Bent Into Shape

I was born and raised in New Jersey.  Now, I am a Californian.  If I look back over the last decade I can observe some changes in behavior that might be difficult to reconcile with my younger Garden State-self.  Things like drinking wine over beer and being able to toss around adjectives like oaky, earthy and jammy without feeling self-conscious.  Like thinking about water all the time – how much I’m using and always being happy when it rains.  Things like worrying about whether local seals have a home.  It’s all part of being Californian.
Now comes a biggie – when it comes to exercise, I’ve always been drawn to competition – because let’s face it, competition is fun.   Even running becomes sort of a “can I beat my pace the last time I ran here” self-competition.  But this month the Beloved and I decided to take a class together that we thought would help us both.
That class?  Yoga.
Now, as a scientist, I’ve always looked a little askance at yoga.  It’s a little too… too… how shall I say it?  Practiced by people with names like Crystal Love Prism.  But the Beloved had taken it in Santa Fe (chakra capital of the US), and had gotten a lot out of it, and I'm not as young and limber as I used to be, so I decided to give it a whirl.

On our way to our first class, I was trying to think about what our instructor would be like.  Would it be some ropey Indian guy that looks at me with my Western diet-induced physique with a barely concealed sneer?  Would it be a dopey but perky super-fit girl that tries to get me to channel Inner Light through my Third-Eye Chakra or some other such nonsense?
Nope – in walks a very reserved and twinkly little-old-lady type.  Instantly, I think – “Miss Marple is going to be teaching me yoga?”  Seriously?  What a joke, right? – and then mentioned she’s been doing this for 40 years and proceeded to twist herself into a pretzel such that she made my muscles ache just watching her.

Alright then, Marple it is.  I have to say, it’s been sort of fun.  The classes are pretty long – 90 minutes – and cover a wide range of balancing, stretching and twisting poses.  Some of which I am better at doing than others (and in the spirit of yoga I’m trying not to think about “beating” the people around me… not that I can… yet… okay let it go…).  The last 20 minutes of each class are devoted to “deep relaxation” – which I am really good at, though.

All in all, so far the Golden Energy Channeling is kept to a minimum and the using muscles you forgot you had is maximized.  Each time I leave I feel an interesting combination of having exercised but feeling “loose”.  Good stuff.

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25 thoughts on “Bent Into Shape

  1. Yoga is cool. Downward dog is my favorite pose. Even if you never can 'twist yourself into a pretzel' which isn't the point of yoga anyway, you're doing good things for yourself. Namaste.

  2. If you'd allow me to make a prediction, Steve, you will arrive back here in a month and swear this is one of the best things you've ever done for yourself. If the instructor is any good.
    I was sooo sick of people saying how "transformative" yoga would be, but let me tell you, I can't live without it now. I still need to do hardcore cardiovascular exercise (to stay sane and not grumpy) – but yoga complements that perfectly.
    I use Yoga Zone – most classes I've been to are not yoga, but rather glorified stretching in the guise of yoga. I hope Miss Marple is the real thiing, sounds like she may be. Great luck on this venture. You'll love it.

  3. Well, this scientist had to admit a few years ago that the only thing that actually keeps my recurring repetitive strain injury from flaring up is yoga. Not the stretches and exercises the doctor and physical therapists gave me. Yoga.I don't think it has anything to do with chakras, though. My hypothesis is that it is the all-body nature of the stretches I get from the poses.

  4. I have been trying for several weeks/months to go to the Beginning yoga class at the gym. I'm a bit intimidated by group exercise, especially Yoga where certain protocols happen that I would not be aware.

  5. Good for you for trying something new. (Just remember, don't let your competitive side overtake you in yoga… might lead to an injury!). I really love yoga — particularly the breath work. I am also not sure about some of the more…esoteric? aspects, but I definitely believe that there is a mind-body connection, and yoga helps me understand it better. The breathing really makes my body feel better, and makes me feel calmer, more refreshed, and more in control. It's such a destress. If you ever want to try some different classes on a one-off basis, I recommend Yoga Swami in Encinitas. It's donation-based, so you just pay whatever you feel you can/should pay for each class. And, it's in a yurt. A comfy, warm one.

  6. I've had some hippie-dippie yoga teachers, but never had a class where the teacher goes into the, uh, more questionable aspects of yoga. For the most part, they almost always focus way more on the benefits of the stretching/breathing to the muscles and organs being engaged, which I appreciate. I love stretching, and feel almost like a new person when I do yoga.

  7. I love the part about what your instructor looked like, and what you consider a "typical yoga name," LOL!! Actually, I have done yoga at home, using a yoga DVD and it is quite a workout. To watch it, one would think it was going to be a piece of cake. Ha. That is until you wake up the next day and those muscles you were referring to, that are rarely used, are aching and sore! I love the part at the end when it is about relaxation. I think I would enjoy a class quite a bit, if my circumstance were different.

  8. Yeah, I do yoga every morning now, have about a 25 minute routine that never varies, and makes me feel better DURING and all day too. Totally know what you mean about Crystal Love Prism, though. She turns smart people off from good things. And, you know, yoga started that way – a thousand years ago people thought anything that worked that well must be holy, which today means 'spiritual' (gag me with a spoon). But it's just a really good and effective exercise, and you're not going to fall off it and break your leg or whatever.

  9. Tis good stuff. If not for the simple fact you become more limber, which will serve you well in your golden years. "Oaky, earthy and jammy"…LOL! I love it. What is jammy? Sticky? I love some of the adj here too: wonky (something in the realm of machinery or the like is being uncooperative), manky (stinky, filthy), poncy (materialistic, snobby, or expensive just to be expensive, like designer clothes), bolshy (aggressive in a cute way, like an opinionated rabbit), narky (grumpy).

  10. Emmi — yeah, I'm hesitant to get into hyperbole about how good it has been for me, but I've really enjoyed it and can notice changes even in a month to my overall flexibility. I find myself concentrating on my breathing while doing day-to-day things too.

  11. Mel — I do think the whole body aspect (including the mental discipline/focus) is really good. I also really like that I'm working out muscles that don't see a lot of activity if they're not involved in tennis.

  12. Katie — I remember when i was younger a friend and I went to an aerobics class and I felt like a dancing bear — I never went back! This, however, has been much better — not that I'm really very good, but you do get the sense that it's a pretty welcoming environment. :)

  13. EGB — it's funny — I've done very little stretching over the years — maybe just a little before running or tennis, but not much at all. It's remarkable to feel the use of muscles that have been fairly ignored. I like the balancing ones.

  14. Freedom — HAH!! It might be a LONG time before you get to see the "Steve Betz Instructional Yoga" series of posts… :) but I will say it's been very fun to learn and appreciate that it's a lot more of a workout than you think it's going to be. And while still in the minority, there's usually at least one other guy in the class.

  15. Mark — how cool! Glad to know I don't lose my scientist cred for trying it! I do appreciate the mental focus aspect of it too — (like when I'm trying to balance) — when I'm finished I have that weird combo of tired/refreshed that I don't think I've experienced with any other form of exercise.

  16. I know I sound pretentious saying this (ahem..being from the country that started yoga..), I swear by Yoga. Every time I find a slight bulge around the problem spots (read: tummy), I do two weeks of 12 Suryanamaskar cycles and voila..where was that bulge?It is supposed to calm the mind as well..but THAT I am yet to experience, so I tend to think of it as marketing hyperbole.

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