rocked back and forth as I lifted my legs out in a V while holding only my big toes. The teacher looked up and simply said, “I guess I should have told everyone to remove the block before moving forward.” Everyone burst out laughing when they saw me teetering on the edge of this block with both legs in the air.
Trying to learn yoga is crazy intimidating, but I’m so glad I’m trying. It definitely pushes me outside of my comfort zone. I went back to a class this weekend with the same instructor. I grabbed a yoga mat, sat down and began to stretch. The teacher strutted in, looked at a girl near me and said, “You know that’s a Pilate’s mat, don’t you?” and kept walking. Looks like I’m not alone after all.
Have you tried yoga? What was your learning experience like?
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Michelle Della Giovanna
Writer at Full Time Explorer
I’m just your average New Yorker who quit her job in the fashion industry to explore the world. Come find out what it’s like to trade in five-inch heels for squat toilets.