My introduction to yoga was less than magical. Usually, when you ask someone for their yoga story it’s fascinating. Whether short or horrifically long, people generally have a lot of good things to say about their yogic origins. Yogis always seem to talk about the transcendental effects of yoga and how they were moved spiritually by the experience that they had. In other situations, they may say that they went to one life-changing class and they never skipped a DAY after that. My story hardly measures up to the epic tales that I’ve heard about.
Obviously, yoga has always been something that I’ve always known about. It wasn’t really something that I ever invested any time or money in until January of 2014. I was reconnecting with a high school friend, Dave. He, for some reason that I still cannot explain, expressed that we should meet at a yoga studio. It was Bikram yoga.
The name of the studio was Prima Yoga in Cranberry. I was on the second floor and when I walked in I remember thinking “Why is it so humid?” The instructor introduced herself to me and recognized that I was new. She was very kind and let me know that I could choose any spot in the studio. As soon as I walked away from the desk I was in foreign waters and I immediately felt out of place.
Walking into the studio was intimidating. No one said hello to me or introduced themselves. Everyone was kinda off in their own world. They all had the same yoga towel—a solid color with a different colored dot at the top; almost like everyone when to the yoga store together to get matching towels. My mat was thick and black and warn and had velcro straps that hung off the bottom that were covered in lint. Everyone wore yoga clothing from Lululemon with reflective omega emblems on them. I wore long, bright-red basketball shorts and a sleeveless shirt that Dave had lent to me once. Dave was also a part of that matching crowd. Not to mention the vessel that I used to hold my water was actually a glass growler that made a *pumk* sound every time I opened it. I was a fish sticking out of the water like a sore thumb, and I could feel that everyone knew that.
Another thing is that the studio was hot. Very hot. Like—I wondered if I was going to pass out—HOT. If you want to compound emotional discomfort just sit in a sweaty, humid room that holds 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Our instructor walks into the room and before she says a sing word, the whole class has assumed the position. You know how children can move their bodies but aren’t quite aware of where their limbs are about to end up? That’s exactly what was happening to me. I couldn’t touch my toes. I was struggling to keep up with the class. I guessed most of the poses. I watched other people in their practice. I didn’t understand the ques. I was completely lost. Not to mention, breathing was nearly impossible while the air around me was humid and saturated with sweat. My mind was incredibly busy. I wondered if anyone was looking at me, or whether any knew that I was so new to the practice. Be advised: use a yoga mat or towel with some type of absorbent quality. Mine must have been hydrophobic. It collected all of my sweat at the center of the mat in a big puddle which I had to lay in at the end of class.
So it was going great (this is a literary tool known as sarcasm). After class, I walked out a little defeated. Walking into the hallway was not unlike surfacing the water after holding your breath for a really long time. You gasp for air and your lungs take over fur motor function of your body. I was pretty happy to have attended the class. I felt like I was walking on air afterward.
Obviously, the instructor was able to coax me into buying one of those 30 day passes that they offer to first-time students. But the truth is that I was really happy that I purchased that. The initial introduction to yoga at that studio. Returning to the studio was really hard. I spend most of my day working and schooling; in order for me to me to make it to yoga I had to leave out at 5:20 in the morning to make the 5:45 class. Prima Yoga was also in the opposite direction of work and the college I went to at the time so it was less than convenient.
The more that I went to yoga the more that I started to learn the names of the others at the studio. I became familiar with the sequence and I was able to follow it without batting an eye. I started to realize the new people in the studio. But nothing magical happened. I didn’t get any more bendy. My fingers never touched my toes. Balancing postures were still an issue. I also don’t recall any improvement in mental state.
After my thirty days ran out I stopped going to the yoga studio. I didn’t really have the income to keep up my presents at Yoga Prima. I began to take out books at the library I worked for. The number of yoga books that were available at the library took up less than a shelf, and I didn’t really know enough about yoga to look up books in the catalog so I took from the books that were available.
I read through books written by Kino MacGregor, Donna Farhi, Sandra Anderson, and B. K. S. Iyengar. At first, it was strange to learn about the things that I thought I knew how to do. These book had detailed instructions on how to stand properly. Tilt your pelvis but keep your spine long, press into all corners of the feet but don’t lift your toes, lift through the crown of your head but relax your neck, relax your jaw, relax all the muscles in your back, relax your glutes but hub your belly in, for goodness sake empty your mind!
The one element of text that made sense was the Breathing. Learning about the Bandhas and how Pranayama (energy) ran through me with the breath. I always pictured the breathes a glowing, white ribbon wrapping itself around all the bones and muscles in the body. I could feel it’s healing—almost like magic—transforming and invigorating me. Through these books and this description, I developed my home practice.
The point is, you don’t have to have a terribly exciting story to start a practice in yoga. It’s true that some people find yoga and escape terrible chapters in their lives through it. I’ve had to argue with myself. One side of me saying that I can never bring any significance to anyone if I didn’t overcome something immense through yoga. The other side says that it’s okay, yoga will give no matter who I am.
Please know that you are beautiful and so is your practice. You are not just some guy or some gal that does yoga. Your journey is unique and special in its own way. And if you are just some person practicing and teaching yoga. Please don’t forgot what I’m telling you. It’s okay to have a simple yoga story. It matters not where you come from, but what you do with the tools you were given. So do yoga. Practice it, learn it, and teach it well. That is truly meaningful. That is true yoga.