Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oommmmmmmmm!!!!!!

What the heck is that title about?

Well, I thought it was about time to write about my experience taking yoga classes. And as anyone who has taken much yoga knows, there's often some chanting of "ommmmm" involved. So it seemed a good, attention-getting title.

I've been enrolled in yoga classes at a local studio, Dream Yoga Studio, for about a year and a half now. I'd thought about it for a long time, especially after I found out that John, owner of bikes@vienna (yes, it is officially all lower case), had been taking classes for a number of years, and seemed to really enjoy it. I had tried a couple of "drop in" sessions when I lived in Portland, but it just didn't work for me. Imagine being dropped into a room full of people who all shared a common vocabularly and set of poses and movements that you knew nothing about, and then try following along as someone at the front of the room calls out incomprehensible things like "downward-facing dog"! I was utterly lost both times, and gave up quickly.

But in the fall of 2007, John asked me if I would go to a session of 12 beginning yoga classes if he paid for them. I don't know if he sensed I needed some stress relief and centering, or if he'd heard my body creak a few too many times, or if he simply wanted to share something he enjoyed with me, but whatever his motivation, I am so grateful he made the offer... and so glad I took him up on it! The class was for raw beginners, and the instructor (and studio owner), Luann, was patient and took things very slowly from the start. As time went on of course, she pushed us all harder, but always with a kind and understanding manner. She doesn't want us to obsess about perfection... and she always makes it clear that everyone's body is different, and we just need to deal with our own bodies and limitations, not anybody else's.

After that first round of classes, I was hooked, and have stayed with the classes pretty much uninterrupted since the start. A big turning point for me this winter was when Luann offered a single session class about how to start and/or maintain a home practice. Among the very helpful advice was the simple declaration that even if you can only do five minutes a day, that is enough, and that it's more a matter of making it a routine than it is to set high goals of huge chunks of time. In addition, we were all offered the opportunity to take part in a "21 day challenge"... where for 21 days we'd commit to doing at least some yoga every single day. As part of that, Luann set up a email list of the group, so we could all report on our successes and struggles, and get support from one another. It really helped! Luann had said at the start that she'd seen research that indicated it takes 21 days for something to become a habit... and it seems to have worked for me. Rare is the day that I don't do at least a few minutes of yoga in the morning, and in many cases now, I'm spending up to a half an hour before I start my day. And I feel better and healthier and happier for it.

If you've never tried yoga... give it a shot. But please, don't try to just jump in on a "drop in" basis into an ongoing class. You'll just end up confused and frustrated! Give yourself a chance by signing up for a beginner's class and start at the beginning. I think you'll be glad you did.