As I was blowing out the candles on the evening of my 26th birthday, it hit me. There are so many different fitness classes and wellness-related experiences that I’ve been wanting to try, yet I have consistently made excuses to avoid them due to fear of commitment. In this moment I posed a birthday challenge to myself (since I’m not getting any younger here) to say yes to these opportunities as opposed to saying no or coming up with a lame excuse to justify why I can’t. As a senior editor at HealthyWay, I’m surrounded by inspirational wellness-industry professionals and, as a result, have noticed myself becoming more drawn to yoga-related content and influencers. That said, despite my newfound infatuation with yoga and practicing mindfulness, I kept pushing aside my own desire to attend a legitimate yoga class for fear of looking foolish. I’m very competitive in nature, which is why I’ve mainly pursued contact sports and strength training until now. After two pieces of carrot cake and a glass of red wine, I worked up the nerve to research local yoga studios and enroll in my first Yoga 101 class, which was scheduled for the following evening. Full disclosure: I have attended one yoga class before, but I don’t count this experience for the following reasons. In 2012, I awoke from a hangover nap to find a text from an attractive male I had been pursuing asking me on a Bikram yoga class date. I had no clue what Bikram yoga entailed and didn’t bother to look it up since I was confident in my athletic abilities. Imagine my horror walking into a heated studio with a hangover. Instead of impressing my crush with my strength, I spent the next hour lying in dehydrated corpse pose contemplating how to leave the class without embarrassing myself by vomiting in front of my sexy, sweaty suitor. Thankfully, I learned my lesson and vowed to do things the right way this time. After enrolling in my first beginner class at a local studio, I was informed that my new-student special allowed me to take as many classes as I wanted within a 7-day window for a budget-friendly $20. This offer was simply too good to pass up, so I decided to enroll in three different classes to sample various types of yoga to determine if this was something I could really see myself dedicating the time and financial resources to pursuing regularly.
Despite having enrolled in Yoga 101, I felt intimidated as soon as I entered the studio—especially when I realized my instructor had the most incredible abs and arm muscles I’ve ever seen up close. Those fears quickly subsided though, as the class was a very non-judgemental, supportive environment with students both young and old in attendance. I quickly realized there is so much more to yoga than sitting on the floor saying om. I enjoyed learning more about the basic principles of yoga, including yogis’ values regarding not stealing (or Asteya) and the powerful meaning behind the term namaste (I bow to you). Even though this was technically a beginner class, it was not for the faint of heart. During those 60 minutes, I learned proper alignment and breathing techniques that are an important part of the foundation I now realize everyone should have to begin this practice. If you’re considering trying yoga for the first time, I would strongly recommend starting with a beginner level 1 class. I had such a great time that I could not stop sharing my experience with my boyfriend, co-workers, dog, and even strangers in yoga pants at the grocery store.
The more you flow…
My next class was on Sunday morning. This time, I enrolled in a vinyasa course with no level distinction. I really had no clue what I was walking into, but I was feeling motivated to get my butt kicked a bit after stuffing my face with burgers and carrot cake during my birthday weekend. (That’s right, I shamelessly celebrate myself for a whole three days.) At the beginning of class, the instructor asked who was a beginner and I’m ashamed to admit that I was too embarrassed to raise my hand. Why was I caring so much about what others thought of me? They weren’t judging me at all—they just wanted to help. But alas, my competitive ego got the best of me for a brief moment and I was quickly brought back down to earth once the flow began. This class was pretty intense from a cardio perspective, and after I tried (and failed) at half-moon pose multiple times, the instructor advised me to take some deep breaths and focus on my body and how I was feeling. She reminded me that I wasn’t failing but taking time out of my day to look inward and focus on myself. Instead of leaving early like some of the other students who were struggling alongside me, I decided to stay and try my best. I’m so proud that I didn’t walk out that studio door for the sake of my ego. One of the most fascinating insights I gained from vinyasa actually happened at the beginning of class when our teacher asked us to alternate between breathing into our belly and breathing into our chest. It sounds like such a simple concept, but it truly blew my mind to see how I was capable of breathing into different parts of my body through mindful focus. Despite the fact that I survived, I am definitely going to take more beginner-level classes like a slow flow or beginner’s hot yoga before attending another open-level vinyasa class. It was truly a humbling experience.
It’s getting hot in here.
The third and final class I attended was hot yoga. This class was scheduled for Wednesday evening after a 9-hour work day. To put it bluntly, I did not want to go. I spent the last two hours of my office grind trying to think of an acceptable excuse for bailing out. This ran the gamut from I’m too tired to My dog needs my emotional support tonight so I can’t leave her for an hour. As I ran through the excuse circuit I thought to myself, Why the heck am I trying to find a way out of this class? What am I running from? I’m glad I took a moment to pause and think this through, as it quickly became apparent to me that I was—yet again—making excuses out of fear of looking silly. Not so fast, inner demons! This moment of introspection fueled my fire as I made my way to the studio. Upon walking into class, I immediately noticed the heat but felt confident that I had hydrated properly. I even raised my hand when the instructor asked if anyone was new to yoga practice, despite being the only one in the class to do so. The instructor was wonderful and adjusted me a couple of times during the flow, which I personally found very helpful. It was also during hot yoga that I found a new sense of focus, using the power of my breath to flow into different poses. I never would have thought that in just three classes I, Taylor “Tight Hamstrings” Geiger, would be able to do downward dog with my legs straight and heels almost flat on the mat—something I couldn’t do just one week earlier. I struggle with pain in my hips due to my sedentary office gig and cannot even begin to describe the way my body felt after this class. During my drive home, my hips felt loose, relaxed, and almost like they were buzzing or tingling. I’m so glad I challenged myself with these classes, because the experience helped me find a new love and respect for the practice of yoga. I have since attended two other hot yoga classes and am currently re-prioritizing my budget to allot for a weekly hot yoga class, because this has officially become a happy place for me. If you’re considering trying yoga for the first time—go for it! Push your fears and worries of judgment aside, because I can assure you no one in your class will be scrutinizing you. We all become one when practicing yoga from the heart.