Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Breathing - It's harder than it looks!

“Breathe; deep breathes; breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Breathing is the key to yoga.”

If that’s true, I’m in trouble.

I started my first yoga class the other day. I decided it was time to do something about this shape I’m in, or not in, as the case may be.

In the past (read “before I hit 40”), I was in relatively good shape. I could eat what I wanted, exercise when I wanted, and still fit into those size ** jeans. Life was good.

That changed a few years ago – no need to say how long. Suddenly, it was a little harder to stay in the shape I had grown accustomed to. But I didn’t worry. I would eat my way through winter, then eventually disgust myself enough to stop eating and start exercising again. I would loose those 5 or 6 pounds and all was good in time for bathing suit season. I was no Sport Illustrated model, but I didn’t totally embarrass myself at the beach.

When did that stop? I’m not exactly sure, but it has. I’m eating, more than normal, and frustrated with my actions, and myself, yet never enough to actually STOP munching.

I decided to take charge of my life. I needed a change. I wanted to slow down and regain control of my life and my body. (Can you tell I’ve been reading a few self-help articles?)

Enter yoga. I’ve taken a few beginner classes in the past and enjoyed them. I found a beginner’s class (easier said than done, trust me) at our local yoga studio and signed up.

Seventy-five minutes a day, twice a week, I would sweat my self into better shape, mentally and physically, even if it killed me. Turns out, it just may.

Wandering into the first class, trying to look casual, I was hit by a wall of heat. I soon discovered that 88 degrees and 50% humidity are the “ideal” conditions for one to practice yoga. (If the poses don’t make me loose weight, I’m assuming the fat will melt off me.)

I was encouraged by the look of the group surrounding me. Other than the 90-pound waif in front of me, who turned out to be the YTT (Yoga, Teacher Training – basically she was our model that the teacher used to show us the poses) the rest of the students looked like me – out of shape, nervous, and sweating. Things were looking up.

We spent the first few minutes getting to know each other, as the teacher explained what we were in for these next few weeks. She informed us that this was a beginner’s class, designed to ease us into the wonderful world of yoga. She wouldn’t push us and we were to forget what we couldn’t do and concentrate on what we could do. This was getting better and better.

I knew I wasn’t in shape, but at the same time, I knew I couldn’t possibly be the worst student in the class. (I had pegged the round, gray-haired Grandma in the corner for that title.) I was feeling good and ready to start the downward facing dog (the only position I could remember from past classes.)

The first pose was a little challenging, but I had it. But boy, it was getting warmer and warmer in that room. Unfortunately, I had forgotten water, but hey, the class was only 75 minutes, what could go wrong?

Moving on to the second pose, I realized I might be in a bit of trouble. The pose was fine, but they kept talking about our breathing. “Breathe in through the nose; hold your breath; breathe out through your mouth. Louder. Let me hear those breathes.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but as soon as someone asks me to breathe, I realize I have no idea how to breathe: I can’t catch my breath; I can’t hold my breath; I can’t take a breath.

And man, it was really hot in that studio. When I started to wobble a bit, I realized I needed to get out of there and get some water. On my way out, I glanced at Grandma over there in the corner, figuring I would see her sitting this pose out. Damn if Grandma didn’t look pretty good. What the heck?

The lobby felt like an icebox, and nothing ever felt so wonderful. I stumbled over to the water cooler, and attempted to fill a cup of water, smiling at the receptionist as I passed. That was better. Now I would be fine.

I returned to the studio as the group was finishing their second pose (I hadn’t missed anything? Really?) Moving on, we began our third pose: the runner’s lunge. At least this had us somewhat on the ground. I was doing well, until they brought up that breathing again.

“Hold your breath; hold it; feel it in your lungs; let it out, slowly.” Uh oh… I knew I was in trouble when those little black spots started appearing before my eyes. I had a choice: Go down and embarrass myself or climb over Grandma again and get out on my own two feet.

I chose the latter, muttering something about water again, and made it to the lobby and that blessedly cool air. By now, the receptionist wasn’t smiling. After all, I was using up all their cups and water. I didn’t care. I wandered around, pretending to be interested in the posters hung around the room, and tried to look as nonchalant as possible.

When I returned to the room, I just knew the class had to be over. For God’s sake, how many poses were we supposed to learn in one class? When I heard the teacher tell the class we were “already on the last pose of the day,” I almost cried.

Luckily, this pose was much easier – something about standing on our toes. And, then, darn if our time wasn’t up. One class down, only seven to go.

All in all, I think that went pretty well. If it wasn’t for the heat and the breathing, I know I would have kicked yoga butt. (Driving home, I realized that my breakfast of brownies and diet coke probably didn’t help my performance much either.)

But I’m not giving up. I invested in a gallon-sized water bottle, and I purchased some new, sleeve-less shirts and shorts.

Watch out Grandma!

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