exercise · Health

Thoughts on Yoga, 7 Classes, 10 Days

I have long thought about taking yoga classes.  There’s a class offered at my gym, but I just can’t get into it with the sound of pumping music and pounding treadmills outside the classroom door.  When I go to the gym, I am generally in the state of mind that I’m going to move fast, lift hard and generally wear myself out.  This is not the state of mind to be in when you are trying to concentrate on breathing evenly and banishing thoughts from your mind.

The physical benefits of yoga are clear, and I have always enjoyed the gym yoga I have done in the past from the perspective of strength and flexibility.  But I want to explore the meditative aspects, not just get a good stretch.

I am a very rational and skeptical person.  Words like “religion”, “spirituality”, and “soul” make me nervous.  When someone says “I’m spiritual but I’m not religious,” I cringe and think of crystals and Ouija boards.

There’s nothing mystical or magical about it,  it’s just crystal clear to me that the state of the body is the state of the mind.  Why wouldn’t it be?  The blood courses through your body, including your brain.  The foods you eat and the ways you move alter what is happening in the brain.  Conversely, when you believe you can do something, the likelihood of this being true is much higher than when you believe you will fail, completely independent from your actual skill.

“The awakened and knowing say: body I am entirely, and nothing else; and soul is only a word for something about the body.”  -Nietzsche

I decided to check out a yoga studio that’s convenient to both my home and my office, Blissful Yoga Studio.  I purchased a $25, 2 week trial unlimited classes membership.  I have tried 7 in the past 10 days.  After the very first class, I knew I was going to have to change my plan of finding one class to take regularly and go in for an unlimited classes package because I wanted to take yoga as frequently as possible.

Blissful Yoga, North Phoenix

The studios themselves are clean and modern with high ceilings and wood floors.  It is a peaceful space.  I visited two locations and preferred the more convenient one due to the layout of the space.  At the location in Arrowhead, the classrooms have glass walls to the outside.  Despite partially closed blinds, I found this distracting, especially the occasional honk of a car horn.  The North Phoenix location, which I prefer, has the classrooms set back from the parking lot with doors of frosted glass that let light in.  I enjoy this darker setting and it is much quieter.

They’re both in shopping centers.  Is there anything in Phoenix that’s not in a shopping center?

These are the classes I have tried so far:

Intro to Yoga: 2 Tuesdays.  This class was absolutely perfect as a place to start.  The instructor, Susanne, was friendly and clear, taking much time to explain the nuances of what to aim for during different poses but also giving alternatives if range of motion did not allow.

I honestly did feel very emotional at the end of this class.  I’ve spent so much time changing my body and a lot of it has been what can only be described as rigorous effort.  It’s always go faster, try harder, lift heavier, go go go.  It has been a long time since I took a second to slow down and think “hey, look at how amazing this new body is!”  And I felt very grateful for it and connected to myself (if that makes any sense) after this class, and several of the other ones.

Candle Light Yoga I/II: 1 Thursday.  Extremely relaxing, but somewhat challenging.  I honestly could have fallen asleep on my mat after this class, but my mind was all over the place.

Bliss Flow: 1 Friday. Definitely my favorite of the bunch so far.  If I were to choose one class at this point, this would be it.  I felt like it had the right mix of motion and stillness for me.

Stretch & Restore: 1 Saturday. Long poses, dark room, mostly lying down using the wall.  I took this right after Body Attack, which is a crazy jumping around like a maniac cardio workout.  Perfect combination.  The 75 min yoga class felt like about 5 minutes.

All Levels: 1 Monday.  Took a much needed vacation day from work and tried this class at noon.  It felt very indulgent to do so.  I enjoyed the class, it was a good mix of different poses and breathing.

Hot Yoga: 1 Friday.   I’ve been intrigued by the idea of this for a long time.  This is yoga done in a humid, hot room.  Hot is a relative term.  It was 110 outside and 95 degrees in the room.  But the humidity felt great and sweat rained out of my skin.  Felt wonderful afterward and I did feel more flexible in the humidity and warmth.  It wasn’t as extreme as I expected.  I did, however, have to take my glasses off because they kept sliding down my nose.

________________

I love the way I feel after a yoga class.  I feel quiet.  I find that even when I am thinking of stressful things when I go in, I leave thinking about positive things.  Another surprising benefit is that I suddenly slowed down when eating.  All of the sudden I felt like taking breaks between bites instead of wolfing down the whole meal.  I’m looking forward to improving my practice in the months to come.  It is definitely what I have been needing in my life.

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