Four months ago, I resolved to take a yoga class. I made that resolution on a whim, mainly because my wife challenged me to step out of my comfort zone at the gym. At the time, it seemed like a fun, goofy idea—kind of like doing deadlifts or powercleans.
The weeks passed. I was busy. I’d get to it eventually. But not this week. Or the next. I began to dwell on my inner yoga stereotypes, and then the nerves hit: the class would be full of a bunch of slender hippy chicks in tight pants. I would be intruding upon their girl time. I’d look like a pervert. What would I wear? Are there unwritten rules of yoga class? Where do you put the mat? Do you wear shoes?
Hmmmm… I thought this was supposed to be relaxing.
Last week, my yoga-enthusiast best friend sent me a text: “Yoga class. Saturday at 10.” My hectic Saturday schedule magically opened up, and it was time to make good on my resolution.
An experienced yoga man by my side, I sauntered in to the classroom 10 minutes early—with wife’s mat—and took an unassuming spot of hardwood toward the back. Our teacher quizzed us on our yoga experience:
“You’ve taken yoga before, right?”
“No ma’am. I’ve never taken yoga in my life. First time.”
Did I really have the “yoga” look? My confidence soared. Class began.
An hour later, my arms were quivering, my legs were jelly, and I was covered in sweat. I can’t tell you the name of all the poses and moves, but I know there were a lot of animals involved. Incidentally, I don’t recall the warriors hunting the animals. The best I can describe the class is a controlled workout focusing on balance, core strength, and flexibility. I learned that some muscles stretch better than others, and some, like my upper hamstrings, are pathetically tight. I definitely liked “the warrior, and standing on my head (a skull massage, she called it). Yoga was tough!
The Inevitable Weird Moments
There was a peculiar overuse of the word “massage.” Rolling side to side with knees clutched to chest was “massaging the spine,” and then of course there was the headstanding skull massage. I may have been doing something wrong, but supporting most of my body weight with a large hunk of bone is a far cry from a massage.
Then came the metaphysical transcendence: Ethereal phrases floated to and fro about the room, like “Be present.” I have a hard time with the whole hippy vibe, so phrases like this are more distracting than they are helpful. Is this some sort of metaphor, but in reverse? Instead of using an illustration to help me understand what to do, I am being asked to perform a task I have clearly accomplished (I was there, after all) in order to help me….
Just tell me what to do Ms. Yoga Teacher.
Perhaps the lingo will take some getting used to, but this post on Nerd Fitness advised yoga students to take what they can use, and leave the rest. Helpful and reasonable advice. Read on for more rave reviews from my first day of class.
Why I Will Go Back to Yoga Class
- Flexibility. This is a pillar of fitness that I lack, even though I’ve shown improvement in the last year to my awesome foam roller. After seeing Cirque du Soleil, I needed something to take my flexibility training to the next level.
- Core strength: Lots of planks, which I think are superior to direct ab work, especially when it comes to functional core strength.
- Function: My training philosophy when it comes to lifting weights is to teach my body how to generate speed and power. I want to be “fit” to perform basic life tasks. If I’m in a building that crumbles to the ground, I want to be physically prepared to come crawling out of the rubble, maybe even with an injured animal or two slung over each shoulder. I can’t be a muscle-bound meathead if I want to be the last man standing.
Just as the young ladies steer clear of the barbells and dumbbells in spite of their weighty benefits, I think lots of guys might be missing out on something that, while great in itself, might even have some carry over to strength training and overall fitness. Can’t do a full squat? Probably due to lack of flexibility. I’m having trouble dialing in the form on a power snatch, and I think the problem is my shoulder flexibility. It might be yoga to the rescue.
Ironically, yoga might be the missing piece in my little bag of man tricks. Next time the warrior, the chicken, the lizard, and all those beast poses come calling my name, I’ll be ready with one whimsical word: