Being on a fitness mission to try different things, it was about time I challenged my preconceptions and tried yoga.
Do you think yoga is not a real workout and you’re better off spending your time actually burning some calories?
Does it conjure thoughts of uncomfortably humming “OOOOMMM” in a room filled with strangers?
You simply can’t picture yourself holding these funny-named poses with your bum lifted against the girl behind you?
Well, I hear you. But I’m also hearing so many great girls out there who swear by it. Which starts the debate: there has to be something in it, right?!
So I decided to do a month’s trial of yoga and find out for real what it’s all about. After taking 6 sessions these are the things I liked and didn’t like. And my (always) honest verdict.
What I like about yoga
1. It helps with your flexibility
Especially if you do spinning or running and don’t get much time in for stretching afterwards. And frankly those 5 minutes of stretching at the end of your workout aren’t really enough. I get really tight hip flexors from spinning, for example – yoga can really help there. Stretching is also great to improve blood circulation, get oxygen in the cells and help them repair.
2. It’s your time, your pace
If you take a peek around the room, you’ll find that people will be doing different versions of a given exercise. Some are physically more challenging than others. That’s fine and how it’s supposed to be. You won’t find anyone pushing you – “come on, you can do it!!!” type of thing. I feel that’s really cool and liberating for a change.
3. It’s relaxing
If you’re the spinning and HIIT type of girl, make a switch to slow motion movement, stretching and low tempo, chilled music. I challenge you NOT to feel relaxed after that.
4. It complements your workout regime
Ideally I would book my yoga for the end of the day, or anytime after I have done a more high energy workout. Because your body will be working in a way that’s dramatically different from your strength or cardio training, you’ll still have what it takes to make it through your session and enjoy it.
What I did not like about yoga
5. There’s very limited private space
Mats tend to sit really close to each other. Because the poses don’t really require you to move around and can all be done within the limits of the actual mat, it’s assumed that’s all the room you need. You can almost smell the sweat from the girl next to you or accidentally see through her not so see-through leggings (sorry, but true). It’s uncomfortable and not nice.
6. There’s an actual risk you’ll get knocked down
This is a direct result from point 1 above. The transitions from one pose to another can be tricky, so you lose balance and knock down the other aspiring yogi working hard a full 50cm away from you. Then there’s this domino effect and BOOM – alert! 3 yogis are down! This did happen to me by the way. The only good part was that at least for a few moments everyone was LOL.
7. You’re pretty much on your own
The teacher does not actually teach you how physically hold a pose. Sure, there are a few exceptions but if you’re a first-timer you’ll need to rely on looking around to check what the hell the others are doing. And that still does not guarantee you’ll get it right. There has be a bit more guidance than “if it hurts, then you should stop” type of thing. For me, this is not OK.
8. There’s too much (loud) panting going on
Ok guys, sorry I know it’s all about the breathing, but how can someone stand it?! The generally loud breathing is not great but it’s manageable. But if you happen to sit in class with a weird one that takes to that orgasmic (in a definitely not-so-zen way) level, beware. You may never fully recover. I find it disturbing and if I was ever in a “zone” then that’s the end of it. Which sort of defeats the point.
My recommendation? If you’re the type of girl who would rather break a sweat running in the morning than sit on a mat for an hour, I say: challenge yourself. Give it a go. And if half way through you’re going mad with the lack of action or panting patterns, well – at least you tried it and can have an informed opinion.
My personal verdict: I’m not yogi material. I cannot deal with the small inconveniences of group yoga practice on a regular basis. And as long as the domino knock-down and panting remain fresh in my memory, I’m not going back. But I can see a time when the good memories will take over and I’ll go back one evening, after a busy day for some active stretching and chilled tunes. But I’ll be making sure my leggings are NOT see-through. And I confess that I did take my headstand practice to the beach…
My local go-to yoga spot is the Power Yoga Company (details here). Classes start early and end late evening, so you’re sure to find a time that fits you. Great offer for first-timers: for £25 you have 25 days for no-limits yoga sessions. Just the thing to find out if there’s a yogi in you (or not really…)!
Do you practice yoga? What do you love (or not) about it?