Does Anyone Actually Like Yoga?

Runners are frequently asked, “Do you actually enjoy running?” This is a question that I never really understood. Of course we love it! Why in the hell else would we sacrifice hours, money, and toenails for the sport? Well today I took my first yoga course and I left thinking, “Does anyone actually enjoy Yoga?”

I signed up for a summer gym pass and paid the extra $25 for access to all the fitness classes at the UW rec center, mostly so that I could do morning spin classes. During my undergrad at Mizzou I completely took for granted the gym pass included in my student fees and the great list of classes that were available. Determined not to make the same mistake twice, I’ve decided to try out a bunch of the different classes at UW this summer.

This is just the indoor swimming complex at the Mizzou rec center. I didn't even know how good I had it!

This is just the indoor swimming complex at the Mizzou rec center. I didn’t even know how good I had it!

I want to try all of them this month for a few reasons, but mostly so I can avoid classes packed with 18 year olds during the “free week” where everyone tries out the gym, determined not to gain the Freshman 15. This way I can bumble my way through Zumba and Core Crunch, without feeling too ridiculous.

I jokingly blogged about becoming a yogi now that I’ve moved to Madison. Well, lo and behold, today I set off for sunrise Yoga prepared to have my life changed forever, as all those Yoga nuts proclaim. (I apologize for the sarcasm, but fitness freaks are cult-like in their devoutness. CrossFit fanatics, Marathon Maniacs – we’re all the same, we just have different addictions.)

Now let me first preface this by saying that it was a great experience and I will probably, albeit still reluctantly, be going back. So all this lamenting is really just that “I’m new, awkward, and have no idea what the hell I’m doing” phase.

The Powerflow course listing promised “45 minutes of a combination of Yoga and Pilates, with a fitness twist!” “Improve balance and increase joint flexibility!” When I read “Mats provided!” I was even ready to buy in for just two easy payments of $19.99.

The infomercial-esque claims were just that – loosely accurate but kind of a letdown. Refusing to buy into the Yoga culture just yet by buying my own mat (I’ve decided I need to go to at least 5 classes before making that investment) I showed up ready to borrow one of the gym mats. Apparently yogis are typically a max of 5’2″ because mine was heinously too short for me. Having my toes hang off during Downward Dog was just the first comical part of the experience though.

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Now here is where my question for Yoga-lovers “Do you really enjoy it?” stems from. How does anyone actually achieve the airplane stance? I felt like a doomed 747, going into a nose dive.

This is way harder than it looks. Seriously, quit laughing at me and try it. Who's laughing now?

This is way harder than it looks. Seriously, quit laughing at me and try it. Who’s laughing now?

Goddess was a pretty cool pose, but with all the mirrors I was worried I might turn into Medusa and scare myself to stone!

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But, who can really complain too much when the class ends basically with a nap on the floor as you decompress. 45 minutes later, after more lunges than I’ve done in my life and secretly disguised planks, I will be the first to admit that Child’s Pose is one I can really rally behind.

Maybe if I was doing all this Yoga on the beach like in these pictures it might be a little more enjoyable.

Maybe if I was doing all this Yoga on the beach like in these pictures it might be a little more enjoyable.

The instructor was pretty great though. After class I asked her just what she meant every time she said, “Bring your belly button to your spine” – huh?! “So, do you just mean suck it in?” She chuckled and acknowledged that was the less whimsical way of saying it.

Now that I know some of the secret Yoga language I might feel a little more comfortable during round 2. I can just hope that during Triangle pose all of the other girls in the class were feeling equally as awkward and uncomfortable as I was.

Let’s see if after a few more sessions the claims of improved balance and increased joint flexibility are actualized. I can only hope so, otherwise we’re going to be a plane wreck every time!

  • What were your first experiences with Yoga like?
  • Does it get better?
  • How long did it take before Yoga “clicked” for you and you stopped feeling ridiculous?

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Namaste.

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The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned in Madison my First 10 Days:

10. ALWAYS look out for bicyclists.

9. Keep cash for the bus, and that cute vegan coffee shop two blocks away. Hippies aren’t big fans of credit cards and consequently a lot of local shops are cash only. (Not to say all locals are hippies though!)

8. People, unfortunately, do not walk around campus doing “The Bucky.” That reminds me, I really need someone to teach me how to Bucky.


7. Willy St. is short for Williamson St. and you look like a dweeb if you don’t realize that. I was a big dweeb for the first seven days.

6. No seriously, did you check that blind spot? There is probably a bicyclist right there.

5. Midwesterners are awesome, enough said. We are the friendliest people you will ever meet, especially if you meet on the bus.

4. A balanced Wisconsin diet is composed of three primary food groups: beer, brats, and cheese. I think even the vegans find a way to make it work.

Wisconsin Food3. Think you’re safe from the bikes as a pedestrian? Think again.

2. Entertainment is cheap: walk out your door and you’re bound to find something happening within a five block radius at any given time. (Warning: it probably involves at least one of the aforementioned food groups.)

1. I really need to buy a bike. If you can’t beat em, join em!

WILD: Recommended Adventure Reading + Pre-Grad School Pep Talk

This blog has been almost entirely dedicated to race reports and travelogues up to this point. I’ve shared stories from the road from both the vantage point of my Mizunos and behind the bun of the big dog. As I begin my next life transition, to grad school, this blog is going to transition along with me.

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For those readers who are friends, family, or connected with me on Facebook you probably know that I am going to me starting my MBA at the University of Wisconsin A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research in the fall. This was a last-minute divergent from my initial plan, but one that will offer two years of incredible education, networking opportunities, and experience. With all that it delivers, this graduate program is going to demand quite a bit.

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As one of the (substantially) younger members, if not youngest, of my program and one of only four girls in a 12 person cohort, I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me to prove myself. I don’t have extensive office experience and I don’t have a business degree. My work will be cut out for me. Class hasn’t even started yet, but over the summer I am tasked with Excel formulas to understand and memorize, and accounting theories to brush up on. Faced with the competition and the curriculum, I have honestly felt a bit out of my league thinking about the coming semesters.

Anxious and intimidated as I am, I have been reading an excellent book that has been a well of confidence. Wild by Cheryl Strayed is a best seller memoir about her solo trip hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in her 20’s. This trail goes from Mexico to Canada, through mountains and deserts, and she spent many days without seeing a single other individual. I haven’t finished the book quite yet, but it has been a compelling read, both inspiring and motivating.

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In the book she talks about fear – of the trail, of the wilderness, and of failure. She writes,

“It was a deal I’d made with myself months before and the only thing that allowed me to hike alone. I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decide I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”

This paragraph struck a chord with me, about mental outlook. Choosing to take control, to have self confidence, and to trust in the preparation (or in the case lack-thereof, the determination) and continue. I am trepidatious about grad school, about hacking it in the big leagues, and excelling. BUT – I’m going to try my damnedest, and that is honestly the best I can offer.

The same attitude of “feeling the fear and doing it anyway” is applicable to running. How often are we at the start line, questioning our preparation, our shoes, or our fuel? When the gun goes off though, we gotta go!

I highly recommend this book if you want to be inspired to continue reaching toward the next goal and toward self discovery.

Do you have any recommended books to read that are also inspiring adventure memoirs?