In celebration of me finally getting my life together and going to the yoga class I swore I would go to, as per my New Year’s resolution, I have compiled a list of thoughts that popped into my brain while attending my first ever yoga class. Because these are the thoughts of an absolute beginner at yoga, I won’t let them stop me from continuing on this journey. I think it could be really exciting to see how much I can progress if I keep practicing. So contrary to what you will read below, I actually really enjoyed the class and it did help me to clear my mind and relax. I also found myself in a surprisingly good mood for the next few days, so clearly there is something to it. Amongst your second round of midterms and with finals season looming in the distance, I would highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend trying yoga since students often don’t take the time to unwind. The physical and mental awareness that yoga requires is tougher than you might think but the satisfaction that it brings is well worth the struggle.
If you’re a student at uOttawa and have paid your incidental fees, you are most likely able to participate in any of the group fitness classes offered at Minto Sports Complex or Montpetit at no additional cost. This includes the Yoga Fitness class and many more like step classes and Zumba. You will need to ask for a ticket at the gym desk to secure your spot in the class but that’s pretty much it. You don’t even need your own yoga mat! If this is something you’re interested in, click here for group fitness class schedule!
1. “Oww, why does this hurt so much? Is it supposed to hurt this much?”
I don’t think yoga is supposed to hurt but it definitely made me realize how inflexible I am. Most people that don’t stretch their muscles and do dynamic exercise daily will probably suffer from tight muscles and a difficulty in touching their toes. But with continued practice, it is possible to improve flexibility.
2. “How is she bending like that?”
This is what I thought as I looked over at the instructor and tried to copy her movements, to no avail. As a beginner, it’s silly to compare yourself to the instructor and expect your technique to be at the same level as someone with many years of experience under their belt. You should use the expertise of others as inspiration and not a source of self-judgement.
3. “Am I even doing this right?”
When doing yoga for the first time, it is common to feel out-of-place. I know I did. Sometimes the movements and postures are unfamiliar to you and that’s okay! As long as you’re trying, not straining yourself, and listening to your body, you’ll be just fine. And if it really bothers you, you could always ask the instructor for help!
4. “Wow I’m impressing myself! I have great balance….oops no I don’t.”
Occasionally you might think that you’re finally doing a good job and balancing well in whatever precarious posture you find yourself in. This feeling is not to be trusted! The moment you let your mind wander, your focus will disappear and you’ll be off-balance. Once your concentration is lost, it can be difficult to get back. As such it’s important to take your time and do things properly the first time around.
5. “OMG the girl next to me is so much better at this! Damn it, she’s definitely judging me.”
Periodically throughout the class, I noticed myself looking at the other people around me. This made me lose a bit of confidence once I observed how almost everyone was at ease, even during the parts where I was struggling. However the key thing to remember is this: while other people may or may not be judging you for your skill, this should be completely insignificant to you. When you’re in the class, you should be focusing on yourself and moving to your own rhythm. There is no reason to be embarrassed, especially when trying something new. And if they judge you, well, that’s on them.
6. “I probably look so stupid doing this.”
Most rooms where yoga classes are taught happen to be mirrored, so you might sometimes catch an unflattering glimpse of yourself in the mirror. I tried to dismiss this thought by telling myself that yoga consists of many unflattering and awkward positions. The main idea is that I am not practicing yoga to look pretty for an hour, I’m doing it for my well-being. If it makes me feel good, then it doesn’t really matter if I look stupid or not.
7. “My arms/legs are shaking so hard like they are QUIVERING! No one told me upper body/ab/leg strength was necessary for this!”
This was probably the funniest thing that happened to me during the class. I knew going into it that I had not worked out in a long time and I was probably pretty weak. However, nothing could have prepared me for when I was in side plank position and my arm literally started shaking like there was an earthquake. I guess all the more reason to keep strengthening my muscles!
8. “Finally a pose that I know!”
Unlike all the yoga I had seen in movies, my instructor did not do any Sun Salutations or Moon poses. I was beginning to think I didn’t know any yoga “moves” at all. But then came the Warrior pose and I thought to myself “Thank God! I know this one. I’m not a complete newbie.”
9. “Ugh I give up!”
Towards the end of the hour-long class, I was getting pretty tired and the power poses kept coming! I was struggling quite a bit with the Chair pose since it’s like a wall-sit with no wall. Basically a squat that you hold for an extended amount of time. I tried my best but my body was telling me I needed to take a break. So I took a break. Of course you should try to push yourself so that you can get better and better, but you should also listen to your body and not overdo it.
10. “Ahhhhh breathing exercises, finally something I can do! Oh wait… how do you breathe again? OMG I forgot how to breathe!”
Breathing is a central component in yoga and the breath is what allows you to relax and settle into the positions. But when you’re a beginner, it can be very difficult to master a good rhythm. You just need to focus on the sensation and breathe in a way that feels good, not panicked or forced. If you overthink it, I’ve found that you’ll probably start to freak out and you’ll lose control of what you’re trying to control in the first place. Once you’ve calmed down, you’ll realize that it can come naturally. But if you’re doing any big stretches, it is especially important to be aware of your breathing because sometimes you might be tempted to hold your breath and that is not good at all.
11. “I haven’t gotten a pedicure in a really long time…is anyone looking at my feet? God, I hope not.”
This is a ridiculous one, I know, but it was something I genuinely thought about. In a room full of bare feet, I was worried about if other people thought my toes were ugly or if my feet were gross or smelly. But I realized that there was nothing much that I could do about it in the moment. When I went home however, I made sure to exfoliate and pamper my feet just to set my mind at ease.
12. “Ahhhhh Corpse pose now that I can do. I could do this all day!”
At the end of the class came my favourite part: the Corpse pose. That’s the one where you lie on your back with your hands spread face-up and your eyes closed. Basically, you’re alone with your thoughts. It is definitely a welcome finish to a challenging yoga session and the stillness is quite refreshing.
13. “Quiet my mind? How am I supposed to do that? My shoulder feels itchy. I wonder what I should have for dinner tonight. Pizza! The answer is always pizza. Oh shoot…be quiet brain!”
Once you’ve gotten past all the physical stuff, the mental awareness is the final challenge. While you might be able to ignore physical discomfort, getting away from your thoughts is much harder. I was definitely tempted to think about all things I had to do with the rest of my day and about things I was regretting from the day before. This just goes to show you that yoga can remind you to stay in the moment and that you are able to reset and start over whenever you choose. All it takes is practice.