Friday through today, a local yoga studio, Hilltop Yoga, held a free open house – all day, all three days.
Students new and experienced could come and enjoy as many classes as they liked for absolutely free. This was as good a time as any to dip my toe into these waters, as I have long wanted to do.
A friend from Preuss Pets (Kirbay Preuss, Rick’s daughter) is an instructor with Hilltop, which is how I heard of the event. I’m so glad I went.
I arrived about a half hour early, uncertain if there would be many people waiting for The Basics class. There was a class in session in the very nice studio space behind a sliding glass door, and a woman greeted me as I came in. Initially, I was surprised by her appearance – when I think “yoga instructor,” I think of this:
I think of Kirbay, that bright shining girl who amazes me with her vitality and spirit:
In other words, I think of terribly fit, outstandingly limber, generally well-muscled people – I bought into the ads, I guess. The instructor who greeted me didn’t look much different than I do; in fact, she is significantly heavier than I am. Also, she had a cold. Right then – checking my emotional baggage at the door, I signed the release waiver and the class list. There was no one else outside the classroom, which gave me plenty of time to browse their small selection of merchandise and stand awkwardly around. The studio was very warm.
Other students soon arrived, most with their own yoga mats in tow, but there were studio mats available for my amateur use. Shortly, we went into the classroom and settled upon our mats. The classroom is very nice; hardwood floors, a small fountain, natural colors. It was a little small for the number of people we had stretching out arms, but it all worked just fine. There were two men and perhaps seven or eight women. An assistant walked around and helped us with our posture as the instructor taught.
The instructor started us out in child pose:
She congratulated those of us who were new on coming to a strange place, to a strange instructor, not knowing what we might be getting ourselves into. Getting over that hump is a big deal for many of us. She taught us how to be aware of our breath, how to push it against the top of our throats on the exhale to slow it down.
We stood and began moving through a series of poses, easy at first, and then more vigorous. Before long, partially due to the temperature of the room, and partially due to the poses, sweat was pouring from all of us, dripping onto the mats. As I bent at the waist and the opening of my v-neck t-shirt gaped down, I realized why most of the other women were wearing sports-back yoga tank tops: 1.) They are cooler, and 2.) They don’t fall off. Duly noted.
Most of the others knew the names of the poses and how to move into and out of them. My only yoga experience is with the Wii Fit, which I suspected taught me some bad habits. However, I at least had an idea of what I needed to do.
As we progressed, I found myself doing poses extremely similar to the stretches I do almost nightly to keep the Restless Leg Syndrome at bay, and I suspect yoga would really help me to keep it better under control. My back and my hips were fairly limber and open, but my hamstrings and shoulders are locked up pretty tight. This came as no great surprise; I haven’t stretched my hamstrings much in years, and I carry stress in my shoulders. A lot.
I was sweating so much, I found my hands slipping on the mat. The instructor had us go into child’s pose again after a time, and called attention to how much heat we had been building in our bodies. She was not kidding – everyone was drenched.
The next portion of the class was more intensive, but still very gentle, and we were free to skip any exercise that caused us discomfort or if we were simply too tired. I made it three-quarters of the way through the cycles before I had to stop doing the yoga push-ups and simply go straight to downward-facing dog. Some of the poses were easy, others caused my whole body to shake.
She had us do some deep squats and hip-opening postures that challenged my quads mightily, and I was very glad for the little conditioning I’ve picked up in my legs over the last few weeks. “Say hello to your hips, you might not have talked to them in awhile,” she chuckled as we all strained and tried to be mindful of our breath at the same time.
We finished off with this:
After about forty minutes, we began the sitting and lying poses, winding things down. We did a series of back arches, and finally, we all lay flat on our backs, mindfully releasing any tension. I had an urge to cry – which I fought back, not comfortable crying in front of strangers or, well, anyone really – and have learned that’s not uncommon. As we open the energy centers, emotions are released.
As we walked out into the sunny, warm autumn afternoon, I felt amazing. I was energized and invigorated, and I felt… cleansed. Purified. I felt great!
I’ve never been one to get a runner’s high, that apparently exquisite endorphin rush during or after vigorous exercise; I’ve never once experienced it, and I don’t think that’s what this was, either. I felt as if I’d sweated out a bunch of negativity and toxins, leaving me in a much better place, physically and emotionally.
This is something I would very much like to continue, but it is, of course, not terribly cheap. Hilltop offers a “30 days unlimited classes for $30” for first-time students, but I wasn’t able to take advantage of that due to tight finances (still paying off Mom for things we bought from her to help her out.) It’s too bad, because that’s a terrific deal, and for any curious Lansingites, I recommend giving it a try.
For me, there are a few ways to approach yoga, and I’d like to talk about them; but for now, I can barely keep my eyes open.
Enough for today. 🙂