Val Tries Yoga

A few weeks ago, I decided to take topic suggestions from my Facebook friends. There were quite a few but one suggestion I particularly liked was:

"In the spirit of reinvention and growth, you could do like an "Out of My Element" post once a week or month or so, where you write about trying an activity that's a little out of your comfort zone or something you never thought you'd have the guts to try."

I thought that was a marvelous idea! So what activity did I never think I would have the guts to try? Well, besides the more obvious and drastic ones like skydiving and swimming with sharks, there's yoga.

In November of 2010, I completely tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) while running during a gym class. We had the surgery done in April of 2011 and I spent the next year and a half in physical therapy and wearing a knee brace. Then in December of 2014, I tore my meniscus while sleeping (yes, you read that right) on the same knee. The surgery for that tear was done on February 14, 2014. I spent the next 3 months back in physical therapy. Then in October 2015, my knee popped and I was stuck in crutches for 3 weeks. My knee hasn't been the same since. The range of motion is highly limited, I'm cautioned against running and jumping, and stairs are the enemy.  I've gone 6 months without incident but as you can imagine, the idea of yoga is terrifying after all that.

So I walked into Grateful Yoga for my Hatha Yoga class tense and hyper-aware of myself and everything around me. I wasn't sure what clothes were appropriate and I didn't have any athleisure chic clothes so I wore my trusty black leggings, an old, loose long-sleeved shirt and a sports bra. 

When I walked in, our instructor, Erika, spotted me and said "You must be Valerie". She could probably smell the fear and non-yoga practitioner scent all over me. I almost tripped over my own feet (and a little old lady) as I made my way to her and she was decent enough not to laugh out loud. Instead she smiled, asked me to hang up my coat, fill out a sheet with basic information, then showed me where to grab my mat. I found a spot on the floor beside a middle-aged gentleman who seemed a tad snobbish and an older woman who coughed and wheezed every few minutes. Seated behind me were two middle-aged women who rolled out their mats and immediately began to contort themselves in what were supposedly 'simple stretches'. And in front of me were the obvious yoga veterans who made me feel an uncooked noodle. A lovely bunch to get me geared up, eh?

There wasn't a lot of mingling and chit chat before class convened. I suppose everyone was ~getting in the zone~ and stretching (i.e., showing off). So I sat on my mat with my legs stuck out in front of me and I waited. Then the music got louder and class began.

The instructor guided us through the breathing, the OOOOMMMMSSSSSS, and the poses. Child pose, cat, cow, down dog, leg stretches, warrior II, pigeon, cobra. It started off slow and eventually gained momentum as the poses got more complicated and tad more silly. I would have giggled a bit if the mood was lighter but everything seemed of the utmost seriousness which I suppose was part of whole experience.

The pigeon pose seemed singularly designed to mess with my injured knee. Just watching the instructor twist her knee, fold her leg under her, and stretch out made me squirm. Thankfully, Erika came over and gave me simpler alternative poses which got me some confused looks from the older folks. Here were some mid-60s ladies perfectly executing poses and here I was, 23 and unwilling to even try the pose. I flashed them a weak smile hoping it would translate the "I'm sorry I'm so inept and my knee is 50 years older than I am" that was running through my mind.

My favorite pose was Savasana which was hardly a pose. It was basically a fancy name for lying spread-eagle on the floor and relaxing. Erika lowered the thermostat to a cooler temperature, told us to clear our minds, and let us lie on the floor for 10-15 minutes. It was the best 15-minute nap I've ever had in my life!

Afterwards we all sat down, brought our hands together in front of our chests, said thank you, and namaste. As most of us gathered our things and prepared to leave, I watched some of the more intense yoga enthusiasts remain on their mats and do some more complex poses. Erika noticed me and said "You'll do that eventually! How did you like your first yoga class ever?" This statement prompted several of the older women to come over and say "Welcome, dear" and "You're just getting started". It was all very encouraging and a bit weird.

So how did I like it overall? I liked it quite a lot! The stretching and poses did my achy back a world of good and I left feeling much lighter. I liked that everyone was too busy focusing on their stresses and their bodies to worry about my form or the fact that my leggings became a tad see-through during some poses. I would definitely do it again.

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