By Morgan Dudkewitz
I just started doing yoga a few months ago. I actually happened upon it as a sort of last-resort exercise. I’m not a great runner, in or outdoors , and gym exercises always seem to bore me. A lot of my more health conscious friends have been into yoga for quite some time, but I could never justify spending the money on it. I’m a college kid! I can’t afford $150 a month for hot yoga… just think of all of the kale I could buy with that!
I thought that yoga and I would never meet, since I’m broke and it’s expensive, but then I found out that my university hosts classes for free! Well, nothing is free when you’re paying tuition, but anyway. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about the classes at first. Some of the thoughts going through my mind were “Will the teachers and classes be as good since it’s a ‘free’ class?” and “I wonder if it’s just college kids teaching the sessions.” Since I wasn’t feeling it yet, I decided to try out another yoga class in the city so that I would have something to compare the free class to. Sounds like a good idea, right? I walked all the way to a yoga studio in West Philly in the snow (it was only five blocks, buy hey, it was cold), paid my 11 dollars, and waited for the class to start. Let’s just say that I… absolutely hated my first yoga experience. It was hot power yoga, which wouldn’t have been bad, except for the fact that the other three people in the room were crazy flexible yogis and the instructor expected me to be on par with them – even after I reminded him several times that it was my first class ever.
I left that yoga class extremely sore and disappointed and I wasn’t eager about trying out the class my college offered any time soon. After a few weeks of lounging around my house, I felt like I really really needed some exercise. I tried to put all of the bad thoughts behind me as I walked into the gym and prepared for my second-ever yoga class. To my complete surprise, the yoga instructor was awesome. She reminded us all that we could go at our own pace and that “it is your practice; do what feels right” – that sounds much better to me than getting yelled at by a drill sergeant yogi.
That second yoga session I attended was a Vinyasa flow class, which is all about aligning your movements with your breath. For a beginner, it takes a while to get used to, but then it just starts to feel natural. The poses flow together and at some points, I even felt like I was doing some sort of eloquent dance. Some poses were simple and others were tough, but they all work together My favorites were (and still are) the easy, but oh-so great feeling, cat and cow and the supported shoulder stand, which is a bit challenging, but I figured it out during that second class.
You can Google the health benefits of yoga – how it makes you more flexible, increases your stamina, and all of the that – but it’s really about what you get out of it. For me, it was about finding an exercise that wouldn’t bore me and that would help me to stay in shape. Every yoga class is different, varying by which instructor you have, the studio you go to, or the city you live in, so it’s definitely not boring. As for staying in shape and losing weight, you obviously stretch, sweat, and really work your muscles, but for me, it was the feeling I had afterward that really propelled me toward living a bit healthier. After my 8 p.m. week night yoga class, I thought I would want to eat snacks and watch Netflix in bed, but I felt so good that I wanted to take the time to make a healthy meal… and still watch Netflix.
Yoga is all about what you put into it. Everyone experiences it differently and everyone feels different afterwards. I go in feeling stressed and come out more relaxed, ready to eat a nice raw kale salad and get a great night’s sleep.
Here’s a little info on doing your own 30 minute self-led Vinyasa yoga if you can’t make it to a class!
What style of yoga would you recommend to a beginner? Share stories about your first time!