Friday, February 1, 2013

Stretching My Mind

To me, flossing and stretching are a lot alike. I recognize they are both good for me, but that's not enough to make we want to do them regularly. Both are tools I can use in a pinch, such as a tight calf or a seed between the teeth, but mostly all the free floss dental samples collect in the cupboard and the foam roller sits untouched behind the couch. And there is that same feeling of shame when the dental hygenist/massage therapist asks,"Have you been flossing/stretching?" and I sheepishly avert my eyes and make an evasive answer; "ummm, yeah, well I do it sporadically."

To help with my stretching aversion, I bought a punch card for a local yoga studio from Groupon.

Ok, now I know if you try to equate yoga to stretching to a true yogi, they will completely lose their inner zen and possibly even raise their normally drawn out, soothing voice to tell you that yoga is NOT the same as stretching. But let's be honest, I am not going to yoga to find inner peace or to learn how to balance in the shape of a tree; I am going because I need to loosen up all those knotted posterior chain muscles and to get more mobility in my tight runner's hips. I am going because I need to stretch.

For my first class, I chose "Hot Yoga." Not only could I stretch but I could thaw out my core from all this dreary frozen fog that we have been having. Knowing I'd sweat a lot, I threw on my skimpiest Lululemon attire and headed out.

When I got there, I presented my Groupon and asked for my punch card. "Oh, we don't have punch cards. Just put "Groupon" next to your name when you sign in each day." Oh, geez, even the business practices of yoga seemed too free form and unstructured for my rigid left-brained ideals. I mean, just give me a friggin' punch card already, so we both know we are on the level!

As I took off my sweats, I immediately noticed runner shorts were completely out of place, even if they did happen to be from a high end Yoga brand. My tank top had a little less material than the other ladies', too. But now I know that one must always wear capri's to yoga. Always, even if it is hot yoga. Unless you are the one random guy in a class of twenty women, and then over-sized orange basketball shorts are okay.

I found a spot and sat down cross-legged. In school, we always called this Indian style, but we meant Native American Indians and not India-Indians, and so in yoga this is called Sukhusana to ensure every one knows that we are sitting like Sanscrit speakers and not braves of the American plains. And because it is offensive to call Native Americans Indians, my kids now call this "criss-cross applesauce", which doesn't make any sense at all, because nobody would sit like that to eat applesauce, including the Indians and the Native Americans.

So I am sitting there cross-legged and warming up my "ohms", when the girl next to me drops her forehead to the floor. Then she stretches out her legs and folds in half. What is the Sanskrit word for "bobby pin"? I am pretty sure that's what this pose was called.

Class starts and I have a small moment of panic when I realize it is time to take off my socks. I scan the feet around me - not a missing toenail to be found. And of course, Miss Stretchy-pants has perfectly manicured red toenails. At this point in my running career, I am just psyched that my toes haven't fallen off completely. But I keep my toenail-less toes tucked underneath me.

We start off by taking some deep cleansing breaths. My rubber neighbor is taking this very seriously; she sounds like Darth Vader. Then we start making circles with our bodies from the waist. "As we rotate to the left, we release the negative energy and as we rotate to the right, we take in the positive energy." Most people had their eyes closed, which was good because then they couldn't see me rolling mine. I am not sure if I rolled them to the left or to the right, though, so I can't say if this helped me release my negative energy or take in more positive energy.

Then it was on to some Downward Dogs. No surprise that the girl next to me had her feet totally flat on the floor. I looked around. Pretty much everyone else had their heels up, too. Good. I didn't want to be the only inflexible loser in class. "Focus only on yourself and the moment right now." I tried to tune out the raspy breath of my stretchy neighbor. I focused on my quads.

"OH MY GOD! Is that cellulite on the front of my legs!?!" Somehow, I could not get over how hanging upside down made my legs look really unattractive. But, hey, at least I was focusing on me and not those around me. I finally understood why everyone else had their thighs fully covered!

After 15 minutes, though, I was feeling pretty relaxed. So relaxed, I was afraid I might fart. Passing gas is pretty acceptable while running with others, but I am pretty sure it is against the Good Ju-Ju Yoga Code. So I kept my glutes clenched tight.

The arm sequence went well. I could hold all the plank poses while many around me were flopping to their mats. "That's right, ladies, I lift weights and I can almost do a full pull-up!," I thought to myself smugly. But then Yoga-chick had to go and do some balances on just her arms with her feet off the ground. Umm, hello? that's not part of the class, Show-off!

Then on to Warrior poses. The instructor came over to me to get me to widen my stance. "Put your feet farther apart. Those hips really want to open up." Yeah, I know. Why do you think I am here?? It isn't for all the positive energy I picked up with my right directional body circles!

Class ended with the traditional Shavasana pose, or lying like a dead man. Can I just say, I f@cking rock at this pose! I am a true master of corpse emulation. I mean, I could have laid there all day. In fact, I was way better at it than Yoga-girl, because she was still taking these loud slow breaths, and we all know dead people don't breath. Duh!

After class, I did indeed feel clean and fresh and calm. I went down the street to Trader Joe's to get some organic, no sugar, no color, no preservative dried fruit for dinner. Everything seemed good and right with the world. Until I remembered I still didn't get a punch card. Then my stress levels began to return to their normal stratospheric levels.

Being serious, I feel out of place in yoga and the mind/body/energy stuff can make me uncomfortable and maybe defensive. But it really is quite relaxing and I know I need that. And I know I really could use a hefty dose of positive energy, too. :) My hip flexors were unbelievably sore the next day. I hope that is a good thing and that means they are on their way to "opening up." Otherwise, I just got injured doing yoga! I don't stretch on my own and I am as inflexible as a 2x4. I don't think one session of yoga a week will turn me into a rubber band, but I hope it loosens things up and prevents any decline in range of motion. I am actually truly in awe of people like the girl who was next to me and others in yoga. I understand inflexibility is in some ways good for being efficient at running; However, I think mobility is really the key to being youthful, which is probably why flexible people make me the most jealous.

I am looking forward to attending the other nine classes on my non-punch card and I am already thinking I will need to make yoga something I do on a weekly basis. I certainly am not getting any more flexible and youthful on my own!

See that guy who can barely touch his toes? Yeah, that's what I look like.