Confession: I’ve had this pair of yoga pants for almost two years. They are more comfortable than the comfiest pair of jeans, warm enough for winter, and cool enough for summer. They have this teeny-tiny little hidden pocket in the waistband just large enough for me to stick my Zune in while I’m moving about. They have the perfect stretch without being constricting or baggy. They are a lovely grey color and a perfect length, just brushing the tops of my pale feet. They are soft, yet rugged, and did I mention they are ridiculously comfy?? It should be illegal. They are better than pajamas for lounging, because it is socially acceptably – if not fashionably acceptable – to go out in public with them on, paired with a comfy tee or hoodie and a pair of perfectly broken in flip-flops. After much deliberation, and an imaginary poem singing the praises of these beautiful pieces of artwork, I decided to utilise them for their intended use. I decided to take up yoga. Boy, did my yoga pants finally feel like they had accomplished their life’s goal.
Well, I have to admit, the destiny of my yoga pants wasn’t the only deciding factor in the decision to try yoga. As many of you know, I have severe chronic migraines, and for about 8 weeks had been suffering constant headaches and several migraines a week, and in the span of 2-3 had been in the local clinic/emergency room just as many times. So I was willing to try anything. I’d started having acupuncture treatments (certainly not as scary as it sounds, and now I have these neat little magnets to play around with, and oil that smells like wintergreen!) and had been entertaining the idea to try yoga. I had read a few articles on how those suffering migraines had found very positive results when practicing yoga as it helped with breathing, loosening muscles in the neck and back, as well as teaching techniques to clear the mind (very good for avoiding thinking about pain). Also, I figured it would be pretty beneficial for horseback riding – you know, stretching and creating balance and a little more core strength, and cultivating a better style of breathing (because having the air shoved out of your lungs during a sitting trot can be a little more than uncomfortable).
So Kerri and I enrolled in a nearby yoga class held at a local synagogue, Beth Jacob. It was a small class, ranging from 8-12 people. Usually I was the youngest, something I found both amusing and a little uncomfortable. Going into it, I had never expected to enjoy it so much – though I might be the first young woman to ever call yoga ‘fun’! And quite honestly, I never realized how much of a workout it actually is. You really break a sweat going through all the poses and stretches (called asanas), especially when those asanas require repetition (as our yoga instructor, Carol, likes to say “only 72 more! 71 now!”) or slight variations on the original pose. All through it you need to focus on your pranayama, or your controlled breathing. Your pranayama is tied directly to the type of asana you are doing – inhaling as you raise your arms, exhaling as you lower them, etc. It gets really confusing, and requires a lot of focus at the beginning… Okay, it just requires a lot of focus for me.
That focus comes in handy, I have to admit. My mind wanders constantly, and I find myself incessantly trying to bring it back to focus on breathing. I am either wondering why yoga mat manufacturers couldn’t have made silent mats, trying to remember what those little boxes on the frame of the doors in the synagogue where called (finally remembered after the final class, they’re mezuzahs), ordering my stomach to silence itself, or thinking that I really needed to clean my mat again, noting that the hydrangea outside the window-wall was a really vibrant indigo, zeroing in on the fact that I needed to paint my toes a brighter color since you spend half your time looking at your feet, and trying to figure out how to stop the edges of my mat from curling without making a lot of noise. As you can tell, you get really up-close and personal with your mat. In example – your face is pressed against it about 2 dozen times from the beginning of class to the end of it. It kind of brings out the germaphobe in me.
Essentially, what I’m trying to relay here, is the fact that I love that yoga both requires focus and… not focus? Un-focus? Anyway, it requires a unique balance of focus and a lack of focus. You need to be able to listen to your instructor (otherwise you will get totally lost) and listen to your own breathing and what your body is trying to say (mine often yells, “You cannot bend that way! You are not Gumby!”). It is a challenge to push yourself, yet not go too far with your asanas and pranayamas. Because if you do, you will truly end up feeling like you ran ten miles carrying cinderblocks and entirely out of breath, which is so beyond the point of yoga itself!
Although tonight was our last class, I’m really excited to continue doing yoga. Not only because it is a fun word to say (yoga, kinda rhymes with ‘toga’…and sounds really cool if you say it super fast a couple times in a row), or because of the cool accessories like necklaces and neat headbands, or because it’s healthy and has been taught for a bajillion years, but because I find it a fun, unique challenge in a calm-ish, relaxing atmosphere.
…And yeah, I’ll admit it, I really adore the pants.