For me yoga was always one of those trendy workouts that the cool kids did. On the one hand I though I would love it, on the other hand I was pretty sure I’d never be able to afford it and that I would embarrass the snot out of myself. The summer of my junior year I landed a job on campus so that I could stay over the summer and take an extra class. Luck had it that a yoga class offered through the dance department covered one of my gen-eds, so I went for it. Our teacher was pretty serious, but the atmosphere was relaxed. No one had anything fancy, in fact half the class showed up to the first class without a mat. That class blew my mind. It was tough, nearly 3 hours a day, but it was life changing. I felt stronger, more centered, and calmer despite going through a rough patch personally. I never really thought of exercise the same after that.

Since then yoga has been something I’ve done on and off, but never really committed to. Despite my experience, let’s be honest, I’m still pretty darn intimidated. I’ve never paid more than $30 a month for a gym membership and I own nothing fancier than a pair of target yoga capris and some generic running tanks and tees. Every time I think about going to a “real yoga studio” I start the internal panic: What should I to wear? Is everyone going to laugh at my $15 yoga mat? Will the instructor be annoyed with my lack of skill? I let my worry and self-doubt convince me that DVDs were just fine for me.

Seeing my not-always-internal struggle, my guy snagged me a group for 10 Bikram yoga session at a studio near our house. I was so excited! And I was also terrified. Bikram was like all my fears about yoga, plus a few extra. I had never done and kind of hot yoga and I wasn’t sure I was in good enough shape to handle a 90 minute class. I sucked it up and went and it was life changing. It was also hard as f-ing balls. So hard. I hydrated like a fool and still felt sick for 2 days afterwards. I only went a few more times because even though I loved the way it made me feel, practicing on a regular basis was like going from running 2 miles a few times a week to running 8 miles a day, in the middle of august, in a sweat suit.

For the past 9 months I’ve been telling myself I’d try yoga again. I compared prices, read the reviews, figured out which class schedules worked best for me, and still I never went. I wish I could say that it was the cost that was holding me back, and although that is for sure a concern, honestly, I was still intimidated.

Yesterday,I am happy to report, I finally pulled on my big girl pants yoga capris and showed up at the hot yoga studio for class.

When I first walked in I was nervous. I had to scratch out about three different items on my information sheet because I was so nervous. The studio was small and a little crowded, but everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming. I was starting to feel better, and then I walked into the yoga room. “Crap. I didn’t come early enough to secure a spot in the back.” The only open spots were near the front and in the middle of the room. I took a deep, steamy breath and told myself it was my first lesson, being in the middle of the room will challenge me to stay focused and avoid comparing myself to others.

In the end, as yoga always seems to go, it was amazing. Five minutes in sweat was pouring from every corner of my body and every pose took focus and strength. By the time we laid down for savasana I felt amazing, like all the crap that’s built up over the past 9 months had been wrung from my body.

What I loved about hot yoga was that it was manageable. The room was hot, but not unbearable, and the 60 minute class seemed so much more realistic than 90. Today I feel slightly sore, mostly in my core, hips, and upper legs but it’s that “I feel like I had a great workout yesterday” feeling as opposed to “that workout left me feeling like I got hit by a bus” feeling. It’s left me feeling relaxed, confidant, and eager for the next session . I can definitely see myself going 2-3 times a week and I think I’m finally (after 4 years!) ready to commit to a membership.

What I loved about this studio most:

  • The room was dark. The instructor would dim and brighten the lights depending on what we were doing and how much we needed to see, but overall it was never “bright” in the room. I love this because it really helps me focus on myself and not worry about the mirrors or what others are doing.
  • The instructor didn’t participate in the class. Instead of standing in the front of the room doing the moves, she just stood in the back or walked around giving detailed instructions on how to get into or out of each positions. I loved this! I’ve always been confused during yoga about keeping my gaze and focus in the right place while also watching the instructor to make sure I’m doing it right. In this class you just listen, find your gaze, and focus on your body. This might be a downer for a true beginner who isn’t as comfortable with the different poses, but they do offer beginners workshops where they break down every pose.
  • When my hips weren’t in the right place, she gently guided me into the proper position. I also really loved this, but I know some people are really uncomfortable with instructors touching them. I hate worrying that I’m not doing a pose right, and honestly when I’m working hard, “push your right hip forward and pull your left hip backwards while your weight remains in your…” can sound like a foreign language. Just put my hips where they need to go and it makes so much more sense!
  • I didn’t feel judged. I know you aren’t supposed to, but I definitely took a glance around the room a few times. The room was full of all ages, shapes, and genders. No one seemed to be wearing any sort of “uniform” (I definitely felt like that at Bikram – booty shorts with the ties on the sides and a sports bra) and no one seemed to have any special mat or fancy gear. If I had showed up in running shorts and t-shirt no one would have noticed. It sounds like a silly thing to care about, but just feeling like I fit in goes a long way to feeling comfortable and actually focusing on doing yoga.

I feel like finding a yoga studio that I feel comfortable at (and that I can afford and that works with my schedule) is the first in many steps to get out of this workout rut I’m in. As much as I love running, I just feel stuck with it and I need something else to work towards. With yoga, my short-term goals include consistent practice (ie: at least 2x a week) and progression in 2-3 poses, my longterm goal being to work up to the Vinyasa class!