Forced by economics and scheduling to skip my beloved West African dance class for a few months, I grappled with how to fill the void in my fitness regime. I'd already been dabbling with yoga in the comforts of my living room and after a little research I settled on a yoga special - 10 classes in five weeks - at a nearby studio.
Images of a svelter, super toned me swirled in my head as I drove to my first class. Having really only done "power" or vinyasa yoga, I figured this stint would replace a few cardio sessions, including the dance class. Much to my surprise, this studio specialized in Iyengar yoga, a style differentiated by its copious use of props in poses, meticulous attention to pose detail and its non-flow style. I instantly experienced buyers' remorse and mentally ran through my calendar as I tried to figure out if I could fit in cardio at my regular gym and hour-long yoga classes. Sure, it was the absolute antithesis to yogic principles like mind-body harmony, but what can I say, I'm a little Type A and I wouldn't mind losing a few pounds.
Throughout that first class, I felt awkward folding Mexican blankets to a new degree of precision, threading my body around a folding chair, holding a foam block between my thighs and stretching out over ropes. I yearned for the intense sweat sessions my dance class provided and I agonized as to how I would burn the remaining calories.
As the weeks went by, I Outlooked my yoga classes and made them work with time at the gym or hitting the pavement. I also let go of my apprehensions and threw myself into a totally different way of exercising my body. Did you know twists improve digestion and have the same effect as ab work? Did you know inversions improve circulation and get your heart beating fast, just like cardio?
Besides these factoids and a bit of Hindi, I learned all kinds of new tricks (like putting my palms together behind my back with the pinky fingers on my spine and the backs of my hands cupped by my shoulder blades). I improved my flexibility, balance and posture and even saw a bit more muscle tone in my calves, stomach and upper arms.
While I don't know if I will ever be able to sit and meditate for hours on end, I did acheive sufficient inner peace to write this post without deviating into satire and I found the unending depth of yoga to be incredibly comforting. Everyone has his/her place in every pose and every pose has the infinite capacity to challenge you. Just as I reveled in mastering shoulder stand, my teacher introduced a new variation that rocked my world. Namaste indeed.