Thursday, May 8, 2014

Does 15 years of something make me an expert?

Playing around at Lake Tahoe*
I recently started thinking about how long I've been doing yoga.  I had gastric bypass ten years ago and I started doing yoga long before I had surgery.  In fact, my first yoga class was at a women's only gym called Body Beautiful in Antioch.  I joined when I was around 21 years old.  That means, I've actually been doing yoga for almost 17 years!  I should be an expert yogi at this point, right?  Wrong!

I am one of the most inflexible people I know.  When I was a kid and we'd have to do all the Presidential Fitness tests, other than dreading the pull-up test, which I knew would be humiliating, I would HATE HATE HATE the reach test.  You would sit with your legs straight out in front of you, then they would put a box at the end of your feet and see how far you could reach past your toes.  I never really could.  I don't know why that was so much more upsetting than hanging from a pull-up bar in front of all my classmates unable to heave myself up even a centimeter.

When I was in the best shape of my life a few years back, yoga practice was definitely part of my regular routine (as was cycling and pilates reformer).  I was even able to get into some of the binding poses without issue.  That's a pretty big deal for me, the inflexible girl.  I'm not back there yet but I'm on my way.  I remember when I first started back to yoga after this foot injury late last year.  I couldn't keep up and I spent many a class face down in child's pose crying because I was frustrated.  It's only been about six months, and I'm completely over that.  Even on the nights I'm feeling tired and need a break, I know I can take a minute in child's pose, or skip a chaturanga flow and just hang out in downward dog until everyone else is caught up with me.  No more tears!

What I've learned since starting yoga is that I need at least two to three classes each week just to maintain my current state of mid-inflexibility.  Of all the exercising I do, yoga is the one I can never give up.  Not only does it stretch me out, but it helps me build muscle with all those lunges during certain series.  Yoga is quite possibly THE perfect exercise (depending on the variety you are practicing)!  I actually wrote about it on the Bodybinds blog.  You can check out my post HERE.

Yoga at Grace Cathedral - apparently this is my go-to move
I have generally practiced "gym yoga."  That is, you often get a "meh" instructor who is probably just building hours until they get picked up by Yoga Works or they open their own studio.  But it is included in the price of your gym membership, so you just bite the bullet and go.  Every great once in awhile, you will find a gem.  I have been lucky to find a few gems in my gym yoga practice.  Specifically, David at Bally (which went out of business a few years ago) and Theresa at 24 Hour Fitness (my current favorite instructor).  Fantastic instructors.  I also very much miss taking yoga at Grace Cathedral with Darren.

I have also practiced in studios.  The classes are more expensive (memberships can top $100 a month), but the instructors are usually more experienced and the classes generally better.  Better how?  I don't know.  Just better.  The whole experience.  There are no meat heads throwing their weights down on the floor above us as we try to relax and concentrate.  There are no loud bathrooms with running water and bathing suit drying machines on the walls right next to our sanctuary (I'm talking to YOU, 24 Hour Concord).  Studio yoga is a different animal.  Plus, the instructors also tend to make a bigger effort (probably since classes are smaller) to walk around and correct your form.

At the end of the day, what does it matter?  I am ultimately responsible for my workout.  I can admit that some instructors are WAY better than others (please, please, please DO NOT talk incessantly through class, beginner instructors!!), and the instructor who can guide you through a difficult practice without over-talking at you is like finding the juiciest, plushest apricot at the farmer's market after pole class on Saturday.

I am currently taking yoga two to three days each week.  I notice a huge difference in how my body feels and how I sleep.  Until the day I die, yoga is probably going to be the one exercise I never give up.  Are you a yoga fan?  Tell me where you take yoga and what you love about your class!  

*I would like to thank Robert "CowboyWild" Carstensen for creating this cool photo of me!  Check out his blog at!


  1. I'm a huge yoga fan (Pilates too)! But I don't currently have a studio, I have a membership to it's really awesome. ..if you're motivated. Which I was! At first. But it's the same if I belong to a gym or a long as it's fresh and new, I'm engaged and interested. Once the shine is off, I'm back on the couch. Poling is the only workout I've stuck with for over a year. Maybe if there was a community as fun as Twirly Girls' at a yoga studio, I would get off my butt and into down dog more often. :-)

    1. The last time I got myself back into the gym, I started with Pilates DVDs at home! I've decided anything I can do barefoot is the BEST EXERCISE EVER! :-D