New Year, New Yoga

It must be January, because the yoga classes are full. Lately I’ve had to cram my mat in between the mats of people who strain mightily to touch their toes and who wobble into Warrior One. They want relaxation, enlightenment, and toned thighs, and they think the 5:30pm Hatha Yoga class is totally their ticket.

I snuck into the crowded class two minutes late and splayed a mat in the back room next to a young couple. I knew they were a couple because I saw them in the parking lot, toting yoga mats under their arms. Because they were both so fit and healthy-looking, I assumed they were yoga veterans, but after 5 minutes of Sun Salutations, it became clear that this was their second, maybe third class ever. The guy’s muscles were tighter than a hipster’s jeans; his knees were so bent in Downward Dog that he was almost in Child’s Pose. The girl was slightly more flexible, but lacked the functional arm strength that would enable her to gracefully pull off any sort chaturanga.

They both labored over yoga mats that were so new the ends curled. I imagined them making a New Year’s resolutiont to take yoga together, and purchasing the mats to solidify their commitment. It must’ve sounded so easy and good at the time, and there they were, suffering and looking as stressed as a mouse in a maze.

Not that I was any better when I first started yoga. By virtue of my sporting lifestyle, I thought that yoga would be a breeze. In fact, I was initially hesitant to give up a “real workout” in order to attend yoga class. But just because I could run 6 miles or cross-country ski all day didn’t mean that I could hold a lunge for more than 30 seconds without searing pain in my quadriceps, and it certainly didn’t mean I could sit in pigeon pose and think calming, happy thoughts.

It takes work, and no yoga beginner is exempt from the initial physical acclimation. I silently called “bullshit” on the author of the ” Om my!: Introduction to yoga is a breath of fresh air,” an article in the Boston Globe by a yoga novice who attends various classes in studios around Boston. Her first yoga class was a 90 minute Baptiste class — an intense ordeal, it’s like someone who has never run before doing a 5K. She claims after the class she “felt a little more awesome than before.” While that might be true, I marvel that she neglects to mention the agonizing physicality and constant bewilderment that yoga beginners always experience. No one was born doing vinyassas.