Last week my friend Craig and I decided to try out yoga for the first time. In many facets I consider myself the quintessential Vancouverite. However, when it comes to yoga, I found out that I was indeed a few steps behind the curve as most of my friends (and even my mother) have tried it before I had.
I know I know, someone born and raised on the left coast; that pseudo-hippy, unapologetically trendy city that gave birth to more than one mega-yoga retailers has never actually tried yoga. “What I say when people question my lack of experience, I go for runs on the seawall. I go to Starbucks and take a few seconds to go over my order in my head to make sure I’m saying it according to Starbucks ‘code’ (I secretly love it when they ask me if I ever worked for Starbucks; as if my order was THAT complicated! I’ve never worked for Starbucks). Hell, I own not one but TWO Lululemon sweatsuits. But secretly I knew that I was missing out on something BIG TIME. In fact, that ship had sailed long ago. I was actually embarrassed that I hadn’t been to a class before. It was like ‘coming out’ or something, like it is some exclusive club that only people who have tried it get to be a part of, even if they only went once or twice. So, to finally be a part of the ‘oh yeah, I’ve done yoga before, but it’s just not my thing’ club, I decided to stealthily venture outside my comfort zone and head down the street to Yaletown Yoga dressed in one of my two Lulu outfits. Not only will I be able to finally say that I’ve tried yoga, I dragged Craig along for reinforcement.
“This place is cool,” I thought as we soaked up the zen in the lobby of the utlra-modern yoga studio. We’ll just slip into one of the classes at the back of the room and do it at our own pace, no one will know that we’re new. “We’re here for the yoga class…” we said as three young fit and fresh-looking twentysomething women stared blankly at us across the long underlit slab counter. A pause followed. Oh shit, did we say something wrong? One of them finally said,”OK…so you’ve never been to a yoga class before, right?” No, but do we look like we could have been here before? We explained that we’d like to try the hatha yoga class that started in 15 minutes, the description looked easiest for beginners. “Oh, that one’s cancelled today for a teacher’s seminar, but there’s a hot yoga class in 30 minutes?” Hmmmm, inside I’m thinking hot means sweat. A LOT OF IT. I look at Craig who at that moment had the fear of God in his eyes. “Ohhhh, hot yoga. That sounds… intense. Is it okay for (he lowers his voice) beginners like us?” The slim twentysomething pipes up, “Of course, yeah it’s a great one to start with. Just be sure to drink lots of water. You did bring water right?” No. “Oh…yeah, of course we did, right Craig?” He didn’t look impressed. “We’ll take two waters,” he said.
We were given towels, and mats and went over to the “chill/zen/seating area” to debrief and convince each other that we were still okay going through with this when the hallway became full of people. A class had just gotten out. Dozens of glowing, sweaty and fit people file by us staring us up and down. Many are barely clothed, shirtless, in underwear, and shorts – not in baggy sweatpants and t-shirts as Craig and I look sheepishly at each other. “Ummm, you can’t wear your shoes in that area, that’s the barefoot area,” the helpful woman behind the counter shouted across the room,” You can put your shoes over here.” Oh right, the barefoot area. I swear one of the yogis gave me a dirty look. So much for being beginners and ‘flying under the radar’. We removed our shoes and I grabbed Craig and we went into the other room with our mats.
The floor was full of people. “Where should we go?” Craig asked as we scanned the room from the door. “Shhh! Everyone is meditating or something, look their eyes are closed and they’re staring at the ceiling, using their third eye…” We quietly tip-toed to our own spots. There was enough room for one person at the front at the mirrors which Craig took while I was sandwiched between two (definitely straight) men with little maneuvering room. The class didn’t start for another 10 minutes and I looked around to see what other people were doing, without seeming like I didn’t know what to do, of course. I decided to follow the lead of the man on my right and laid down in my back, staring at the ceiling with my eyes closed. Wow, it’s REALLY hot in here. I’m already sweating. I hope I can do this without passing out. What’s Craig doing? Stretching
and looking back at me in the mirror. I shrug my shoulders and mouth out “I don’t know…?” I grabbed my bottle of water and opened the plastic and the cap very quietly so as not to disturb anyone. I looked up at the woman setting up right behind me in front of the doorway, “Oh this? I totally forgot my stainless steel water bottle at home” Really. You know how it is. I think she bought it. Deep breath, I can do this.
“So, who here is new to yoga?” The instructor said before she started the class, Craig put up his hand and looked at me, I sheepishly raised my hand. “Okay great, I’ll make sure that you get all the support you need. You’ll love it. Oh, and you’ll get used to the heat after a while. The first class is always the hardest.” Fantastic. I can do this. The embarrassing part is over, everyone knows I’m a beginner now, so I guess it doesn’t matter if I can’t do ALL the moves. Here goes nothing…
Over the next hour I was going from child’s position to the downward dog and ending in lotus position; Craig was holding his own as well. And the sweat… at one point I had sweat dripping from my hair into my eyes and nose. I had to peel my t-shirt from my skin to wipe my face. I pushed myself. It was tough, intense and VERY hot. Once we reached the end of the class, I was shirtless, my pants were rolled up my legs, I was splayed on my back on the mat, I was exhausted… but felt great.
Craig and I walked out of the room, down the hall, past the barefoot chill/zen/seating area over to grab our shoes from the storage area. “So what’d you think?”, I asked Craig. “Well, you know that I hate to sweat. And I am SWEATING right now. But if I had to do anything physical, I think this would be it. I feel really good.” “Yeah, me too.” I said as I downed the last of my water. “So, how did it go, will you guys be back?” One of the women behind the counter said. “Oh yeah, definitely” I said with confidence. Now, not only can I say that I’ve done a yoga class, I enjoyed it and I think I’ve found a new outlet. I knew I would. And what’s more, my identity-constructing hometown stereotyping can continue!