I had always disliked yoga. I actually really loathed yoga. I just didn’t have the yoga personality. I had things to do, people to see, places to go and you mean to tell me I need to cover myself in a blanket and do Shavasana? If you have never practiced yoga, Google it. It’s the corpse pose. I guess I didn’t have an appreciation for lying still in a corpse-like posture while listening to meditation music and seagulls. And the mere thought of oming in a room full of people made me want to snicker because it just seemed so silly.
I first tried yoga in a class that was held above the garage of a woman my sister knew. It was a nice studio and Mary seemed like a nice person, but each week when my mom, sister and I went, I felt more and more stressed. I found that I just couldn’t stand the slow pace; the quieting of the mind. I did the 6 week session and declared that yoga just wasn’t my sport. I tried it one more time at the local Y and the instructor showed up wearing jeans to teach the class and she would actually fall asleep, complete with loud snoring, during Shavasana. The only time she seemed like a yoga “teacher” was the time that I sat silently while everyone else omed their three oms; one to the room, one to the earth and one to the universe. She would look at me and sternly say, “let’s try that one more time.” Please don’t make me om!
That was about 8 years ago and I had the idea in my head that yoga actually made me angry. When my MS specialist told me that yoga was a very good exercise for people with MS, I still avoided it for several months. On one of my last rides home from Pilates, I happened to drive by a studio that just caught my eye. It was an old mill building with a brook running beneath it. I went online, found the website and saw that the schedule was very flexible. There was no commitment to take a set amount of classes. My friend S had been trying to get me to revisit yoga and when I told her about this studio she tried a free class. She loved the place and assured me that there was no oming involved. I decided to give it a go. It was a large, but not too large, stylishly Zen studio, comfortably warm and dimly lit. I immediately felt comfortable there. The first class I tried was a Vinyasa Sundown Flow and it was very physical. I felt challenged in that it required a lot of upper body strength and the instructor moved rather quickly from one pose to the next, thus the flow aspect. It was nothing like any yoga class I had ever done and while maybe that class was too physical for a beginner, I bought a five class pass and started trying different classes twice a week.
One of my favorite classes is the beginner class on Monday mornings and I find it to be a fantastic way to begin the week. On sunny days, the large windows that wrap around three sides of the studio, provide yoga mat sized sunny patches that make me feel like a cat in the sunshine. The instructor is so warm and engaging, I would probably om while standing on my head if that is what she asked of me. While that was probably an exaggeration, I have been known to now om on occasion and it no longer feels wrong to me. Shavasana has become my favorite part of class. Last night I went to a gentle yoga with mediation class and the instructor went around the class during this quiet time, massaging each students head and using aromatherapy oil to give a blessing on our foreheads. It felt amazing to have my MS rattled head pampered in such a way. I have also participated in a work shop that was 3 hours of restorative poses, which essentially was an afternoon of creative Shavasana and was simply amazing.
I have caught yoga fever and I’m not looking for a cure. Whether or not you have a specific health issue, yoga seems to be an all around whole body fitness routine that not only engages your physicality, but also your mind. As anyone with MS has experienced, closing your eyes while standing straight with arms at your side results in an automatic swaying of the body, but yoga has improved this for me personally as it is excellent for challenging your balance. I highly recommend it and suggest that you don’t give up before trying it at several studios to find your comfort zone. May the pure light of your spirit shine and guide you through each day… Namaste.