I went to a rooftop yoga class this past weekend and the instructor asked if it was anyone’s first time doing a yoga practice. No one raised their hand and I smiled to myself wondering if anyone was lying like I do when I go to a new church and try to stay seated when they try to force all the newbies out of hiding. In the case of yoga, though, you’re at a distinct advantage if you don’t claim your newness, because then the instructor has no choice but to assume you know what chavasana and warrior 1 and warrior 2 are. Fortunately, that wasn’t my problem.
The first time I tried yoga was in college. The rec center gave students a week to try random classes, and I thought, “Why not see what the hype is about?” Hated it!
I’ve since found that every instructor is different, but in general you have to learn to accept the reality of the downward facing dog. Some instructors move slower, others faster; some prefer standing poses, others spend more than the fast few minutes laying on the mat; but all instructors eventually move you into a position where your butt is in the air and all your weight is in your wrists, shoulders, and the balls of your feet. It’s like hell the first few times you do it, but years later I can honestly say it gets easier.
After that first yoga class, I wrote all yoga off. It sucked, it was slow, and yet it still hurt. I was used to being active or on the go somewhere. I liked badminton and basketball – two opportunities to run in short spurts without the full energy commitment. Yoga, for me, was like carrying all of your groceries to the far end of the parking lot.
After college, I followed Shaun T because he promised 25 minute workouts and lots of activity. It took me a couple years to get tired of that cardio-plyo-insanity bullshit. I still love him, but my pace changed.
Eventually, I decided to try yoga again. I wanted to breathe while I was working out, not gasp through 175 BPM. And I wanted to be flexible. I found a bubbly, black instructor on Beachbody On Demand and fell in love. Years ago, I still would’ve hated it because I wasn’t ready to move at that pace. I wasn’t ready to ‘flow’ through my movements rather than burn out my energy. I couldn’t appreciate the strength required to simply hold myself up. The only thing I would’ve liked was the pants.
My experience with yoga reminds me of my experiences with a lot of other things. Sure, first impressions are pretty solid, but it’s incredible how time can apply its own filter on things. It’s kinda like the day I decided I no longer had to gag when eating guac. Or when driving a car finally made sense. Or when I look back to the first time I thought I was in love. People change and grow – that’s just to be expected. Likewise, your perspective and values change with you and you realize something that once was the bane of your existence can become the reason you breathe (see what I did there?).
With that in mind, it’s hard for my to write anything off: love interests, television shows, careers, kids. You just never know what person you’re going to become next. All you can do is act on who you are in the here and now. Keeping myself open to things new and old led me to a rooftop with a perfect view of the Cleveland skyline on a perfect day.