July Feature: The First of Thirty / Thirsty Days

Love Backbends

First few classes down, plenty more to go!

I’m a sucker for panicking when I’m taking part in an activity I’ve never done before. Over the years, I’ve discovered that jumping in at the deep end is the best ways for me to avoid said panic. Hence why I took on a challenge that sees me doing yoga every day for the month of July. “Never done it before, let’s do it every day!” It’s like ripping a plaster off – or getting a job in a call centre when you have a slight phobia of phones, which I did at 17. Quickly got over that, and I’m very quickly falling in love with yoga!

Feeling The Fear And Doing It Anyway?

As I mentioned in my first article, I get very anxious at times. Fortunately I’m getting better at overcoming my tendency to over-analyse, and power through instead. Walking to Yotopia through Covent Garden on the way to my first class, those familiar feelings of anxiety certainly started to bubble up – sometimes it’s hardcore panic, other times it’s more subtle. This time it kinda felt like the beginning of a hypo (I’m Type 1 diabetic), which was a new one. Nonetheless I took a deep breath, got changed and took the plunge!

A similar thing happened when I first signed up to a gym. I’d done nothing but sneak my brother’s weights occasionally, or manage sit and press-ups for a week before I grew tired of it. The anxiety trigger for that was forgetting my towel. That was enough — full-blown palpitations which my poor friend who was going with me will likely remember vividly.

The good thing about the booking system at a yoga studio is that it’s a set time. I have to get up and go to the studio at that specific time, end of story. It’s much easier for me to back out of something if it’s purely self-motivated. If you’re looking to start yourself, I’d definitely recommend a class. Here’s hoping the regime will inspire me to get back to the gym as well…

First Impressions Of Yoga Class

The first few classes have been very interesting. Mostly, I’m surprised how much I’ve learned about my body in just a few sessions. How you hold yourself, how it affects the structure, which movements stretch which muscles. I’ve been told I have weak feet and very tight hamstrings — the latter I was already very much aware of! It’s everything Poppy wrote about in her ‘Why try yoga?‘ article, but it’s something I could only truly appreciate after getting stuck in and doing it for myself.

[SIDE NOTE: If you’re doing the challenge with me, keep an eye out for Poppy’s motivational articles that will accompany mine every week this month!]

Another point of interest for me was everyone’s different body types come with different challenges. In one class, there was a girl who has hyper-flexibility so, for example, her elbows go beyond straight and bend backwards slightly. I quite clearly do not have that – I had to sit on not one, but two blocks to be able to sit cross-legged. Even then I lost feeling in my right leg after a couple minutes. While she clearly had no trouble sitting cross-legged, there are other challenges she’ll struggle with more than me — like strengthening or balance.

Apart from Joshua, the editor (who came with me on day one for moral support), I’ve been the only guy in my classes. I’ve seen a few passing in the hall, but it’s just been the girls and me so far! I do know a couple guys that have signed up for the challenge, but it seems wildly disproportionate. The guys at Ohmme were telling me that this is pretty common, and that’s one of the reasons they’re starting to make yoga clothes specifically for men. Let’s hear it for the boys!

What I’ve Learned This Week…

One of the first things I noticed was the simple task of breathing. Not something you think you could forget to do, but there I was trying to make sure I was in the right position and maintaining balance and suddenly I’m realising that a little oxygen would sure help matters.

Second was sweat. I sweat at the best of times. My mum used to call me Toast, as my hands would always be warm no matter the temperature. As if working in this postures wasn’t effective enough, add this heat wave we’re having and I’m dripping. My palms seem to be the main sweat outlet, so even with a towel it’s hard not to slip and slide in downward dog! I’ve yet to have my first hot yoga class, so stay tuned to see how that one works out. At the very least it’s making sure I stay hydrated!

It’s still early days, but I’m coming out with a positive mind, and the slight aches are showing me where I most need to work on. I’m still in my head too much, or so I think. I’m looking forward to knowing the poses better, so I can spend less time spot checking myself: “Tuck your hips, keep your elbows close, relax your shoulders…” I’m looking forward to when the little things come more naturally and I can really get the most of each session.

My Thoughts So Far

I think the nicest thing I’ve learned to date has been ‘Namaste’: something I’d heard hundreds of times before, but never really known what it meant. I’d mostly been focusing on the physical aspects of yoga, which I guess is natural. With my thoughts there, I’ve not really had the time to really think about the mental aspects of the practice — meditation is something I’ve only tried briefly when I felt I was struggling. Maybe once my limbs know what they’re doing my brain can follow suit?

Keep a look out for my next post to see how I get on with hot yoga, and try my hand (and weak feet!) at more variations.

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