Let’s get something straight right off the bat. I hate yoga. When I retired and had more free time, I decided I would get back in the fitness groove. I’d always been active, and worked out regularly, but now was my chance to really ramp things up. And I intended my new regimen to include yoga.
Everyone, but everyone, told me I would love it. That as an active person who has always had issues with flexibility, it would be perfect for me. Just what I needed. That’s what I thought too. Everyone loves yoga… and so would I. It would add to my fitness routine, be fun, and help me become more flexible.
Well… as it turned out… not so much.
Over that first winter, I tried numerous classes at two yoga studios with at least three different teachers. The first class was a disaster. Before we started I explained to the teacher, who seemed like a lovely person, about my rank beginner status (I emphasized rank… as in zero knowledge… I will admit I knew what to wear… but that was all.) I told her of my ongoing upper back issues and explained that I was in physiotherapy for a shoulder problem. And despite all this and the fact that it was a beginner class with only five students, the teacher pattered away, narrating what we were supposed to do, never moving from her place to assist me when I clearly didn’t know which arm or leg went where.
I found it almost impossible to mimic her movements because she was facing us, and thus presenting a mirror image of what I should look like. Not to mention the fact that I couldn’t see her half the time because my head was down and my arse pointed at the ceiling. Pardon the almost profanity… but I was frustrated. I didn’t know how to modify poses to accommodate my back and shoulder problems. Shouldn’t she have been mentioning that instead of just reading her script? And I couldn’t tell if I was doing the poses correctly because I have really poor body awareness. Just ask Hubby. When I finally plunked down on the mat and just sat watching, she tossed me some weirdly shaped foam thingies, said “these might help,” and returned to her script. Thanks, but what the heck was I supposed to do with these? I just looked at them until one of the other students whispered what they were for. Sigh. So, first class… not a success? Ha. You think?
After the class the teacher recommended that maybe I should get a video and learn the poses. Maybe that had been the problem. Really? Not the fact that in a beginner class it seemed we were supposed to know everything already? Sigh. Afterward I was assured by many friends that she was NOT a good yoga teacher. It wouldn’t always be like that.
So I pressed on. I did get a “Yoga for Beginners” DVD from the library. I learned some of the poses. And I persisted with classes. I visited a different yoga studio near my house, and talked to the two owners about which classes might be best for me. They had differing opinions. I tried both of their suggestions. And signed up for a few more classes. I was more vocal this time. I asked the instructor questions when I didn’t understand what she was telling me to do… like when she said something about making my hips “one” with something or other…”Do you mean I should tilt my pelvis?” I asked. “Yes. That’s a good way to put it,” she replied. So, I tilted. Then she instructed us to pose in a manner that contradicted my physiotherapist’s recommendations. It was the exact position my physio had warned me could exacerbate back problems. Okay. I’m definitely NOT doing that, I thought. I sat on the mat. And she tossed me the foam thingies. Cripes, not again. This time I spoke up…”I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with these.” At least she stopped her narration and came over to show me. That was good. Better than the first class.
But the lying on the mat breathing and stuff at the end of the class just annoyed me. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve tried meditation. A few years ago during a very stressful time, I tried breathing exercises and meditation and they really helped. But on that day in the yoga studio I just lay there feeling silly, looking at the cracks in the ceiling. Maybe I’m just not a deep breathing in public kind of person, I thought. Maybe I’m just not a yoga kind of person, I admitted.
A few classes later, I had a good rant and then a good laugh with my nephew’s wife, Ange, who was also, at the time, my physiotherapist. “How can I be the only person alive who hates yoga?” I spouted one afternoon. She laughed. Ange really knows her stuff. She has a kinesiology degree as well as a post-grad physiotherapy degree. And she’s really good at what she does, as well as being one of my favourite people. And we came to the conclusion after many discussions about yoga, that it wasn’t for me.
It’s not good for my body and its limitations. Not good for specific injuries I’ve sustained. When I tried to replicate one yoga pose that I thought might be problematic for me… ouch… yep… that’s the pain I was talking about. So, yoga may have contributed to my hip and back problems, and instead of helping me, we think it may have hurt me. And finally, this is an important one… maybe yoga is not good for me temperamentally. Maybe I can’t be a yoga person. I’m too impatient. Too critical of the instructor. And I’m almost ashamed to admit this one… too competitive… the “if she can do that stupid move, surely I should be able to do it” kind of thing. I’m too likely to hurt myself by trying to do things my body doesn’t want to do. For good reason.
Still, I somehow felt as if I had failed. Millions of very chill, yoga pant clad, rolled-up mat carrying people couldn’t possibly be wrong, right? But recently I’ve discovered that even some yoga aficionados are now saying that yoga can hurt us. Have a look at this article by William J. Broad for The New York Times. According to the experts Boyd spoke to, yoga has many virtues but it can also harm us. And has harmed people. Even longtime yoga practitioners. Seems that sometimes the damage takes years to accrue. Hmm. Maybe it’s not just me.
Before you say it, I recognize that any sport or physical activity can potentially harm us. Knowing how to do whatever you do is very important. Proper posture, correct form, alignment. Bending your knees, watching your position, avoiding over training etc etc. I’ve not lived with a jock/phys. ed. teacher for all these years and not learned that. You see this is where my lack of body awareness can hurt me. I can’t tell half the time if I’m doing something correctly. I usually need Hubby to watch and tell me if I’m doing what I think I’m doing, so it takes me a while to develop a particular skill. Skiing down hill and cross-country, paddling, working with weights, I’ve struggled to make sure I do them all properly, so I don’t get hurt. That’s why I really needed the yoga instructor to tell me if I was doing things correctly. Or not.
And finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not willing to put in the time learning something new if I’m not having fun. And I guess that is part of the problem with yoga. Quite frankly, I find it boring.
I know, I know, that’s so shallow.
I realize that many, many of you practice yoga and love it. And I don’t mean to offend you by hating it. But it’s not for everyone. And I don’t think we should assume it is. Our bodies are all different, after all. Not to mention our temperaments.
So, I guess I’m going to stick to cycling and walking, and paddling in the summer, and skiing and pedaling my exercise bike in the winter. I’ll throw in a weekly weight work-out, or two. And do my daily stretches recommended by my physiotherapist. And I won’t be lying on the yoga mat, feeling silly, deep breathing, and looking at the cracks in the ceiling. I’ll be chatting with my friends. Debating who’s going to win this year’s Tour de France with Hubby. Or listening to a great mystery on my i-pod.
So I guess finding my fitness groove won’t include yoga, after all. I still have the outfit, though. A lovely pair of black yoga pants and a pretty pink top.
But… I can wear always them hiking, can’t I?
What about you, dear readers? How’s your fitness groove coming along? What’s your plan for staying healthy and active?