I’ve been interested in yoga for a long time. I can get pretty stressed out and anxious, and I struggle with my weight, so the idea of doing an activity that will calm my mind and make me fit has always sounded appealing. I’ve tried a number of yoga DVDs, but none of them have been very satisfying. I feel like good form is key in yoga, and, without an instructor, I never know if I’m doing the poses correctly.
I recognized a while ago that if I actually wanted to explore yoga, I was going to have to attend a class. Unfortunately, the thought of struggling to contort my body in a room full of super-svelte, bendy people with perfect balance, who are all already really good at yoga, made me incredibly anxious and uncomfortable, so I was never able to muster up the courage to get myself through the door of a yoga studio. I knew my June article would be the last in my Great Hobby Quest of 2015 series, so I figured it was finally time to put my fears and insecurities aside and try to get my zen on.
One of my friends, who has been practicing yoga for many years, kindly agreed to accompany me (and keep me from backing out of going) to my first class. I was hoping we could attend a beginners’ class, but we couldn’t find one that worked with both of our schedules. We settled on an “open level” class at a small yoga studio near my apartment. My friend insisted that I would be fine, but I had serious doubts. I took comfort in the fact that I could get myself home quickly if things got too terrible.
We showed up for class on a Sunday afternoon and discovered the studio was on the third floor of a walk-up. I reluctantly climbed up the stairs, checked in at the front desk, and signed a waiver saying that I wouldn’t sue the studio if I got injured or died, which only served to increase my anxiety. The receptionist handed me a mat and told me to take two blocks and a blanket from the prop room. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with those items, but I grabbed them and headed outside to the “roof deck,” where class was being held.
Despite its fancy-sounding name, the roof deck was pretty homely. It was small, curved and covered in green, uneven, rubbery tiles. The area was wedged between two apartment buildings, and you had to climb through a large window-frame to get to it. Although it was June, it was cold and windy out there.
There were about seven students total in the class, including one guy, and I was the only new one. I tried my best to follow along, but it was not easy. In the very beginning, the instructor stood at the front, showing us what to do, but, at a number of points during the class, she just walked around and called out positions. I do know the names of some yoga poses from my exercise DVDs, but there were a lot of terms she used that meant nothing to me, like “plow,” “bird of paradise,” and “happy baby.” I constantly had to look over at my friend to see what I was supposed to be doing. I attempted to mimic her, but I frequently felt like my body positioning couldn’t possibly be right. Despite that fact, the instructor gave me very few corrections. She only came over three times: twice to adjust my downward dog and once to show me what to do with the blocks.
I managed to make it through the class without falling or making a complete spectacle of myself, so that made me happy. I can’t say that I loved the experience, though. I didn’t really enjoy holding any of the standing poses, and I also found it annoyingly challenging to transition from pose to pose. Moreover, I wasn’t able to achieve any kind of inner calm or peace. Between struggling to keep up and dealing with the cold and wind (and a runny nose due to said cold and wind), my mind never got very quiet. All of the focused breathing also made me uncomfortable and overly concerned about passing out.
On a positive note, the class wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I had imagined it would be. No one there appeared to care about what anyone else was doing, nor did anyone seem to be a superhuman yoga machine. Throughout the class, I saw other people fall out of poses and do easier modifications. The instructor, herself, even had difficulty maintaining a balancing pose because of the uneven surface of the deck.
Overall, the class was fine – not great, not awful, just fine. My friend thinks that I might have enjoyed myself more if I had a better instructor. I’m willing to try again, but I’m not in any rush. There are still lots of other hobbies to explore. While I will no longer be chronicling my adventures here, my hobby quest is far from over. Golf, I’ve got my eyes set on you.
Cheryl Espinoza is an attorney and aspiring puppy-owner. She is a lover of coffee, Christmas, and all things Disney, and is in constant search of the best food and fancy cocktails in Manhattan. You can generally find her struggling to figure out how to decorate her apartment, watching bad reality TV, or playing board games far too competitively. She was born and raised in the Bronx, and currently lives with her husband in midtown Manhattan.