As an un-athletic introvert, group fitness sits pretty high on my list of intimidating social situations.
But even so, I finally attended my first yoga class at a fancy, private studio. I was recently visiting a friend who had a baby two months ago. As soon as she got the go-ahead from her doctor, she was back on the treadmill and finding other ways to ways to take care of herself physically. Yoga, of course, is a great option—but it’s also intimidating.
My stay coincided with her weekly class, so I pulled on black spandex and accompanied her. The studio itself was exactly how I imagined it would be: chic wood floors in a dusty shade of gray, dim lights, candles lining the wall of windows. The lobby had orange-infused water and a rack of intricate yoga tops. I was by far the least fancy part of this equation, but pulled out my mat and body strap like the pro I was pretending to be.
As the class went on, I realized I both loved and hated some parts of it—but not in the ways I had expected. Here’s my insider take on the hour-long class.
What I loved:
The class was an “all-level” flow class, which means that it would be suitable for human pretzels and people like me. I assumed this would be too easy to work up a sweat or feel any kind of burn, but the night’s theme was opening your chest space and strengthening your core. This meant that while I was moving slowly and often in easy poses, the instructor worked in non-physically demanding motions that still made gave my abs a good burn.
Not being afraid of how I looked
Surprisingly, I wasn’t concerned with looking like the newbie. I assumed I would feel awkward next to lifetime yoginis who knew each position by name. But everyone faced forward, so from the back, it didn’t feel like I was being judged by how quickly I got into position.
The group aspect
I know, this is surprising. Rather than feel insecure, going through the motions—or “the practice”—next to other women gave me a strange sense of confidence. If I’m running on the treadmill with no one beside me, it’s easier to slack off. But if I’m keeping up with a group’s pace, a new sense of competition creeps into my very small muscles. Because of this, I maximized the workout and felt stronger than I did before coming in.
What I hated:
The zen talk
I expected to appreciate the instructor’s smooth guidance with anecdotes about how the movement tied into my life. Instead, I found it awkward to try and force those thoughts. So while I was completely on board with feeling the things she described on a physical level, I couldn’t internalize the rationale.
Keeping my eyes closed
As a non-pro, I need to see what’s happening to get a hang of the ropes. Each time the instructor breezed by, she would passively say to the entire class to close our eyes even though she really just meant me. Closing my eyes made me feel insecure and disconnected from the physical movements, even at the end when we just laid flat. At this point, I was given a green tea-scented bean bag for my eyes, which just made me feel like a hostage told to lie still.
Not being touched enough
The instructor walked around the room to correct, adjust, and push each person’s position as necessary. I hoped to be ignored, but actually loved having the one-on-one attention. It made me feel as if I were getting a personal lesson tailored to my physical needs, rather than being picked on for my lack of skill. But alas, the class was full so sometimes I felt abandoned when I had no idea how to create the motion being described.
My general consensus? Yoga is a go. The most intimidating part was watching everyone trickle in and take their seats, but once things got started that tension melted away with all my other assumptions.