This Is What Happened When I Yoga’d Three Times a Week
I’ve loved yoga since I took my first class when I was a freshman in high school, but I have never been a consistent attendee. I haven’t belonged to one studio, paid for a membership, or committed to a certain number of classes a week for more than a few months. I have been in and out of studios since I was fourteen, always searching for my ideal studio/class/instructor, always to no avail.
After experiencing my fair share of classes, I know what my ideal class looks like. I’ve learned that the music has to include chanting, Buddhist drums and bells, and Hindu music. Too often I’ve attended classes where instructors tried to get away with a playlist that consisted of Coldplay, John Mayer, or even The Lion King soundtrack. When I’m familiar with the song or there are lyrics playing, it’s too difficult for me to get out of my own head and focus.
I hate hot yoga (bikram) with literally a burning passion. It’s not my thing; it’s some people’s but not mine.
While in shavasana, I love when oils are used to massage my head. A brief massage, maybe 15 seconds or so, is a luxurious feature that adds something extra to the practice. If shavasana takes me to a 90%, a 15-second oil massage performed on your forehead takes me to 110%.
Other features I take into consideration are: use of incense, the vibe and decoration of the space, the availability of equipment, and of course, the instructor. These things, combined with music, workout quality, devotion of the teacher, and the time dedicated to end-of-class meditation come together to form my perfect practice.
On Thanksgiving break, I attended my sister’s bi-weekly bikram class with her. (Sissy, don’t say I didn’t ever do anything for you.) As I left, I didn’t focus my mind on the fact that I was overheated or the amount of sweat dripping between my bra. Instead, I focused on the huge hole in my life I hadn’t realized existed until now. I need to start practicing again. Let’s face it, half-heartedly promising myself I’m going to commit to using my Yoga app once a week on my iPad, it just wasn’t working. I hadn’t used it in months.
So, I did extensive research on all of the yoga studios in Hoboken and then signed up for Devotion Yoga’s free week pass. I decided to commit to as many yoga classes as I could in one week and see how it transformed my life, changed my mind, body, and spirit. I went from doing yoga zero times a week to three times a week and this is what happened.
My first introduction to the studio was Flow & Let Go with Kate, the 8 o’clock class on Monday. I arrived at the building, unsure of where to go. But then a flowery poster with a picture of Buddha caught my eye and I ascended the stairs, following the arrows that lead to Devotion. The building is gorgeous and more importantly, the ambiance is serene.
I walked in, notified the women at the desk that it was my first class and I was a trial, and they were both very helpful. I completed the necessary paper work and then stowed away my stuff in a cubby. For the first class, Kate said we each needed two blankets, a bolster, and two foam blocks. Before we began, Kate asked me if I ever did Restorative Yoga before.
“Like flow yoga? Yes.”
No, not like flow yoga. Apparently, this class was 30 minutes flow yoga, 30 minutes restorative yoga. Restorative means you specifically focus on breathing exercises while staying in poses that promote mindfulness. This was new to me. It threw me right off my “I’ve been doing yoga for years,” high horse.
I gathered up the necessary equipment and by glancing around the room – a wide open space accented with three huge windows which overlooked the Financial District of Manhattan – I knew I was going to rate this place an A+ for ambiance and space. At the front of the room is a fireplace-like construct where a statue of an elephant guru, as well as a few pictures lay. Atop the fireplace, there were some lit incense. A calm fell over me and instantly, my shoulders let loose.
First, we talked about how November was the month of gratitude. She asked us to set an intention; She asked us to be grateful for ourselves. She talked about self-care and how important it is and how we should show ourselves gratitude for taking an hour out of our busy schedules to focus and cultivate the mind and body. Yes, I thought. This is why I am here! It’s time to get back to my self-care.
The first half hour was the perfect mix of intensity, stretching, and flow yoga. I never felt like I was doing too much work, though there were several times I should have listened to my body and opted for child’s pose instead of downward dog. My mind calmed.
The second half hour, the lights were dimmed and we used the blanket, two foam blocks, and the bolster to fashion a kind of make-shift couch. At first, as I lay on my right side in the dark, it felt a little silly to be propped up that way. But soon, that faded and it was like a version of shavasana. We switched onto our left sides. Then we dedicated 15 more minutes to traditional shavasana. I propped my head up on a bolster and cover myself with a blanket while the instructor, rubbed oil into my face, adjusted my shoulders and back, then lightly massaged my forehead.
It. Was. Great.
I left feeling rejuvenated. I left thinking great, positive things. I left genuinely excited to write this blog post. I left restored and ready for my life, ready to take care of myself and be gentle to myself again. Most importantly, I left wanting to come back, wanting to try another class to see what range of practices the studio offered. I started to think on my brisk walk home, I can see myself belonging to this studio and being a part of its community. I can see myself doing this three times a week, every week.
Since I had a prior commitment on Tuesday, I had to wait an extra day to make it to my second class. But the day-long break only made me more excited for my next class. I spent Tuesday (and all of Wednesday during the day) dreaming about class.
This time, I attended the 6:30 pm Bhakti Yoga class with Kim. This time, the room was divided into two separate sections, with the middle section left bare, save for Kim’s yoga mat, her journal, and of course, her. The two sections of the room both faced toward the middle, so we were facing the instructor, and also, each other.
We kicked off the class by talking about Generosity, which is the theme for the entire month of December. Kim told an anecdote about how she met a woman that day who devoted the past three years of her life to caring for her husband, who has been in a coma that long. She said how generous is that? How can we plan to be generous this month? And what will practicing that generosity give us? She said that was our homework, to find an area of our personal lives in which we could be generous.
There was no music. As an instructor, Kim was very attentive and helped people to reap the benefits of the poses and made sure they were doing them correctly. (She even came over to help me perfect my downward dog; a pose I struggle with, despite it being so central to practice.)
There was a lot of stretching and twists. We ended with about 10 minutes of shavasana – no music, no oils, no frills, just the darkness and our minds.
All in all, it was a very positive practice. It lacked some of the key elements that make up my ideal class (like music, oils, massage, and a heavy concentration on breathing) but it’s important to switch it up. I don’t want to attend the same yoga class three times a week. A higher-intensity class that has a different vibe and intention is crucial to avoiding boredom and also shocking the muscles.
By this point, I am so ready to get on that mat and work things out. For my third class, I went to Bhakti Flow where we kicked things off by talking about what being generous truly means. Bhakti Flow is described as a “moderately paced class” but I left feeling as though I got my butt kicked. That’s probably because I gravitate to more relaxing, restorative classes. I think it’d be great to integrate a butt-kicker of a class into my weekly yoga routine.
Admittedly, I was working through a cold so I found it difficult to breathe deeply without coughing. (It hurt and I also didn’t want to interrupt anyone else’s practice.) If I hadn’t come down with a cold, I think I would have felt way better walking out of the studio. But if I’m being honest, some practices are better than others. Some outcomes are better than others once you roll up the mat. It doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t worth it. Doing the work is what matters whether it was easy or hard work.
So this is what happened…
What happened was – and I’m not trying to be dramatic here – but my life changed. I immediately signed up for a membership. I committed myself to at least three classes a week. I have been trying out different classes each time, save for Kate’s Monday class, because I’m not willing to give that up. It’s a great, restorative way to kick off my week. I need that time; I now crave that time and if I miss it, I physically manifest that loss.
I’m so happy that I challenged myself with this because I feel like a much healthier and happier person. Most importantly, my mind is healthier. I feel myself living in a positive space and that’s something I definitely needed to do for myself. Especially around this time of year, it’s easy to fall into bad habits. I’m glad that I love myself enough to let myself fall into a good habit this December.
Are you a frequent yogi? I would love to know the makeup of your ideal class!