Anderson: Green tea, stretchy pants and meditation

My journey to becoming a yoga master

“The light in me bows to the light in you,” the tiny and unfathomably flexible yoga instructor said to a class of about 19 skilled yogis… and one sweaty and exhausted me.

Yoga has always been one of those things on my endless to-do list. It’s her­alded as a sport with numerous benefits mentally and physically. Since my days now consist of sitting in class, or sitting at home doing schoolwork, the only physical activity I get is running around at work or chasing after people (exhaust­ed and usually hyperventilating) with my camera, I thought yoga would be a wise activity for me to try. To be honest, four years of school has made me embarrassingly soft.

Luckily, my friend had a free plus-one pass for a newbie at a studio downtown. She convinced me to join her at a Sun­day class.

(Tomas Sobek/ Flickr Commons)

(Tomas Sobek/ Flickr Commons)

I took her up on her offer, despite the fact that the class was at 8 a.m. It is very uncharacteristic for me to be up that early on a weekend. I stepped into the studio and right away I was hit with calming, eclectic tunes, the smell of lavender and green tea and welcoming smiles. I slipped my shoes off and wan­dered up the staircase.

My friend explained to the instruc­tor that I was going to use her plus-one pass and that I was new to yoga. The instructor paused for a moment, looked at me, then back at my friend and said, doused with uncertainty, that usually the plus-one passes aren’t used for “this level class,” but I was welcome to stay.

My heart dropped. What had I agreed to? I read the sign-in sheet and it said “Level 2 Slow-Flow.” It might have well been written in another language, because I had no clue what that meant, but with my superior powers of deduc­tion I gathered that this was not a be­ginner class. My friend shrugged, looked at me and for some reason, I said, “Well I’m already here, let’s do this.”

To my dismay, she already had our mats and props set up in the middle of the room. If I had to flop around like a goldfish on this mat, couldn’t I be hid­den in the corner? Ideally, away from the eyes of those who literally have the ability to fold themselves into pretzels? But there was no going back now. We were there and ready to yoga (can it be a verb?).

The class started out slowly, with sim­ple breathing and meditation exercises. I was confident, but that didn’t last long. Things started happening quickly. I was hit with successions of downward dog, cobra, cat, cow, warrior, goddess and too many planks. Breathless, sweaty and straining, I did my best to keep up, listen to the instructor and mimic the poses of the others.

Miraculously I survived until the final (and at that point my favourite) segment of class: savasana. I lay on my mat, try­ing to clear my head and ground my thoughts. Class ended and I looked over at my friend with an incredulous look on my face.

I was exhausted, but exhilarated. Somehow I made it, and I knew this was something I wanted to pursue. Your body is pushed to stretch and move in ways you never even imagined. Your mind is challenged to drop all burdening thoughts and become grounded in the moment. Although tired, I felt fantastic.

I wiped off my mat, put away the props and started walking to the front desk. I thanked the instructor for the experience and expressed my desire to purchase a membership.

Since then I’ve stuck to the basic foundations and the rest and relaxation classes. Those are much more my speed.

Trying a class that was way over my skill level was a not-so gentle reminder that I should consciously push myself to try new things, especially things that initially frighten or intimidate. If I had left that day before getting my ass kicked for that seemingly endless hour, I would have never wanted to walk into another yoga studio.

I hope that I will forever pursue new and exhilarating relationships, work and recreation. Because the things that frighten us the most, are the most re­warding.