“Surely, if God had meant us to do yoga, he would have put our heads behind our knees.”
~ Rod Stewart
So, this is how Coach Stacy and I began our ill-fated yoga journey.
Coach Stacy’s motivation was prescribed by her physician. Following several months of intense work stress, which turned into a nasty case of shingles, Coach’s doctor said, “You’ve simply got to find a way to decompress. You can either try yoga or I can put you on an industrial strength antidepressant. Your choice.”
Ever the proponent of physical activity, Coach chose yoga.
My road to nirvana was somewhat less stringent. Shortly after arriving home from work one evening, Coach called and said, “Put your shorts on. We’re going to yoga.” I chose the path of least resistance and put my shorts on.
An hour later, sweating profusely in a second story studio in which the thermostat was set at 105 degrees, I wondered what sort of evil I’d performed in my life that would cast me into this hideous hell. Apparently, Bikram Yoga was meant for neither the feint of heart nor the yoga newbie. Afterwards, Coach Stacy was uncharacteristically quiet, other than the barely audible grumble, “If I’d wanted to relax in 105 degree heat, I’d have moved back to Texas.”
“Maybe we should do a little research – you know, see what other kinds of yoga are out there. Like maybe yoga that’s, um, a little more relaxing.”
Always the librarian am I – calm, cool and painstakingly rational. However, the truth of the matter was that I was trying to buy time. After my near death by sauna, an innate survival instinct had kicked in and I was hoping to live to see my 55th birthday.
Yoga, it turns out, has been around for thousands of years, a development of ancient India. Long considered somewhat esoteric here in the U.S., yoga has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity, from 4.3 devotees in 2001 to an astounding 16.5 million in 2013. And for good reason. According to the Yoga Health Foundation, the art has been known to cure everything from migraines to irritable bowel syndrome. Yoga has also been known to cause decreases in:
- Stress, anxiety and depression
- Blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate
- Hot flashes and other symptoms associated with menopause
- Food cravings leading to obesity
Many turn to yoga to improve flexibility and ease joint and muscle pain stemming from a variety of ailments such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.
“I started yoga 35 years ago when I was having serious back discomfort due to scoliosis. Twice a week yoga classes with slow, sustained movements and stretching now keep me limber and pain free. I also enjoy the relaxation at the end of the class period,” says Sara James, a Denver area tax consultant.
Then again, others practice yoga to enhance athletic performance. Joe Rippin, a corporate attorney, decided to try yoga to complement his passion for half marathons. After having plateaued in his running times, he turned to yoga to up his game. “I’ve noticed much greater flexibility in my running stride as well as increased control and focus on my breathing when I’m running.” Joe has since set two personal records and is looking forward to the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll later this month.
These health perks were hard to overlook, so Coach Stacy and I decided to give yoga another go. Someone suggested we try Hatha yoga, which we were told, was good for beginners, not to mention the fact that classes were conveniently held at our local gym.
Our session started out innocuously enough with a few gentle and straightforward asanas (poses) – Tree, Warrior, Downward Dog. We even had props like blocks and slanted foam cushions to help us maintain alignment. It was all well and good and I decided that I rather liked yoga. Until the chanting commenced. Which led to uncontrollable fits of giggling. And then our unceremonious expulsion from Hatha yoga class, that night and forevermore.
Next up was Restorative yoga, which presented itself as a practice involving a lot less work and a lot more relaxation. After a particularly busy and hectic week, this Friday evening class seemed, at first blush, the perfect panacea to the previous five days’ stress. The Restorative classes were held in a quiet office studio with pale blue walls, subdued lighting, lavender eye pillows and soft blankies – sheer bliss. Until the lady on the mat next to Coach Stacy started snoring. Softly at first. Then with such increasing intensity and reverberating vigor, Coach ultimately threw in the blankie.
“I’m outa here,” she hissed. And just like that, our Restorative yoga experiment was over.
Weeks later, we haven’t entirely given up on our quest for Good Karma. After all, in my initial research I discovered fifty different flavors of yoga. We still have 47 more flavors to try:
- Kali Ray TriYoga
- White Lotus
- Phoenix Rising
- Doga (Dog Yoga)
- Shinsin Tōitsu Dō
- Surat Shabd
- TriBalance Hot Yoga
- Moksha Modo
- Yoga for Athletes
This could take a while…