a funny thing happened at yoga

We go around the room, introducing ourselves and sharing how long we have “practiced.”

“Nine years.”

“Five years.”

“Twenty.”

“Four days.”

That’s me.

And that is one of the reasons I am not good at yoga. Also, I am not flexible (does this make me less sexy? I’m pretty sure it does). Also, I have scoliosis. Not in a serious way. Just in a “Your spine is a little too curved” way. It makes my lower back look especially cute, the doctor said I looked like a dancer (a dancer! I must be pretty!). It makes my upper back and shoulders look not cute at all– more like a turtle (a dancing turtle!). It’s hard for me to put my shoulders back. Which means it’s hard for me to look like a queen. Which is a major disappointment.

So the hardest pose for me is the one where you sit with your legs straight in front of you and then bend over them, from the waist. My back won’t let me bend. I’m sitting straight up, and everyone is touching their toes. Even the pregnant woman in the back. How is that even possible? Even the seventy-year-old dude in the very tight pants.

I am also bad at downward facing dog, which feels shameful. Downward facing dog is clearly the most important pose. They keep coming back to it. Everything ends in it. No matter what you do, you end up in downward facing dog, contemplating the fickle, meandering course of your life.

(have you noticed that the mats are always in soothing colors? source)

 

“You know what’s the most relaxing pose?” my mom said.

I waited, dreading it.

“Downward facing dog. You’ll see.”

Damn it. What if I never see?

The thing is, my hands fill with blood. I can feel it happening. All of the blood from my arms is draining into them. It’s disgusting. They are swelling. They are blood balloons. They might pop.

Oh god, what if my hands actually burst? Has that ever happen to anyone before? What if I have some weird condition that no one would’ve known about if I’d never done yoga? This was a terrible idea!

“Four more breaths…Look at your hands. Are the fingers spread? Are they embracing the mat?”

Don’t look at your hands. Don’t you dare look! They might be purple. The veins might all be standing out. Wait, are those little pink specks burst blood vessels? Shit– I’m probably having a hand aneurysm.

“And one more….that’s right…Let your hips float up to the ceiling. You’re all doing beautifully.”

Not me. I’m a freak.

(I’m tellin’ ya… source)

I have to keep shaking out my right hand, so it doesn’t explode– so blood doesn’t end up spattering the sleek blond ponytail of the slender, stunning girl in the Columbia tank top next to me. I am like a three-legged dog. I’m also panting a little. I feel people’s eyes on me. It’s possible they’re wondering if I have rabies.

It goes on and on. I think I’ve got the balancing stuff– where you’re a tree. But then I overthink it and the tree topples. I can’t do anything that involves rocking.

“Rock gently back and forth on your sitz bones.”

Ow. Ow. Hell no.

An hour and fifteen minutes of sweat and failure and twisting into strange positions, with the soothing, reassuring voice of the instructor drifting over everything.

And then we are finally resting, in shavasana, which is the one where you’re supposed to be like a dead person, I think. I love it. I know I’m supposed to close my eyes, but I can’t, for some reason. I’m lying there, flat on my back, staring up at the skylight, which has a tarp over it, and the hanging ferns, which someone thought should be there, for some reason. No, I understand why– they’re lovely. So green and alive against the blankness of the ceiling and the white tarp, through which a little light from the faraway sky seeps in. My eyes are so relaxed, I can’t close them. I need to stare into nothingness.

We lie there for ages.

And then my mind does what it always does. It goes to my work. It goes to my problems.

“You’re falling behind. You should be doing something productive. Make something of yourself!” (This is how my mind is always talking to me. It has a slight Yiddish accent).

The bad egg darkness tries to squirm inside.

But a funny thing happens.

It can’t.

It’s like there’s a wall. A clean, white wall. The darkness is coming up against it, pounding on it, but I’m on the other side, and the pounding is muted. It sounds like a drum in the distance. It’s kind of nice. I am so utterly relaxed that I don’t care about what I’m supposed to be doing. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be doing exactly this.

(this is basically how my mind looked. source)

I can’t remember what I’ve ever worried about. I try. It’s weird. Why can’t I? I try to think of someone I really hate. Is there anyone? Maybe not. No one comes to mind (not even this guy).

So weird. So nice.  Damn it, where’s my cynicism? What the hell?

I don’t want it to stop.

But it does, eventually, and then my friend and I go get huge sandwiches, and eat them. Which is really nice, too.

*  * *

Did you guys know that could happen from yoga? Does physical exercise ever change the way you think? I feel like I got spiritually ambushed or something.

Unroast: Today I love the way my nails look, with mismatching nail polish, chipping off.

P.S. Thank you everyone who told me I should do yoga, even though I thought it was lame and that I was a rebel because I didn’t do it. I still feel like a rebel, I guess. In other ways.

50 Comments »

Kate on January 26th 2012 in exercise, fear, uplifting

50 Responses to “a funny thing happened at yoga”

  1. d-day responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    haaaa your description of the blood rushing to your hands, and the not being able to bend with your feet out in front of you, and the panting.. that is me, at yoga. I don’t even have scoliosis, I just can.not bend very far at all in that position. when people bend over and put their head on their knees I want to throw my yoga block at them. or my water bottle.

    the very end is absolutely the best part of yoga – at least, once my back stops freaking out and I can lie there comfortably. the spiritual ambush happens for me if they do the thing where they spritz lavender over your face while you’re in shavasana.

  2. Lynellekw responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    I used to belly dance. There was a woman in my class who had to be in her 60s – maybe approaching her 70s – and when we stretched at the end of the warm up and bent over forwards to stretch our backs she would bend right in half. I’d be standing there with my upper body kind of tilted forward, and she would be looking at the back of the room between her knees. I’ve never done yoga. Belly dance was good, though.

  3. salad maggie responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    where did you go for class?

  4. Kate responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    @Lynellekw
    I feel like that woman is everywhere. There are like five of her in my yoga class.

  5. Kate responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    @salad maggie
    Park Slope yoga studio? I think that’s what it’s called. It’s on Union

  6. teegan responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    i like yoga – but i’ve never done it outside the privacy of my own home. one of the ‘wow, this relationship is a big deal’ moments in my early time with hubby was when we decided we were comfortable doing yoga in front of each other before bed (or while watching baseball or sitting around on a sunday, or what have you).
    i don’t practice regularly. it goes in phases. i’ll do it every day for a week, take a week off, then every other day for a while, take a month off, etc.
    some poses i still find uncomfortable and a waste of time (even though i’m sure other people find them invaluable). other poses i cling to with devotion. i love improving my headstand. i love the pose where your lower half is in cow face and your hands meet between your shoulder blades. i love stretching my legs.
    it’s the same for jogging. the habit comes and goes. when it comes, i go for 30 minutes every day and i feel great and i watch the little pooch of my belly disappear and i wonder why i ever stopped. when it goes, i just can’t find the motivation to change into running clothes, let alone get out the door.
    doing both of them, even before there are any real physical signs, i fall in love with my body. i want to eat better. i’m more optimistic. i’m more confident.
    i like yoga because it’s not a team sport. there’s no competition. most of the time, there’s not even anyone watching. just me. and often a very confused little dog.

  7. Kate responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    @teegan
    Ha! I love the image of your dog watching, thinking, “What the heck is she doing??”

    I want to be able to do yoga (or any other form of exercise) from home, but for some reason, I never get around to it. I’m going to this class with my friend. Which is what motivates me.

  8. Rachel @ Musings of an Inappropriate Woman responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    Add me to the list of us who find downward dog painful, and who can’t reach their toes (far from it!) when her legs are stretched out in from of her. And I’ve been doing yoga for nearly two years!

    On the other hand, I am awesome at backward bending, floor bow and dancer’s pose, so I think it’s just something about the way in which my body is put together. Bending backwards = easy; bending forwards without rounding back = difficult.

    I can assure you that downward dogs are a LOT less painful for me than when I first started, though (to the point where I kind of crave them now), so it’s worth keeping at it. Yoga is surprisingly tough, but it’s also really enjoyable after a while. I think of it as ‘tuning’ my body.

  9. Marie responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    Yes, yes, yes!!! I know exactly what you’re talking about. I took yoga for PE credit in college and was simultaneously annoyed and amazed at how it truly blocked out everything else. I have never been so “present” in anything. I did the same as you– trying so hard to think of other things (good or bad) and was completely incapable. Amazing stuff. I’m so glad to hear your experience ended so well.

  10. Kate responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    @Rachel
    Oh god, does no one say “downward facing dog”? Is it just “downward dog”? Eek. Sorry.

    Also, did your hands ever fill with blood?

    :-)

  11. Kate responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    @Marie
    Yay! I’m not the only one who got ambushed by the strange peace!

  12. Rachel @ Musings of an Inappropriate Woman responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    @Kate Hmmm… I’m not sure. It’s just as likely I’m getting it wrong. Or, more positively, that we’re both getting it right. ;)

    I can’t recall if my hands ever filled with blood, but I do remember feeling a lot of pain in my wrists and arms. Upper body strength is not my forte.

  13. Kate responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    @Rachel
    OK, we’re both getting it right :-) I feel like my soothing-voiced yoga instructor would agree with that assessment.

    I knew there was something wrong with my hands! :-)

  14. Melanie responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    I do yoga in the comfort of my own home on my wii fit. Just me and my fake wii instructor. I really like lifting weights and doing body weight work. I found a trainer at an alternative gym. One without machines. Just weight benches and huge tires to flip, and there I found my salvation. When I know I don’t want to work out the most, are the days I do so the hardest. Bent over rows, 20 lb. kettlebell swinging, backwards push ups. I become a whole different person. I leave the chubby lady behind and become that super strong lady who can do 100 weighted squats. I like that lady. She’s pretty badass.

  15. Kate responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    @Melanie
    She SOUNDS badass. And this is an amazing line: “Just weight benches and huge tires to flip, and there I found my salvation.”

  16. Kat responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    Bend your knees! Both forward folds and in down dog – that may help as tight hamstrings can be the culprit. And, if you bend your knees, it’s less strain on the back. I can promise that your hands won’t explode, but if your wrists hurt, you need to shift your weight back a bit. Down dog is a pose that can sometimes take people a long time to find their sweet spot in, but when you eventually do, it’s great.
    Don’t give up, and congrats on finding your bliss on shavasana – for some people, that’s the most difficult part of the practice!

  17. Jenn responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    I had my fourth yoga class today too! I’m doing it because my chiropractor told me to… I have really tight hamstrings, and I had back surgery a year and a half ago. Down dog is not fun for me either, but I think it’s my shoulders that are the problem. I have trouble with all the upside down stuff because I have weak arms and shoulders (apparently). Then I have trouble with the transitions from down dog to anything standing up because of my back. I basically have to put my knee down between every move. Also, I sweat. A lot. As if I were running.

    But that last part, where you lie on your back and float away, makes it all worth it.

  18. Kate responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    @Jenn
    No way! I feel like we’re in this together– my doctor told me to start doing yoga, because of my back.

  19. Carmen responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    In a similar way, shavasana, which is supposed to be the HUGE TREAT for accomplishing all the yoga and all that is horribly uncomfortable for me.

    I used to just force that pose and fake the relaxation until I took a pilates class and the instructor told me my butt sticks out extra (yay?), and what I need to do to adjust for that. I carried that new info over to my yoga practice and decided “F* this! I am going to be relaxed! Yogis be damned!” and now I bend my knees and don’t give a rat’s ass about how non-shavasana-ey I look. If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work.

  20. Sooz responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 6:32 pm #

    I like your unroast for today. :)

  21. Kate responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    @Sooz
    Thanks! I figured it was either pride or embarrassment, so I went with pride :-)

  22. Rebecca responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    My yoga mat was bought *precisely* because it wasn’t a soothing color–it is bright, unapologetic fuchsia.

    Matches my hair, my tank, and my face when I come up out of a good down dog. :)

  23. Jennifer responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    I have scoliosis too! I also have a very inflexible back, and can’t touch my toes. We should invent special yoga for inflexible people with back problems. Or at least do our yoga together, so we feel less silly doing it. :P

  24. You can call me Jane responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    I love how you make me chuckle. And, I was totally chuckling with you (you were chuckling, right?) and not at you. That’s exactly how I imagine myself when I think about doing yoga. My hands feel like they’re going to explode when I’m just walking on a treadmill.

  25. Staci responded on 26 Jan 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    Yoga!!!! I tell EVERYONE I come across “You should do yoga.” “Do yoga, man.” “Hey.. Yoga. -point, and wink.-” Not so much the last one, to be honest.. But! I have been doing yoga on my own for about three or four years now. It is.. interesting.
    I am tall. About 5’8”, and have longer legs than torso. So, it has always kind of came naturally to me. I took one class with my mom, and a bunch of older ladies. I remember the instructor praising me, and making me do things at the upper level. And then my mom, who had me at 43 (pssst. I’m 18 right now), was the one who wanted to push to the upper level, and probably could! But the instructor based her opinions on how my mom looked a bit older, and would come over and say “Here, wouldn’t you like this balancing block to help you with your position?” “Remember everyone, you don’t need to push if you don’t want to” “If it feels off, don’t do it”.
    I get my stubborn personality from my mom. I remember her being proud, and then annoyed.. And then I wrapped my arm around hers walking out and said loudly “MOM, YOU ARE AWESOME. I LOVE YOU.”
    cuz I can.

    Yoga, though. It has the ability to cleanse the mind. It really does! I feel running does this too. For some reason, after working up a sweat doing anything, even dancing, I feel so much more relaxed, and awesome.
    Oh, the things your mind and body and soul can do,
    when they are all working together,
    like a completed puzzle.
    Or.. The Knights of the Round Table.
    …who dance when they are able.<3

  26. Liz responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 7:34 am #

    We should form an online scoliosis club. Just kidding. That’s kinda depressing.

    I hate yoga. Really! I tried it a few times, but anything that is trying to get me to relax – just doesn’t work. Can’t stand Pilates either. I finally figured out that I need to do something hard, fast, with loud music, and preferably, somebody yelling at me.

    After pushing myself hard with zumba, or walking long distances, or my 30 minute workouts in my apartment, I get this incredible physical exhilaration. No matter what happens in life, I can face it because I can do push-ups ALL NIGHT, BITCHES lol

    Back in grad school, I worked really physical jobs – painting, construction, furniture building, etc. I LOVED it. Now I’m sitting in a chair all day. Boo. Miss using my body.

  27. Zellie responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 10:54 am #

    You don’t have to touch your toes when in the seated position. Try holding a strap around your feet and just give a gentle stretch.

    Your instructor should help you adapt the poses that do not feel right. Yoga is not meant to feel bad.

  28. Jessie responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 10:59 am #

    Don’t worry. I took a once-a-week yoga class for a whole semester in college. By the end of the course, I was practically a human pretzel. Thing is, I still hated the d-f-d. As my head filled with blood and my sinuses released the always allergy ready mucus, I decided the only relaxing thing about the pose was getting out of it. Luckily, the course was all about different styles of yoga and finding what worked best for you, so we didn’t focus on that move. My only attempt to find another yoga class post-college resulted in an overdose of downward facing dog and a return to limited bendy-ness.
    P.S. I loved the mind clearing power of shavasana, but always had to giggle at the number of college students who had shavasana’d their way into a power nap. At least yoga mats are fairly absorbent, for the drool inclined.

  29. Tasha responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 11:41 am #

    I hate downward facing dog. I feel like I’m going to snap my hands off at the wrists. Even after doing months of yoga, I still feel this way… I have really tight hamstrings. So when I try to touch my toes sitting down, my legs will start to fall asleep. Then I get really frustrated cause I remember how very flexible I was as a kid. How I completely took it for granted that I could bend in half and slide into the splits. I love the corpse pose because I have an excuse to just lay down and just zone into that satisfied bubble of nothingness (no worries, no have-to do). I don’t do yoga as often as I would like to, but I still make time to just lie down on the floor and just be…

  30. poet responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    Yoga does kind of a similar thing to my mind, sometimes (though I would instantaneously give up these benefits in exchange for an inner voice that sounds slightly Yiddish – this is the cutest thing I’ve read in a long time! and though sometimes it also just makes me sleepy!)… Also, I’m really the opposite of bendy and I managed to do yoga relatively well after a while, and anyway, it’s not about performing or being good at stuff but about being good to your body, right? At least the yoga instructors I’ve had always said so.

  31. zoe (and the beatles) responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    mmm this is the very reason i do yoga. it keeps me from falling victim to my own negativity. it’s the whole point of it, really. to let go of judgement of the self and simply meet yourself where you’re at — no matter how bendy or “unbendy” you are. the more you practice, the more you release and, therefore, the more you open. keep at it. and try to quiet your mind every time you step onto your mat. create that peaceful space and you’ll end up in a peaceful space more consistently — on AND off your mat.

  32. joanne responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    What I love about yoga is that one doesn’t need to compete. It’s pretty dangerous to push to the point of severe muscle pain and discomfort anyway, in any sport. I do yoga a few times a week, either at home in the privacy of my own living room (when my roommate isn’t home) or in my climbing gym, where the classes are small and quiet – so relaxing. I live in a town where girls walk around with yoga mats, many of whom are more fit and flexible than I am. I would probably feel out of place in a proper yoga studio. I have felt out of place in my crowded gyms after work, when I’m surrounded by shirtless girls and guys who are in much better shape than I am. I definitely feel like they’re judging.
    I love working out and exercising, and when I do it on a regular basis (my biggest setback…) I feel more confident and energetic, no matter what I actually look like. But I’d rather workout in a quiet gym early in the morning or on empty trails on my own, going at my own pace. It’s meditation for me.

  33. Emily responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    OMG I totally know how you feel about being bad at yoga!

  34. Raven responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    First, and I think you already know this, you’re comparing yourself, someone who’s only been doing yoga for days, to people who’ve been doing it for YEARS. That’s why the old man and the pregnant woman are so flexible. They’ve stuck with it. They have the experience. You don’t. Do you tell a five year old she’s not an artist because her daisy looks more like a lion with rabies? No. She’s just starting out. So are you.

    The sensations you’ve described from beginning to end are very much like my own. I used to be flexible. As a baby, my mother put me in lotus position to help me keep my natural limberness. I kept it up until my teen years, when I sprained both ankles twice–injuries as a dancer–and my body began showing signs of illness and inexplicable weight gain.

    So when I first tried yoga (and every time I finally “go back” after long bouts of inactivity), I feel the strain, I feel like everything is nearly impossible and sure to cause something to pop or snap. I suffer through what is supposed to be a relaxing experience, but when I lay down in relaxation pose, I’m suddenly at complete peace. I feel an inner jubilation, deeply rooted to the earth, yet floating out into a warm, summer atmosphere (even when there’s sleet rain outside).

    You’re not alone. Having been an athlete, becoming disabled, and now attempting to work my way back to an athletic level of fitness, I’ve seen both sides of this. It takes years to become so comfortable with it that downward facing dog or toe touches become as easy as breathing . . . unless you have trouble remember to do that, as I often do. “Breathe!” I say to my daughter as much to me when we do yoga at home.

    If you can will yourself through these classes, little by little, you’ll notice the changes in your body. Your posture will improve, you’ll breathe easier, and you’ll look forward to the sweat that rolls off you when holding warrior pose for three minutes on each side. It wasn’t until the sixth week of my first eight week yoga class (two days a week) that I started to feel like it was more than a torture session with a blessing at the end. I’m not looking forward to getting through the initial trial again, but I know it’s worth it, and I know from reading your blogs every day, you have the courage and strength to face this challenge you’ve set yourself. It will be rewarding.

  35. Zellie responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Hey, here’s a modification for down dog for scoliosis:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEOTEI8U0RY
    Here’s an in-depth video going slowly into this pose:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPXBcM4q0sQ

  36. Kate responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    @Zellie
    Hey, thanks! That’s so nice of you!!

  37. Kate responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    @Tasha
    I like that you take time to just lie on the floor. That’s cool.

  38. Another Melanie responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    … I bought a handful of yoga DVDs on Amazon toward the end of last year and still haven’t tried a single one. Your post has inspired me to stop being a lazyass about them and try one tonight! I’m definitely in need of a spiritual ambush and some time away from my inner critic.

  39. melanie responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    Yoga should not be painful – if your instructor does not know how to adapt poses to fit you and your body, better find another one. Down Dog is useful to build upper body strength over time and to extend along the spine – it is not the best pose for a hamstring stretch – especially not early in a practice. If your wrists are in pain – stop immediately! the wrists are delicate and over-used and perhaps not able to take the entire weight of the body.

    And, a word about the uber-bendie people who usually hang out around yoga studios – yoga is not really for them – it is for the rest of us who need to gently and over time develop more flexiblity. If you are already flexible – what’s the point? more flexiblity? these folks should probably be at the gym developing strength so their joints don’t fall apart as they age.

    suggestion: search for a Viniyoga or Kripula studio / teacher near you – these teachers are great at adapting poses to work for each individual body. Your body need not be bent and pushed into some ‘ideal’ pose – the pose needs to be adapted to fit each body.

  40. Angela responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    Be patient. It takes longer than you think for all these things to become comfortable. I think most people feel like this at first. And be ok with wherever you happen to be in the pose. You will never be able to do every single thing perfectly, it just doesn’t work that way. That’s the thing about yoga. Everybody in the room is at a different level and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Also, very few of those people pay any attention to what anyone else is doing. Currently I am self-medicating my way through a particularly stressful patch of life with that “shut out the world” feeling I get at a great yoga class. Best wishes.

  41. Jen responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    This post made me laugh and I know exactly what you mean. Whenever I do yoga, even though I am nowhere near good at it, probably nowhere near mediocre at it, I feel relaxed afterwards, like everything is alright and wherever I am in life is alright too. Sometimes I get the same feeling when I run, if I can stop thinking about how fast or far I should go and simply enjoy it in a focus on the journey, not the destination kind of way.

  42. Kate responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    @Angela
    You’re probably completely right. People never care about what we’re doing anywhere near the amount we imagine they do. And good luck!

  43. ilana responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 10:30 pm #

    You may want to look into more beginner classes, if this wasn’t. It also sounds like you were doing a style called vinyasa, which goes into downward dog a LOT more than others. Look for classes labeled “hatha”. Keep it up! :-D

  44. Kate responded on 27 Jan 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    @ilana
    this one was actually called “hatha,” but it went into downward dog A LOT…so, I’m not sure what the deal was. And it was supposed to be beginners. Sigh. I think I’ll just keep trying! At least it’s fun to make fun of myself!

    I keep asking my friends about the hand thing, and so far NONE of their hands have filled up with blood. I am a freak of nature.

  45. Abby responded on 28 Jan 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    I loved reading your post! I’ve tried yoga a few times, but I’ve never really had time for it. Maybe this semester…

    Physical exercise has DEFINITELY changed the way I think, though. I ended up trying capoeira my first semester. Capoeira is…hm, I always have trouble explaining it. It is a martial art, but there are also elements of dance and music to it. And there’s very much a mental aspect–you “play” a “game” against another person, and it’s not so much about winning or beating them as it is about temporarily outsmarting them.

    But anyways, I ended up trying it–and I was (still am) completely and totally TERRIBLE. But I love it. I never thought I would love something that required physical movement (this is the girl who cheered when her music lessons were during gym class), but…it’s just amazing. I love learning the songs, learning the moves (even if I can’t do them well), and the amazing people in my group. I love sports where you work alongside someone, but not against them–and my group has all been so supportive and encouraging. It was really what I needed to make it through my first semester.

    But one of the reasons I adore it so much is kind of BECAUSE it’s so difficult. When I do something physical, I tend to really enjoy, for some masochistic reason, doing things that I’m terrible at–in high school it was cross-country. I actually believe that everyone, at some point, should do something they’re terrible at. Because you have to work ridiculously hard…but when you finally do get it right, it’s an amazing feeling.

    So keep going with yoga, especially if it makes you feel so great at the end. Because when you finally get those moves, it will be so incredibly worth it!

  46. Carol responded on 29 Jan 2012 at 3:47 am #

    I lol’d at the guy with tight pants. There is ALWAYS some guy with absurdly tight pants in every yoga class. Other characters that are present in every yoga class: the imposibly beautiful, gracefull new mom who you can’t believe just gave birth three months ago, the old lady that everyone is worried is going to crack her spine or something, the giggling highschool girls, the random guy who falls asleep during the ‘corpse’ pose, the former dancer who thinks she can teach the class, the retired couple who look shocked, confused, and dissaproving at the giggly highschool girls’ use of g string and spandex…..

  47. Jackie responded on 01 Feb 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    I’m new to your blog, but I had to comment because I LOVED this post. I do yoga as well, and I have scoliosis just like you, and in just the way you described! I’ve never known anyone who has it quite the way I do — not severely, but enough to make it so you’re not that flexible and some exercises are a little tougher than they should be.

    I love the concept of your blog and the fact that you’re aiming for body acceptance like me. We’re built similarly, and I think that even at your highest weight (which doesn’t look very high to me in your pictures) you’re absolutely beautiful! :) Can’t wait to read more.

  48. Shana responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    Hey there, old Hebrew school buddy. You can’t say you’re bad at yoga — there’s no such thing. It sounds like you probably forgot to breathe (or at least forgot to take reasonably deep breaths), and thus cheated yourself out of some oxygen flowing through your bloodstream, which may explain why your hands felt funny. Plus if the instructor didn’t help you with any corrections at all, you could have been out of alignment and straining your hands unnecessarily.

    My sister always complains that downward facing dog makes her feel that all of her weight is on her arms, and it shouldn’t — the weight is supposed to be evenly distributed between the arms and the legs, and I think since my sister doesn’t practice yoga often (so her hamstrings are tight), she doesn’t position herself properly to distribute that weight. It only takes a simple correction by a good instructor. It’s not supposed to be an uncomfortable position. Your heels won’t touch the floor until your body gets used to softening into the pose and your hamstrings loosen up, but that will come with practice.

    When I started going to yoga regularly in 2006, I initially felt like an idiot because I had never really done any kind of physical exercise before, so the combination of my being out of shape and my general awkwardness made me feel pretty silly and very self-conscious the first few times. But surprisingly enough, after about three times, it became a lot more comfortable than I expected it to. I was amazed how quickly it became second nature.

    On a related note, I was also amazed how quickly I built muscle tone, which was a nice secondary benefit because my primary goal was stress reduction. Prior to that, I had always been a kind of mushy size zero who had a naturally petite frame but basically no upper body strength and no muscle definition. I was kind of just weak and puny. Within a few months, I was like, “Damn, where did this gun show come from?” It wasn’t my main goal, but it’s really nice to feel like my body is strong.

    I’m not a pretzel, but thankfully I’m also not a very competitive person by nature, and that’s probably why I like yoga so much. Sometimes there are people in class who look like ballerinas, and there is beauty in how graceful they are, but I know not to compare myself to them or to let myself feel bad because my practice doesn’t look like theirs. It sounds hippie-dippie, but my practice is my own, and that’s what yoga is supposed to be about.

    I ran into your mom at a yoga class last year. So just remember, if people of her generation (and beyond) can do this (and of course every position has modifications, especially when it comes to scoliosis and other health concerns), you can probably find some benefit from it too. It sounds like you’re already on your way. Stick with it, because it really does get easier once you learn how to let your muscles soften as you breathe. I’m a total klutz. If I can do dancer’s pose without falling and cracking my head open, anyone can.

    Oy, that comment was like five times longer than it was supposed to be. Sorry I’m so overly verbose. Good luck finding your zen in yoga.

  49. Sharon Allison responded on 26 Apr 2012 at 10:08 am #

    You make me feel better about my yoga practice. I’m not alone in being inflexible (I’m 43, have a bulging disc and arthritis in my spine). Love your blog though I just discovered it. My children are/were unschoolers (ages 15 and 22). Namaste!

  50. CAROLINA responded on 26 Apr 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Kate,
    I work at a bank and in my “down-time” I happen to come across your blog and I can say I probably read every single one of your posts by now. I love every single one of them, even the comments. I was doubting about leaving a reply because I dont feel like I write so beautiful like you but here I am.

    I joined a yoga studio esterday. I thought I was more flexible than what I really am. HAHA! Im really not. But more than anything, I did it because my boyfriend is always on me about working out. I was on the hunt on finding the right gym and eneded up at the yoga place. I have trouble closing my eyes, is it because it was my first time???? also, the guy next to me went to sleep while we were possing flat in our mats for like 3 minutes. And then my mind also does what it always does…. I’m not exactly sure what. I just can not ever concentrate.
    I am going back today after work, I have to say I am pretty excited.