I have a confession to make. A few months ago, I went into a yogic funk. My home practice was feeling monotonous and stale—same poses, different day. The articles and blogs that are usually my go-to sources for ideas and inspiration just weren't getting my juices flowing in the way they normally do. I made a valiant effort to go to a studio class thinking that being a part of a community would surely uplift my spirits and help me find my mojo. It was nice, but there weren't any new pose variations or nuggets of wisdom that rekindled my passion for the practice. I felt like I'd heard it all before.
I met a friend for lunch thinking a little change of scenery might help me overcome my blahs (it probably won't surprise you that my yoga funk was a part of a bigger life funk; that’s how it goes). On my way to the restaurant, I passed by a Pilates studio. I've never done Pilates, but I saw that this little studio had a variety of classes like Barre fitness, mat classes, and yoga. When I saw that it also had an adorable childcare room, I was sold! I signed up for a month of unlimited classes on a total whim. I practice yoga. I don’t do fitness. This is a pretty big deal.
The first class I took was a Barre class. Ouch. I worked my muscles in a whole new way, and I was overjoyed at the feeling of being a total beginner at something again. It was like landing on another planet. There were lots of props I’d never even seen, let alone had the foggiest idea what to do with them. Was I supposed to flex my feet or point? I felt shy looking at myself in the full length mirror. I cringed at every reference to bikini bodies.
When the instructor told me to keep doing Chaturanga-like push-ups even when my arms were crying out for a Child's Pose, I cringed again. (I pushed through even though my arms felt like jelly.) "You're stronger than you think you are," she said. Maybe this isn't so different from yoga after all, I thought for just a moment. But then she made us do 5 more because someone (I won't say who) dropped out early. I cursed under my breath, remembering why I've been practicing yoga all these years.
At the same time, though, the honesty of it all was refreshing. My classmates were there to tone their bodies or lose weight, which is something that not all yoga students will admit even if that's the end goal. And I was learning all kinds of new and interesting ways to stretch my body and my limitations. My muscles shook like crazy as I did my best with something new to both my body and my brain. I loved the challenge, and I began to incorporate some of the moves I was learning in Pilates and Barre classes into my home yoga practice.
Toward the end of my month-long membership, something interesting happened. I began to notice that when I was really pushing my body to its max taking deep breaths helped me get through it. I slowed my movements, really focusing on the mechanics of the movements. The classes were still physically very challenging, but I struggled less. It dawned on me that while I wasn’t practicing Sun Salutations or Warrior Poses, I was still practicing yoga.