One could say I started yoga about eight months ago, although the road to yoga was neither straight nor simple. I had a cursory knowledge of the ancient exercise simply because of my age: I was a kid in the 1970's when all things Far Eastern and exotic enjoyed a 15 minute fame thanks to the hippies. I had a gym teacher who spent a semester on yoga type stretches in the middle school. Mostly what I remember was her admonishing us to keep a "flat back" and being asked to take off my socks.
Ten years later I received as a gift, a series of five prenatal yoga classes. I highly enjoyed the series. We got to perform without any skinny chicks around because the class was only for us. At the regular gym, despite my membership, the owners were concerned about my safety and continually discouraged me from working out. Frankly, if you are a fit young mother, I encourage you to keep working out during your pregnancies. The strength will stand you in good stead when it comes time to give birth. I had a ten hour labor. If you are not fit, however, it's not a good time to go radical â€“ as you can injure yourself.
After the five classes I didn't have the money or the babysitter to continue taking yoga at a studio so I signed up for a correspondence class which quaintly sent me a weekly exercise, with instruction and pictures. The first few exercises were very simple. I did them for years first thing in the morning. Then, rather abruptly, the fourth exercise was so difficult I couldn't do it. I received about three months worth all total, but I was loathe to go past the fourth exercise because the subsequent ones built off of it.
Lesson learned: some things are better taught in person. Physical exercise, yoga included, is one of them.
I quit doing the morning exercises around the time I got married the first time. I did no yoga for the next fifteen years. Eight months ago, I had a room mate who loved yoga. He treated me to a class with his favorite teacher. She was a wan, vegan looking woman. Due to my sciatica, I was the worst athlete in the class. I felt very self conscious. Our illustrious teacher neither modified the poses nor offered instruction. As I looked around me, no one else seemed to have any trouble bending into a pretzel.
The yoga itself surprised me in that no mention was made of breathing. The yoga I remembered from my five series prenatal class was ALL about the breathing. I had a vague memory of staying in pose longer as well. The class I took with my room mate seemed almost aerobic exercise. "Flow" is the work I often see in studios to describe a class where poses move rapidly like that. I understand how this would be more appealing to people used to Jane Fonda type gymnastics, but rest assured, it is not the only way to do yoga.
My room mate and I tried a new yoga studio located ten miles away mostly out of curiosity. From the first lesson I was hooked. I finally met a real teacher. Misty, of Misty Mountain Yoga, gave off the vibe that she absolutely loved her work. She had zero ego about performing in front of the class. On the contrary, she spent most of class walking around helping us. She could modify up for the advanced members of the class as easily as she would modify down for beginners like me. Best of all she was encouraging. I loved how she would notice as I got more flexible or daring or stronger. She was happy for me.
She took a natural interest in all her students. Although she was quick to point out that she was neither doctor nor nutritionist, she was interested in discussing any topic related to health, exercise or meditation. Many of her students had never done yoga even once before. She was willing to meet people where ever they were at. She had no agenda tied to being the most educated person in the room. She refrained from chanting "Om" if it made a student uncomfortable. With an equal ease she would discuss the finer points of the Patangali with students who were more advanced.
I would have lived happily ever after at her studio in Frazier Park if a number of unrelated incidents had not closed down the shop. Left with no home studio, I asked Misty where she would recommend I take further classes. I attended two studios on her advice, and tried several other teachers on my own. The studio I liked best, after hers, was a small studio near H Street in Bakersfield, called Inner Body Works.
Like Misty, the teachers there seemed to genuinely enjoy their students. The participants were mostly working class. It was the only studio I went to where men often outnumbered the women in the classes. Sometimes it was evenly split. The students were encouraging of each other, which I liked. The two studios I visited in Newhall, closer to Los Angeles, were of a different vibe. The teachers are good, they explain poses thoroughly, however, no one seems to notice me. I've been taking two classes a day the last three weeks and yet, as I stood at the front of the class yesterday I could not help but overhear the teacher describing me to another student. Clearly she didn't recognize me, nor realize I was standing within earshot, ouch!
As sensitive as I am about my sciatica, it did not feel good to be described as someone "too weak to finish the second class." Let the record be set straight! I left a few minutes early, only to have the showers to myself! Honestly, I'm not the best yogi in the world. My physical limitations hold me back. But as Misty so kindly explained, that can be an inspiration to other people. Please don't let a physical limitation keep you from trying yoga. A good teacher will modify the poses for you, and you will benefit a lot. Yoga can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, strength the body and create bala