After many years of family doctors, chiropractors and massage therapists harping on me to start yoga, I finally took the rather uncomfortable plunge for the first time this past Sunday.
Because of ill-advised yet chronic inactivity and delightfully painful scar tissue from myriad sports injuries, the plunging was quite awkward. Luckily, the actual experience of practicing yoga was incredibly fulfilling.
To say I’m late to the yoga game is an epic understatement. The practice can be traced back to fifth century BCE. To illustrate how clueless I was about the depth of the movement, I was quite surprised at the spiritual and emotional elements introduced in my first session. Somehow I thought it would be like many other group exercise classes I’ve tried — painfully grunting my way through complex, robotic movements well above my skill set and feeling like that out-of-place kid in Grade 2 all over again.
Our instructor, Alexandra Buhr from Crumbs Café, has been doing this for quite some time. Here’s how I can tell: I’ve been to group exercise classes before, and often if I’m a beginner, I’ve felt left behind. Alexandra was very empathetic with this noob, ensuring I had alternate poses I could work with to obtain similar results to the true poses and movements.
My main goals for this first attempt were humble: Don’t make a fool of yourself, don’t rip your pants, don’t relax to a point of accidental wind-passing, don’t pass out. I was able to hit around 90 per cent.
Thanks to a recently diagnosed inner-ear disorder, I almost passed out after bending over and standing a few times. The fluid in my middle ear was having a party on its own and my brain was not enjoying that and the cops were called. I had to sit on my mat for a few minutes while they worked things out.
I learned very quickly how damaging it was to sit slumped over a computer 16 hours per day for a dozen years after I tried to perform even basic posture moves and stretches in class.
Once my old-man body was warmed up, I was sensing an increased range of movement in previously rusted-over joints and scar-tissue-mangled muscles and ligaments.
Several times I felt chiropractic-like adjustments popping in my back and shoulders. The release of tension was intensely pleasurable. Because I was so stiff and clunky when I started, I was challenged to maintain proper breathing techniques. I was patient and just let my body get used to this new sensation of “movement.”
I review this internal discussion thusly:
Body: “So what is happening here?”
Brain: “We’re doing the exercise.”
Body: “Huh, I’ve heard of this through legend and rumour. So it’s real then?”
Brain: “Oh it’s very real. Did you know there shouldn’t be a hump in our shoulders?”
Body: “Wow, really? I’m going to disagree on that one and fight you hard to maintain it.”
Brain: “Also we should be able to do a basic squat without our quads trembling like we’re dead-lifting 800 pounds.”
Body: “In fairness, that’s mostly on you and your workaholism and commitment to naps.”
Brain: “Bottom line here, dude, is we’re going to have to work together on this and we’ll both be much healthier.”
In the end, Alexandra’s affirming messages and thoughts delivered with a genuine depth of empathy twice moved me to tears. There was a tangible spiritual lift that transcended the movements.
My physical and emotional reactions were a testament to the value of the session. I’ll be back.