I have never done Yoga. For years I have heard about the health benefits the practice presents, the challenges it poses for many, and, in some cases, the way it alters people's perspectives on life. At first, I felt such claims had to be taken with a grain of salt, as I fully expected Yoga to be a flash in the pan health fad that would fade as quickly as the thigh master. I had no real interest in giving it a try, and the added focus on a loose interpretation of eastern philosophies and spirituality turned me off. I wasn't buying the Yoga idea, and there was no way I was about to join the Yoga scene.
As time went by more friends and family members began to echo the early sentiments I heard about Yoga. They began to discuss it as a part of their lives, carving time out of their lives for sessions several times per week. Even my girlfriend began to make it a part of her routine, and when she would come home exhausted and sweaty I would say to her, "What the hell are they making you do in those classes?" Each time she would kindly explain to me the individual poses and the affects they had on her body. Despite the trusted source, I remained confused as to how and why Yoga was such a big deal. After all, how can stretching and breathing give you a full workout?
Following my first Yoga class I can now say, "I get it." Although I was a bit skeptical when we started the class with an extended remix of "energy" chat and mediation, the physical nature of Yoga took me by surprise. Our instructor, Olivia, took Rachael and I through some very basic poses and breathing exercises over the course of our hour long class. While their familiarity to Rachael was likely a bore, I struggled to get my hands, feet, legs, and knees in the right positions as we moved from one pose to the next. Literally within minutes of beginning the poses I was starting to feel muscles and tendons I hadn't used in years start to come to life. Just as quickly, my body began to tell me it was time to give it a rest and head back to our familiar place on the couch. Knowing that wasn't a possibility, I worked through "the burn" and the quivering muscles to continue focusing on doing each pose correctly. Before long the sweat started to roll down my brow, and the breathing exercises Olivia introduced earlier in the class made a lot of sense.
With some helpful hints and some much needed direction, I made it through the series of complex movements and poses throughout the session. I must admit I had a brief internal celebration when we were told the last "pose" was "Shavasna", which is essentially laying on the ground and doing nothing. As Olivia instructed us to relax and let go, the spiritual side of Yoga also began to make more sense to me. There was something about working through the slow, challenging poses and finishing in a state of pure relaxation that brought a feeling of peace and consciousness. Shortly after starting "Shavasna" I found myself staring at the intricate tile work on the Yoga studio ceiling, listening to melody of the instrumental music playing in the background, and thinking nothing. I remember catching myself in the act and thinking, "Whoa. I'm seriously not thinking about anything right now... When is the last time I thought about nothing?" It was strange, but it was good.
While I don't know when I will try Yoga again, I can say I'm glad I started here. If even half of the experiences I have in the next 364 days provide a similar experience, I know I will be a better person. There is so much left to see and do.