Somehow I got all the way up to this afternoon without ever doing yoga. I’m not sure what turned me off about it – I suppose I’m a little wary of the Western appropriation of Eastern culture, and maybe a little hesitant to put myself in a group with my former coworker, Lump, whose favorite activity was yoga (next to comfort eating and one-night stands with yoga instructors). You know, she was the kind of person who claimed to “work out” and “be into Buddhism” when what she really meant was that she did yoga twice a week. In general, yoga looked kind of slow and boring and pseudo-spiritual. In short, it looked like a hobby for pussies.
Then I met Ben and he informed me that yoga was not for pussies. He tried it, he told me, after reading about NFL player Eddie George’s enthusiasm for yoga — George credited eight injury-free seasons to the art. It increased flexibility, muscle tone, joint health, balance, and endurance. It battled stress. It was challenging. I could ignore the harmony and oneness stuff, if I so wished.
Then I forgot about yoga for a while. I didn’t really feel the need for it. In Montana, it was easier to be active in a variety of ways – instead of just going to the gym, Ben and I played softball, driveway basketball, backyard horseshoes and croquet, and front yard whiffle ball. We rode bikes. Ben played intramural football, played pick-up basketball, lifted weights, practiced jujitsu and fighting, and took a yoga class. I jogged along the Clark Fork River and went on long hikes. In New York, however, we’ve been much more limited. More or less, when we aren’t at the gym, we aren’t active. We needed something active that was different from the gym but that didn’t require a backyard or a mountain. We needed variety.
Now flash forward again to this afternoon, as we popped in our new yoga DVD, Power Yoga by Bryan Kest (I can only assume that the Y in Bryan stands for “Yoga”). It seemed like the perfect choice for Ben and me – he could introduce me to yoga in the only way I could accept it: through an instructor with a ridiculous cascade of shining brown locks and a penchant for pairing American workout buzzwords with ancient Asian concepts (two examples: “maximum Ashtanga” and “total-body downward dog”. I could learn the basics of yoga and ridicule Bryan Kest, all from the comfort of our own living room.
And, I have to say, it was pretty awesome. Even though it doesn’t look like you’re moving much, my muscles really got a workout – I was sweating by the end. Not only that, but it truly challenged my flexibility and balance.
More importantly than that, though, it was a huge stress reliever, especially doing it immediately upon returning home from a day of receiving emoticon-littered emails from my new manager (every single one marked with the obnoxious high-importance red exclamation mark). In 45 minutes, I went from being on the verge of frustrated tears (new manager translation: ) to making fun of the divine harmony that Bryan’s mind, body, spirit, and hair had reached(new manager translation: ).
Nothing that I had feared about yoga panned out – the new-age stereotypes that I had associated with it were either not true or utterly true and really fun and campy to go along with. I can’t tell you how relaxing and fun it was to stretch and hang out on the floor for the better part of an hour (I might not have been enlightened in any sort of spiritual way, but I was enlightened to the dust bunny situation under my furniture). I would never replace my regular workouts with it, but it was a great break from my normal gym routines and just as mentally soothing.
God, am I going to start using words like “soothing” now? In a serious manner? I’m going to have to be careful not to have a one-night stand with Bryan Kest.