fitness · yoga

It’s not you, it’s me. But what to do about it?

This week, in keeping with my new academic year’s resolutions, I headed over to a morning yoga class.  I am not a happy morning mover, but I want to fit in more yoga, which means taking advantage of class times and open spaces in my schedule.

The class was taught by someone who was subbing for one of my favorite yoga teachers.  Again, this was less than perfect for me, but I enjoy taking yoga classes with different people; they challenge me to move and focus in different ways, learning more about my body.

Wow, this class so didn’t work out for me at all!  One of the new-to-me moves (a leg lift from a sitting position, holding my other bent leg close to me) felt really awkward and borderline painful.  I know, if some movement doesn’t feel right in a yoga class, we are all encouraged not to do it, or to ask for help with a modification.  I guess my vanity interfered with my asking for help.  That’s on me.

My attitude, performance and focus all went downhill from there.  Even downward facing dog– one of my favorite poses– felt odd.  The directions I was getting were unfamiliar (this person has an approach which is different from my other teachers).  And I got in my head about it and couldn’t shake it off.

At that point I was sweating and uncomfortable and grumpy, which is not how I like to feel ever, but certainly not in yoga class.  Yoga practice helps me feel great about my body– I get to see the ways it can move and lift and sink and stretch.  It helps me see which parts are more tender or vulnerable or neglected, and shows me how to care for them, too.

But not on this day, in this class.  It felt as if there was this style of yoga that was not for me at all.  I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

We’ve all had exercise classes or athletic outings that went awry.  I once took a rock climbing class that I had thought was for complete beginners, but man oh man was it NOT for beginners.  I made it through the class intact and have never returned to rock climbing.  When I was eight years old, my mother enrolled me in a beginning ballet class, but at mid-year (which was a mistake).  And– horror of horrors– she bought me black ballet slippers instead of pink ones, so I felt completely out of place.  I did not last very long there, either.  In this yoga class case, the obvious solution is not to take classes with this particular teacher, and I should be all set.

Although… I now think it’s kind of interesting that I had such a strong reaction to this yoga class.  The teacher was not a bad instructor at all, and some of the poses we tried were done in intriguing ways (e.g. tree pose– balancing on one leg–  using a block and the wall instead of on the mat with no support).  Maybe this teacher’s approach is offering me a chance to learn something new about myself, to explore different parts of my body or think about them in novel ways.  It’s a thought.  I may return next week and see how it goes.  Or talk with her about my reaction to the class to ask for her help in navigating the experience.

So readers, what do you think?  What have you done if you had a horrendous activity class experience?  Did you get out of there as fast as possible?  Did you return and still hate it?  Did it transform or inform or reform(ulate) you in any ways?  I’d welcome any comments you have.  And thanks!

Pencil drawings of two yoga poses: cow, and mother f***in' unicorn (a joke).

8 thoughts on “It’s not you, it’s me. But what to do about it?

  1. A ‘beginner’ cross country ski class where the Olympic coach started out by saying ‘ok everyone – get your skis on and meet me down by the biathlon range!’ before disappearing out of sight. It was a 12 week course of lessons and I went precisely once. I did eventually make it to the biathlon range, where I found the others doing up and downhill circuits on a nearby hill. I fell forwards, backwards, sideways, and sometimes in directions that seemed to break the laws of movement.
    I did learn one thing. Never take a beginner cross country ski class in an Olympic town. The ‘beginners’ are really people who were raised on skis, skied for forty years, and are just getting back into it after their marathon running careers, and ‘just thought they’d take a beginner class to brush up technique’.

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  2. Wow, that sounds pretty horrendous. To me, “beginner” means “have never done this before, so you need to start from scratch”. Yes, sometimes one takes beginner classes for a refresher, but that’s not the purpose of beginner classes. I hope you found better ski instruction after bailing on that class.

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  3. Thanks for sharing, Catherine — I actually like the idea of standing poses using supports, but I get that weird feeling of being “off” when you can’t find the instructions in your body. Good for you for going though

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  4. Was it more of an Iyengar class? They tend to use more props. I definitely go one more time, as we all know one of the keys to regular exercise is finding classes that suit your schedule, but let the teacher know you struggled a bit & see how they react. I would certainly do my best (as a Pilates instructor) to take very diligent care of a new student…

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    1. The class was flow fundamentals, but everyone there is Iyengar-trained, so lots of props are used. Thanks for the suggestion– I will go back and talk to her about some of my difficult spots and see how to adjust. Just writing about it made me decide to go back.

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  5. My over 50 year old husband and I decided to try yoga, so we went to a local studio that taught Bikram (hot yoga). We had no experience with yoga, so we didn’t know quite what to expect. We were barked at by a woman who told us we couldn’t drink water, and that we had to finish all the poses. We left early. Both of us felt like we were going to go into cardiac arrest from the heat. I couldn’t reconcile what my friends had said about how calming and wonderful yoga is with what we experienced there. I decided to give it another try at a different studio with a different style. It was heavenly! I fell in love with it enough to become a teacher. Sadly, my husband won’t go near a yoga mat ever again.

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