I’m told those who stay active in their 20’s will have a healthier track record in their later years. So, taking this to heart, I decided to try to get into a routine at the Y. Working out is one thing, taking a group exercise class is another. But what I found from taking one afternoon Yoga class has shaped my outlook on these classes altogether.
“Surrender to Stillness…” said the instructor, beginning the class. I had decided to take Heidi’s Friday Yoga Class at 11:15 AM. Lying on my back with my legs against the wall, pointed upward, I struggled to find the stillness in the room. Legs were shaking, muscles were sore. “This isn’t relaxing,” I told myself, “it’s almost painful.”
“Yes,” I thought, and moved to the new position. This felt so much better. The lights in the room were dimmed low, the stained glass windows let in a soft, natural light that set a calming tone in the room. A few minutes in the starting position and I began to feel so relaxed that I seemed to lose track of the time.
She prompted us to move into a few different positions, but with each position, giving us an alternative. She always added, “Know your own limits. Feel free to lower your legs, raise them, whatever feels comfortable” or “reach as far as what’s comfortable, if you can reach past your shins, that’s great” or “for those who wish to go a little further, try this.” Not feeling the need to stretch as far as others in the room, but to have the freedom to pace myself how I wanted, lifted a weight off my shoulders.
In fact, what I began to notice as the class went on, was how extremely mental Yoga really was. It wasn’t always what moves we were doing or what muscles we were stretching; it was about the aura in the room. It was about our thoughts rather than our actions.
Having the class be over lunchtime was almost a blessing. Leaving work in the middle of the day and taking a yoga class, only to go right back to work, seemed a bit daunting at first. I wasn’t sure if I could truly release my mental “to-do” list for the day. But in fact, pausing my day for that class helped me get through the rest of it.
Seeming to sense the tension in the room, or perhaps knowing the nature of Yoga, Heidi began to tell us:
“Release all your knots…”
“Let the burdens of the day fall right off your shoulders…”
“Make your feet light and your hands heavy…”
“A relaxed body reflects a relaxed mind…”
“Surrender all your negative thoughts…Throw them away…”
Wow, was I holding onto some serious knots. But she was right – the physical tightness I felt during Yoga was a reflection of my mental thoughts. And yes, it’s impossible to solely “think” away my “out-of-shapeness”, but in order to truly relax and take in the art of Yoga and the physical exercise that comes from it, it was essential that I release all thoughts that weren’t a positive contribution to the Yoga I was doing.
Closing my eyes during stretches and heightening my other senses helped keep me focused on the movements, rather than being distracted by the room. Before the class ended, we were asked to spend a few minutes lying on our backs, letting our bodies simply “fall through the floor.” To be completely honest, during those 3-7 minutes, I nearly drifted to sleep. That was how truly relaxed and at peace I felt.
After coming in with a head full of “to-dos”, an inflexible body, and a pessimistic outlook, I left Yoga that day with a clear head, relaxed body, and a positive view on what the rest of the day might hold. Yoga, just like all exercise classes, has a mental component to it. It is what we make of it. Whether you’re taking a Zumba class, a Yoga class, or a Spinning class, if your attitude doesn’t reflect positively on the exercises you’re doing, you will walk away drained and unsatisfied. Because of this, it’s important to put aside mental burdens when doing physical workouts. Trust me, it is so worth it in the end.
For those out there who struggle with the idea of group exercise or exercise in general, I suggest starting with a Yoga class at the Y. I didn’t know what I needed until after receiving it, but that quite possibly could’ve been the best lunch I had ever taken.
To find out about Yoga classes at a Y near you, click on one of the links below for more information!
– Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator