Tuesday, January 29, 2008

For the shy nerd, nothing beats yoga

Near as I can figure, my nerd DNA accounts for two troubling roadblocks in my efforts to get fit: one, I think it made me clumsy and two, it made me ridiculously shy about performing any kind of physical activity in front of groups of people. Hence, my aversion to pratfalls, stripping and exercise classes.

Years ago, a friend dragged me to a spinning class. For those who have never experienced spinning, it goes something like this: you walk into a room with a bunch of stationary bikes, thinking to yourself, "Huh, bikes. I know how to ride those. This won't be so bad." Then everyone climbs onto their stationary bikes not realizing that the wheels are actually embedded in drying concrete, out of which you will be expected to pedal. (Okay, it's not really drying concrete but it sure feels that way.) But before that all starts, they try to drive you insane by putting you under the guidance of one of 16 perky physical trainers named Amber. It is her job to shout encouraging things to you as the concrete-pedaling threatens to make your heart explode like tanker trucks in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. Amber will chant things like, "Three, four, five, six, think of all the fat we'll nix!" Which, you know, kudos to her for using the word "nix" but really? Was that supposed to inspire me? Dangling a Hostess Fruit Pie in front of my bike would have been more effective...and tasty! Mmmmm....

Years later, I tried a kickboxing class at the local community center. I was assured it was a class for amateurs, so I signed up thinking, "Well, this won't be so bad." Sucker. I got beaten up by a 13-year-old girl less than 10 minutes into the class. I gathered up my towel, my shoes and my dignity and left quickly.

So, overall, my experience with fitness classes has not been positive. But then, my friends, I discovered slow-flow yoga. For shy, clumsy, nerdy women, I can't think of any better exercise option (outside of Wii Fit, of course). And here's why: it's done in a dark room, everyone is supposed to keep their eyes closed and, just like in English lit class, there are no right or wrong answers. Yup, you could fall on your ass six times in a row and no one except the teacher will know -- and let's face it, he's a hippie and probably high -- and even if he does notice, you didn't really fail because -- and let me state this one more time -- there are no right or wrong answers! It's all about stretching and breathing and being calm. Best of all, it's far better than Xanax which, if you're like me, just makes you feel calm about feeling anxious.

If you apply yourself, yoga can be extremely challenging. I come home three times more sore from yoga than I do from the gym, but it's a good kind of sore, the kind that makes you feel you accomplished something positive for your body. And I cannot underscore enough how awesome it is that no one is watching you and no one is judging you and more likely than not, no 13-year-old girl is going to kick the shit out of you ten minutes into class. Of course, I've only been to three sessions so I can't guarantee that's not coming up next week or something. You know those hippies, tricky bastards every one of them....

So if you're shy and don't like being judged by all the size twos in their $100 breathable tank tops, then I'd suggest giving this yoga stuff a try. And as an added bonus for all you "Lost" fans out there, I'm pretty sure yoga folks are part of the Dharma Initiative. They totally end every class by saying, "Namaste" ... and locking Desmond in a hatch.



Kristin Marie said...

Yoga's great when do you trust people to keep their eyes closed. But for even less chance of embarrassment, my friend and I do a Bollywood dance DVD in my living room. As long as we keep the blinds closed, the one people giggling are us!

Jessica said...

If you start feeling a wee bit more confident in your yoga-ing, I suggest checking out Bikram Yoga, or, yoga done in a 100+ degree room.


It's a little more intimidating at first because the room is lit and you keep your eyes open, but I promise that no one is watching you because they're all too busy suffering themselves. And after class, you feel like you can kick the entire world's ass. :)

Trey said...

I adore yoga. One of the things I love about it is that a lot of it is about listening to your body, and doing what works for you. For every pose, there's a zillion variations.

I had a problem at first with finding a teacher who didn't make assumptions based on my body (they mistakenly took my klutziness and size for lack of flexibility - nono, plenty flexible and strong, I'm just a spaz), but then I found one who was fabulous, and have been a happy yoga gal ever since.

I travel a lot for work, and found these (http://www.shop.diversitea.com/product.sc?productId=46&sourceCode=froogle) for when I'm in a hotel room and not able to do my regular practice. They're great, and with those and a DVD on my laptop I don't have to skip practice due to travel.

Trey said...

Kristin -

Can you recommend one or two titles? Been meaning to try that.


Jami.whoah said...

Yoga is my life now. I was shy and hated working out. But doing Osna(physical practice of yoga) is sooo great. I took my dad to a class and he was sooo sore for days because he hadn't had a slow cardio and muscle building work out in years.

My teacher is so soothing and helps me train my body and mind. I love it. I am glad you found a place you fit.

Liz said...

Jessica, my yoga place offers the bikram yoga. I'm definitely curious about it, and will probably check it out once I get stronger and more proficient.

Anonymous said...

I've been hearing how great Yoga is supposed to be for you for years, but I wasn't really buying it. I've always thought of it as a bunch of stretching with poses named after animals or some such thing. Your post is the first that really makes me want to try out a yoga class.

Liz said...

Tricia, I never wanted to try it either. I got to the point, though, where stress and anxiety were just doing me in and I was ready to try anything. It really is quite physically challenging but at the same time, it really does a lot to focus your mind. I can't really describe it, but all I know is I feel really great afterwards. If you do give it a try, let me know how it goes.

Trey said...

Tricia -

I hear you - I used to think the same thing. A friend convinced me to do this yoga workshop, and I figured "What the heck. It'll give me a good base of understanding what this is, and I can make decisions on it afterwards."

It utterly and completely kicked my butt. Then I felt great.

I still don't really understand how it works, but it seems to do a lot for me.

annie said...



He's such a dork.

And this week's episode is, i kid you not, yoga for pms.