Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Writer Rebecca Tolin learns how to channel her yogic breathing to get through an intense TRX class.
I’m dumbstruck by the teacher’s menagerie of skeleton-themed tattoos. There are no Sanskrit characters, no yogis or Buddhas sketched on his skin, just carcasses oddly engaged in the athletic rigors of boxing and mountain biking. He fumbles with an iPod and the screeching lyrics of heavy metal jar me from my daze.
“Listen up! I’m Frank, this is my third TRX today, and I’m just warming up,” he bellows. “Anyone new, I feel sorry for you. You’re going to WORK!”
I glance skeptically at my brother, who’d strong-armed me into joining him at our neighborhood gym for something “a little different.”
“If we survive this, you are so coming to yoga with me, bro,” I say.
Yoga has become my lifeline in the past seven years. It’s all I practiced while healing from a debilitating illness. It had become my social life, destination, preoccupation and salvation. My teachers uttered the words “listen to your body” often enough that I’d learned to follow my own cues, not theirs. Competition was a foreign concept and pushing too hard, against my religion.
“You’re all going to love me by the end of class,” Frank yells, and after a pause, adds, “not!”
This is where I neglect to walk out. Instead I grip the two straps joined at a metal ring that hooks into the ceiling and negotiate chest presses, lunges, crunches, pikes, rows and several unnamed stunts, all with varying body parts in mid air.
TRX is “a little different” all right. To my brother’s credit, he didn’t know that Navy Seals developed this workout, or that pro-athletes, law enforcement, and military boot camps endorse it.
At one point, I’m in a suspended Plank, attempting pushups while my feet are held loosely by the dangling handles. “How many times do I have to tell you? Get your butt up in the air. Get the work done,” Frank says, looking directly at me. “Come on girl, work it! If I see toes on the ground, I’ll chop them off.
I’m not entirely sure he is kidding. We are now in relay lines, sprinting, leapfrogging and dropping down into yet more pushups. The problem with this is it’s hard to escape. I slink into the hallway on the third round, ostensibly to French kiss the water fountain and, more covertly, to prevent collapse.
I can’t help thinking, I miss yoga! I do not look at the clock during asana class. I give myself the luxury of 60 or (better yet!) 75 minutes, and slip into a timeless zone. When I’m not gasping for breath, I’m counting the seconds in this TRX class.
And then I remember: gasping is not for yogis. Every inhale needs an equally long exhale, if not a longer one. Armed with this yoga perspective, I breathe into the burn I’m feeling, muscles flexing and my pulse quickening in my heart. I harness the flexibility, balance, and strength I’ve developed through yoga. I breathe, and something shifts. I’m flushed, sweating, and exhilarated!
After all, don’t I practice yoga to embrace all of life, to wade through the vast contrast and return to center again and again?
My brother has thrown up his arms in exasperation. “Forget everything I ever thought about yoga, sis. You’re in phenomenal shape. I jog and play tennis and you’re way out of my league.” Another burly man collapses on the ground, muttering profanities about an overly zealous substitute teacher. “The regular instructor gives you options,” he says between pants.
Lying on the hard floor after a long 55 minutes—no yoga mat, no Savasana—I’m flushed with blood and flooded with endorphins. I did more than I’d imagined I could. Thanks to yoga, I’d developed a secret weapon that helped me survive TRX. I’d tuned into my body—even as a relentless, indefatigable teacher did his best to convince me otherwise.