Doctors' Choice Physical Medicine

What You Don’t Know About Yoga

Yoga is almost always spoken of as the best exercise ever. And while there is plenty of evidence that it is excellent, not everyone finds yoga to be an easy exercise routine to adopt.

Unfortunately, not all yoga instructors are created equal. With the advent of fitness centers designed to appeal to greater numbers of people, yoga is often added to the class offerings. But the emphasis in choosing an instructor does not always focus on a well-trained yogi who fully understands the purpose of yoga and the mind-body relationship.

If you are as unfortunate as I was in my first introduction to yoga, I waited in line with about thirty other people for the class before us to finish so we could enter the room. The firs thing I noticed was now sweaty and moist the room felt. It was a large room, but by the time everyone packed in there, I was one of about sixty people trying to find enough to spread my mat and hope not to find my face directly behind the butt in front of me.

I hadn’t done yoga. Ever. The class I chose was called “beginning” yoga. That would suggest that as a beginner, I could expect some instruction. I was OK with the beginning sun salutations, but I never understood the bending to reach my toes, then coming halfway up, then down again. Right? Being lost at that point did not bode well for the rest of the class.

Not able to easily see the instructor, who was about sixteen, lithe, very supple, and incredibly energetic, I tried to figure out what to do by watching the people around me. Bad idea. Many of them didn’t know either. Then there were the others who were there for a physical workout. I think they start their exercise classes at 5 am and finish in time for a juice bar lunch.

By the end of the class, I decided I didn’t like yoga. I hated how smelly everything was. (I borrowed a mat from the fitness center…never do that. It will smell like stinky feet, and sometimes your nose is right against that mat.)

But I was convinced to try one more class. The yogi in that class was calm, peaceful and noticed immediately that I needed some modification for a pose. She coached me, encouraged me to not compare myself to anyone else, that yoga was my practice and no one else’s.

I discovered that she also taught yoga at a separate yoga studio and invited me to come. The difference in environment was like night and day. My previous experience left me sore, aching, and not at all rejuvenated. I learned at the yoga studio that there are as many ways to practice yoga as there are people. If you’re interested in yoga, find a studio that allows you to come once or twice to just see how it fits your personality and your yoga needs.

Exercise and fitness centers, they should probably just stop calling it yoga and call it something like yoga aerobics. At least that way, people know what to expect.