Sunday, March 25, 2012

First Experiences: Yoga

It's only March, but I can check one thing off of my 2012 to-do list: Trying yoga. Actually, two things, as I tried a kickboxing class a few weeks ago too. But since that didn't go as well as yoga, I think I'll just write about the yoga experience. (Side note: apparently my natural rhythm is about 10 seconds behind that of every one else's, hence the reluctance to discuss the kickboxing experience! Perhaps another time).

For those of you who don't have the good fortune of living in Kentucky during basketball season, you may not  be aware that there was a rather HUGE game today with the Wildcats playing Baylor University for a place in the Final Four. Now, don't tell of my fellow Kentuckians, but do I say this...I really don't care (much). So when Yoga Class time happened to coincide with the latter half of the Big Game, the choice was easy for me. I figured the Wildcats didn't need my help on their way to another big win, so I packed up my new yoga mat and headed to the gym.

I arrived to find the large, multipurpose room dimly lit and occupied with only a few people. The die-hards, the ones who forfeited beer, wings, and basketball to sweat it out. Or, fellow non-carers like myself. Either way, we were all here to salute the (non-visible) sun together. I rolled out my mat and prepared for some gentle stretching and relaxation.

Everything started according to this plan. We sat cross-legged and stretched our arms above our heads. So far, so good. I can handle this. No need to use the modification blocks I grabbed at the teacher's recommendation for first-timers. Not sure where I'd put them any way--under my butt? If I had one complaint, it was that the floor was being especially floor-like and not so kind on my butt bones (you know the ones I'm talking about). Oh well, what's gain without a little pain?

Then the instructor (yogi?) introduced us...well, probably only the "plank" followed by the "downward dog". The plank is just like it sounds--think the position you are in at the end of a push-up when your arms are extended. Then she had us do things like pick one leg up and hold it there for an uncomfortable period of time. Then the other leg.  Then again! I was surprised at how difficult it was to hold these positions for extended periods of time. I could feel interesting muscles working, ones that I don't typically use in my usual fare of running and biking.

The downward dog is similar to the plank except that you bring your hips up to form more of a triangle with your body. It puts more weight on your arms, and mine were already complaining from all the planking. From there, we did more leg-lifts and some arm lifts as well. Then we jumped (well, more like glided) into some lunges. Now I've done weighted lunges before, but never for more than a few seconds per leg. This was intense--probably more than a minute per side. I had to take a break about halfway through and drop my back leg down.

I found myself doing slight modification of the poses often doing during the hour long class. I was worn out at the end. I think part of me was expecting yoga to be easier than my usual cardio-based workouts but it wasn't. It was completely different than what my body was used to, and so my body struggled to adapt. I'm pleased because it is a new way to challenge my body and build strength as well as improving flexibility and balance. It kicked my butt, and I liked it. And Kentucky advanced just fine to the Final Four without my viewership.

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