My sister, Angie, has just somehow realised that I am 44 years old and have never tried yoga…. and of course she’s having none of that! This situation is totally unacceptable to her and within minutes of her realisation regarding my empty life bereft of any yoga classes or spiritual guidance, she is on the phone to her friend Linda booking me into my first class.
As always I surrender, no point arguing, she’s a bossy bossy woman who doesn’t take “No” for an answer. I guess I’m going to yoga.
I’ve never been anti-Yoga, it’s just never really come into my radar. I have been relatively uneducated in its meaning and purpose. When I think of yoga, I immediately think of skinny rubbery girls sitting around with their legs behind their heads talking about kale recipes, whereas I would usually be more comfortable talking about the favourite in race 6 at Doomben in a public bar over a beer. The only other ‘fact’ I know about yoga is that it will often result in involuntary flatulence, which I have never wanted any part of, who wants to risk that?
But it’s time for a new me, the old body is aging and I’m feeling myself become weaker and more rigid than I used to be. Maybe yoga will set me on the right path. It can’t hurt to give it a try. Cancel the baked beans order for lunch, I’m going to yoga!
Class No. 1 Yin Yoga
Well, I’m a tad nervous arriving at my first class, it’s called Yin Yoga. I’m assured this class is very suitable for beginners. We’ll see.
We arrive at Linda’s studio, Pilates & Yoga Styles, and walk up a set of stairs where signs tell us to remove our shoes. All good, I planned for this and I know my socks are matching and don’t have holes. We are greeted by Linda and Kate, tonight’s teacher, both of whom are super friendly, down to earth and welcoming. I’m feeling at ease, this might not be so bad….
It’s cold outside, but the yoga room is nice and cosy, so I’m happy with that. Linda takes me under her wing and sets me up with some equipment. A bolster (a long round cushion that looks a bit like a rolled up sleeping bag) a block (a cork block a bit smaller than a shoe box) a mat and a blanket. Now I’m thinking, this is my kind of sport, any workout that includes a blanket is probably right up my alley.
Looking around the room, it’s lovely and light, all white with a few windows up high that frame blue skies and green leaves swaying gently in the breeze. You wouldn’t know you’re above the hustle and bustle of Pakington St. A few wall hangings adorn the walls and a small altar-type arrangement is placed at the front of the class. So far so good.
I glance around the room at the clientele, all normal looking people in active wear…. I feel like I’m at school drop off really. Now I realise – this is where all the active wear school mums are going. The only time I get into my active gear is when I didn’t get a chance to have a shower before drop-off. I figure if I’m in active wear, it looks like I didn’t shower on purpose, because of my active plans for the day, when really I’m just grabbing a coffee and going home to do some laundry. So some peeps wear their active wear for real, there you go! That’s a revelation.
Back to the yoga. The class has started and we’re into the first pose. This is the butterfly pose where you put the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall to the sides. You then lay back and use either your bolster or block to support you if needed. For my first yoga pose, I’m feeling quite vulnerable. Is anyone else here thinking what I am? When I go to my doctor every two years I do this pose, and that is certainly not fun. But after a minute or two I settle into it and forget those thoughts because all of a sudden I’m feeling the burn of the stretch. Wowsers!
Kate, our teacher has a lovely soothing voice, she says that you’re allowed to adjust your pose if it’s hurting too much (phew) and you’re to focus internally, like meditation. We hold the pose for about five minutes then rest for a minute to recover.
That rest minute is awesome. You can feel all the blood rush around your body to the spots that were just under all that pressure and it feels great. The muscles, ligaments and tissue that have been curled up in my tense, inactive body are all jumping out and saying “Hellooooo!”
And this continues throughout the 60 minute session. Pose for five minutes, recover for 1 minute. We covered various positions such as the Saddle, Sleeping Swan, Shoelace…. I can’t remember all of the names. I managed to give them all a go without any major embarrassment. At Yoga, everyone is so absorbed in their own pose and their internal focus that I’m sure no one would notice if you did do something completely embarrassing anyway. There’s no need for beginners to feel intimidated at this class.
Once we have finished our final pose, it is time for Shavasana. Now Shavasana is awesome. We lay down on our mats and pull our blankets up over us, so comfy. My body feels relaxed yet awake. Soft music continues to play and we all soak in the serenity and the calm of the studio.
My first class gets a thumbs up. My body feels alive and my mind has had an escape from the manic thought process that gets me through my day to day life. No one flatulated, no one levitated and no one mentioned kale.
Afterwards, the place I am noticing the effects is mostly in my hips, they feel really free, like I could break into a salsa or do a bit of Zumba (mental note: DO NOT mention this to Angie).
Class No. 2 Vinyasa
My second visit to yoga is for a Vinyasa class, I’m told this type of yoga has more of a flow to it, so you are transitioning from one pose to the next continually. Sounds like it might be a bit more advanced, but I’m going to give it a whirl anyway.
First to school drop off in my active wear, feeling really proud I’m actually legitimately wearing active wear for once. Unfortunately, no one asked me what I was doing today. I wanted the chance to let people know I wasn’t just faking the active thing. I felt like I should wear a sign on my chest saying “I’m going to yoga.” Oh well, I impressed myself, that’s all that matters.
There were a lot of ladies at Vinyasa class, this is obviously very popular. There was a bit of a buzz around the room, ladies were chit-chatting as we waited to start and the background music seemed a bit more upbeat. Once again, I felt at ease and welcomed into the class. I was glad to see Linda who looked impressed that I’d returned so quickly and she gave me a nod as she headed to the front of the studio to get us started.
Today’s class would be focussing on “balance” physically, mentally and with particular emphasis on our breathing. Great! I’m an excellent breather, at least I’ve had some experience in that department….
The session then began with some “Om”s and a few lines of chanting. Now this I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t know you did “Om” in yoga, I thought it was only a meditation thing. But as I noticed with my first class, yoga seems to incorporate meditation within it. So I appreciated the harmonious sounds of around 30 “Oms” in one room, but I was too awkward to join in. Same with the chanting, I wasn’t up to it yet. Not sure which language my yoga friends were chanting, but the regulars seemed to know it off by heart. Luckily for me this only went for a couple of minutes.
Then into the posing. We were instucted to be slow, deliberate and graceful in our movements. The slow bit, I thought I could handle. Deliberate…. well, I may have a few accidental moves, and graceful…. probably not at this stage, but there was no pressure, you just do what you can. Linda’s main objective was that we were breathing consistently throughout. Gotcha.
The instructions from Linda came smoothly, calmly and quickly. We were upward and downward dogging with a myriad of other moves in between, breathing, stretching and balancing. The poses in Vinyasa yoga required a lot more control in terms of strength as we balanced in various positions with legs in the air and arms out, one foot/one hand combos. There were many points in the class where my body was shaking uncontrollably as I tried to hold a pose. But as with the previous class, everyone is so caught up in their own pose, they don’t really notice anyone else.
Soon I was stripping off and getting into a bit of a sweat. The great thing about this class is you’re so focussed on your position and trying to hold your balance while continuing to breathe that you don’t realise your muscles are burning until the pose is already over.
Just when I thought we were going to take it easy, moving to a sit down position on our mats, Linda asks us to try lifting our booties up off the floor from a seated position. Something like this.
Now this is very advanced, Linda could do it. I’m sure anyone who can do this must have powers of levitation because my butt was firmly connected to the floor and there was no way I could imagine ever having the strength to lift myself to that pose.
As we wound down to a couple of stretching poses, I was glad to hear Linda mention the word Shavasana. Cool, Vinyasa has Shavasana too. This is the part where you lay down and rest – my favourite part of any physical activity. It’s actually really great to be still for 10 minutes and just feel all the parts of your body that you just awakened pinging, pulsing and tingling. I guess there are some endorphins floating around your body at this point, because you ‘wake up’ or come out of Shavasana on quite a high. Some final Omming and chanting and we’re done!
I felt quite energised by this class, although I’m sensing I may be sore tomorrow. I liked Vinyasa, and although my ability was super low and it would take me quite some time to master some of the poses, I still got something out of trying them. The great thing about yoga at P&Y Styles is that you can be masterful or you can be shitful, either way, you can still participate and nobody cares.
Class No. 3 – Dharma Yoga
This is my third class in a week and although I’m not agonisingly sore, I do have an awareness of most of my muscles, and as I climb the stairs to the studio I can feel that I have awakened some dormant parts of my body. Apart from a fairly consistent elbow bend, I really haven’t exercised much in the last few weeks, actually months… well maybe years.
Linda looks up from the reception desk and gives me a big smile and a nod. “You’re back again. I’m impressed!” Well, that’s made my day. Can’t say I hear that very often. I kind of hang by the desk for a minute, in case she gives out gold stars or “student of the week” awards, and eventually walk away content with the knowledge I have impressed someone…. in my active wear.
Onto my mat (always the back row so I can copy other people if need be) and quietly sit listening to the happy chit-chat of about 25 ladies and a couple of blokes. Again, I look around the room and today I feel a twinge of excitement at being in this lovely light space looking out the windows at the blue sky and green leaves. One of the nicest things about coming to the studio is the welcome feeling, particularly for a new-comer, I have never felt like an outsider or the “newby”.
Dharma yoga begins with an Om and some chanting. I’m still struggling to take part in this component of the class, but Linda reminds everyone to just do what you’re comfortable doing.
Following the opening spiritual/ritual part we’re in to some poses. Dharma is a lot slower than the Vinyasa class. This is probably more my pace for now. Whilst we’re moving through the poses, changing from Cobras to Warriors to Toppling Trees we’re constantly reminded to breathe and move our thoughts inwards and work toward self-realisation. The meditative element seems more prominent in Dharma Yoga although the mood is still kept light and the pace is allowing me to pretty much keep up with the class. While Linda incorporates some more advanced poses into the class, beginners like myself (of which there are many) are reminded to only take the pose to the level they are comfortable with. In essence, the yoga meets you at your level of ability.
This is a 75 minute session and the last 15 minutes is Shavasana. So it seems every class finishes with Shavasana. Beauty. I love the sound of this word as it comes out of Linda’s mouth, because I know that’s lay down time. Yay. I have since found out that the meaning of Shavasana is “Corpse Pose” i.e. lay down like you’re dead, which doesn’t sound half as romantic, so we’ll stick with Shavasana. Linda takes us through some guided relaxation and our aim is to be in the deepest state of relaxation whilst still conscious. I reckon I did a very good job of that because I was so relaxed that my brain all but stopped and my body fell away and melted into the floor.
We were brought out of our semi-comatose state for a final “Om” and a chant of thanks/respect. A breakthrough occurred here where I let out my first audible Om. I finally felt I could do it. I couldn’t yet do the chanting, but Omming is a big step for my previously unspiritual self.
You’d think after laying down and getting very close to sleep you’d walk away feeling a bit groggy, but it’s the opposite. You actually leave yoga energised and ready to take on whatever lies ahead of you for the day.
Class No. 4 – Hatha
Who knew there were so many varieties of yoga? Tonight I’m trying Hatha Yoga. Another good class for beginners. Although I’m feeling like I have a little bit of experience under my belt now, I still get myself is some very awkward positions and lose my balance regularly throughout the class.
I’m also having problems with breathing. Inhale for one move, exhale the next. I get out of sync with the class and have to double-inhale a couple of times to get back into the rhythm. I think I became close to hyperventilating once or twice, which didn’t help my balance. Something for me to work on…
No chanting in this class, just a couple of long Oms and the start and finish.
It’s all starting to feel more familiar to me now, as I recognise poses from my previous classes.
The difference for me with this class, is it’s my first night time class. The room is no longer light and bright, it’s candlelit with incense burning. It’s freezing outside, but the studio is beautifully warm.
I smile as I think of my husband washing the dishes and getting the kids to bed while I find inner peace in my active wear. I like this arrangement.
I have to admit, I really like yoga.
From my brief experience with this form of exercise, I have noted the following benefits:
Yoga is Gentle – As my body has aged and become more susceptible to injury, I have given the high impact stuff away. Running feels far too violent for my body, a short career in Roman wrestling blew out my knee and any sport that involves changing direction usually results in me collapsing inward on myself. Yoga is gentle, but works on your strength.
Mind – I like that yoga class gives you an hour or so of peace and calm, concentrating on breathing, balancing and clearing your mind. Life gets busy, minds are often racing, yoga resets your brain and gives clarity.
Strength – I can see from the more experienced yogis around the room, it does wonderful things for your body. With 25 years of teaching under her belt Linda has triceps to die for. No floppy dangly bits on this lady, she has an aura of strength, energy and vibrancy. Keeping your body strong helps to prevent injuries, preserves your back and generally makes it easier to get through day to day life.
Energy – I walked away from each class with more energy than I started with. Even the night time class. And extra energy translates to a better mood for me, so I’m sure my husband and kids now appreciate yoga as well.
If you’ve never tried yoga before, I would definitely recommend giving it a go. Set out with an open mind and don’t be afraid to be the beginner, everyone works at their own level and they don’t make you wear an L Plate.
If you’re in the Geelong area, Linda’s studio, Pilates & Yoga Styles is in Pakington Street. Linda offers an introductory deal for new students which includes 3 weeks Unlimited Yoga for $30. It’s a great deal and gives you the opportunity to try the various classes and timetables to work out what suits you best.
If you’re in any other area, check around your local Yoga studios, most of them do a deal for new students that gives you a chance to check out their various classes.
So why not give it a go? Throw on your active wear, check your shoes and stresses at the door, and work your way through to Shavasana. You’ll feel fabulous!