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Yoga for Beginners: how I learned to love the heat

Ten years and many pounds ago, I won my first Women’s Foil competition in a fencing tournament.  I was certainly not the best fencer in our club; although I’d slimmed down to my healthiest weight, I was still chubby and it took a toll on my speed and reflexes.  I did, however, have pretty good form and know my theory very well, and I wasn’t opposed to playing a few nasty tricks (like tossing my foil out to grip the very end of my pommel, taking advantage of my height and allowing short opponents to just ram themselves on the blade while ensuring they never came close to me).

It was an awesome day.

I really miss fencing, and I’ve located a salle in Nashville that I want to join.  However, there’s no way I’m doing so in my current condition.  My form and balance are completely gone.  Also, when Canadian Bacon and I lift weights together, it’s very apparent at how bad my balance has become – I can’t even do squats properly because I can’t sink down into a flat-footed squat and balance like that.

So I decided to turn to yoga to help regain my balance and to give myself another avenue of exercise that I don’t hate.  I figured I loved perfecting my fencing form so much, I would probably enjoy yoga.

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I only wish I were this adorable as a yogi.

I was right.  Guys, yoga is fun!

I had no clue where any yoga studios were around me, so I turned to my good old pal Google.  I found about five of them and pulled up their websites.  It became apparent pretty quickly where I wanted to go – Raja Hot Yoga.  I basically tried to figure out which studio seemed the friendlist, non-judgemental, and caring.  Most of the others looked pretty institutionalized, more gym-like in atmosphere.  I wanted the “hippie” experience, and Raja looked like my best bet.  Not to mention, it has the best rates!

So far I have been three times, and I am absolutely loving it.  My very first class was a Saturday afternoon in last October, and it was the very last “beginner’s” class they were teaching.  It was small, with only about 6 other people, and our instructor was very patient as she walked us through the poses.  She was motivational and she helped correct me on some poses, while stressing throughout the practice that each practice was ours and the way we were doing the pose was perfect for our current stage as a yoga practitioner.  I felt very welcomed and comfortable.  On that first day, I got overwhelmed and felt like I might pass out twice, so I left the hot room to cool off and hydrate.  My instructor checked on me and let me go about my business, and I came back in and got back to work as soon as I felt capable.

My second class, on a Tuesday morning, was just as great.  I made it a personal goal to not leave the hot room.  I had to sit down several times during some poses to towel off and hydrate and catch my breath, but I stayed in the hot room!  My third class was on the following Saturday, with yet another instructor, and was also awesome.  This time I only had to take a brief break twice.  I’m hoping that I can make it all the way through my next class without pausing.

I really like the emphasis the instructors put on owning your practice and not being ashamed if you’re not as advanced as another student.  The largest class I was in had about 20 people; the other one had around 12.  Each time I’ve felt welcomed and the other students have also been inspiring and encouraging.  Most are far better than me; some aren’t quite as good as me.  But we’ll all get there on our own time.

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This is an accurate summation of how I feel during the class itself.

The classes are hard. I am practicing hot yoga, which I think is the bikram style.  We repeat a scripted series of poses, which is great for beginners because I’m already starting to learn the poses and the order they go in.  I think if my instructor were just giving poses all willy-nilly I’d be super confused.  The room is HOT; it’s heated to 105F with a 40% humidity.  This is kind of torture for me, because I loathe the heat.  But it keeps my heart rate going and I sweat buckets, so it has a sort of cleansing effect.

After the first class, I hurt for – no kidding – three days straight.  The only thing that alleviated my aching muscles was going back to a practice, which continued to stretch them out.  I wasn’t incapacitated after my last class, so that is improving.  But let me tell you, holding those poses – or an approximation of the poses, because there are so many I have to modify due to my lack of flexibility/lack of balance – is a helluva workout.  I can certainly feel the burn.

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I can also feel how much I’m improving, even in a short amount of time.  I can hold some poses for a few seconds now that I was instantly falling out of in my first class.  I even managed to grab my foot in one pose and pull it out and balance all spread-eagled in the air (no clue what pose I was doing) at one point in my last practice.  It was awesome.

That’s another thing, yoga makes you feel SPECTACULAR.  After I get out of a class, I feel like I can conquer the world.  I keep trying to convince my Mom, my bff Llek, or CB to go with me, but they all refuse.  I think they’d love how they feel after a practice.  It’s really such a high.  I’m limp and sore like after a fencing tournament, but I’m hot and loose like after fighting in heavy armored combat battles all day at Border Raids.  It’s just uber relaxed and worn out and awesome.

Also – and this could be coincidental, or hormonal – I started losing weight more rapidly after I started going to my yoga classes.  I sure hope this trend continues!

And on that note, I shall leave you with one final, accurate picture from teh interwebz:

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Ain’t that the truth.

 

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