Fact: I love yoga. Like any red-blooded, alternative medicine/eastern philosophy-inclined Colorado native, I’ve been interested in yoga since I was a teenager.
When I was 17, I jumped at the chance to take a yoga class at the local Y. However, since this was after we’d moved to rural Pennsylvania from my beloved Colorado, I was the only person who signed up. It just was me and the instructor — a hippie-rific older gentleman who seemed sorely out of place in north-central PA — for all of two sessions before the Y cancelled the class due to lack of interest.
At that point the extent of my yoga instruction learning to sit in lotus position and belt out a resounding “om,” but that was about it.
I wound up picking up yoga DVDs and books in the years that followed, and after a few years of doing DIY yoga and the occasional free class at the university gym (both when I was in Israel and then during grad school), I figured I was ready to hit up some legit classes. Once I was back in DC, I figured I’d find a studio and get my asana on.
Well. As it turns out, I really don’t like going to yoga classes. I went to a Bikram studio, where I schvitzed a river while the other women — all of whom appeared to be 50 pounds skinnier and a few million dollars wealthier than me — merely glistened. I tried free classes at Lululemon, which were filled with Judgy McJudgerson types who’d throw shade at anyone using stability blocks for support. I went to a Vinyasa studio where the other women would do a little “more enlightened/flexible than thou” smirk while doing handstands on their eyeballs. I even went to one class at my gym during which the instructor looked at me, arched one eyebrow in annoyance, and said, quite loudly, “Oh. You’re new.”
Yes ma’am: I’m new here, and I’m never coming back.
After all this, I realized my most enjoyable yoga classes had been the ones I took in Israel. Which were conducted entirely in Hebrew. Which posed a significant challenge for someone who was just starting to learn Hebrew. Which meant that if I was more comfortable in classes in which I barely spoke the language, the classes in the U.S. weren’t my cup of tea.
So, you can imagine my delight when I discovered online, do-this-at-home resources like YogaDownloads. I’ve been all over that stuff like white on rice, and while I do love a lot of the classes, I’ve also learned something about myself and my yogic style, if you will: I’m slow.
I’m like the brontosaurus (I know, I know: apatosaurus is the correct name, but so help me God, I’m sticking with the terminology I know and love!) of yoga, in that I move at a lumbering pace. My yoga flow is more reminiscent of refrigerated molasses than anything else. Half the time when I do to yoga classes at home, the instructor is calmly telling me to go into down dog, but I just got into up dog, and I haven’t even done plank yet, and then I’m all,
It’s SO not zen. Knowing this, I decided to go even more DIY than I was before: I pulled out my old yoga books, which talk about the purposes and benefits of each pose, and then conduct my own little impromptu class based on what I think my body needs at the moment. If I’m feeling nervous, I do some heart-openers. If I accidentally get glutened, I do poses that help soothe GI distress. It’s totally ad-hoc, and I love it.
In addition to the fact that I’m not trying frantically to keep up with an instructor, I’m also really diggin’ the fact that the “class,” if you can call it that, goes for exactly as long as I want or need it to. If I’m pressed for time in the morning, I bust out a few warrior sequences before breakfast. If I’m increasingly sleepy before going to bed, I do a few minutes of Hatha sequences before I zonk out (and probably drool on my pillow).
I think this makes me the most non-yogic yogi ever, but obviously this gig works for me.
Do y’all do yoga? Do you do it on your own, or do you take classes? What do you like best?