I’ll just come out and say it: I’m a yoga virgin.
Most people don’t believe me when I tell them. “At your age?!” they ask, incredulously. Then they look me up and down, trying to figure out which of my limbs is a prosthesis, since a serious handicap is the only explanation they can think of for my shocking secret.
Usually I try to make up excuses for myself before quickly changing the subject: I just haven’t found that special yoga teacher yet; I spent my college days at poetry slams while the other kids were experimenting with Bikram; I’m choosing to abstain from physical and mental enlightenment.
Sure, all of my friends were doing it, but I’m not one to give in to peer pressure.
But when I moved to Boulder a few weeks ago, I quickly came to the realization that a girl can’t hang on to her yoga virginity for very long in this town. I can’t step out of my front door without seeing someone toting a yoga mat under her arm, and it seems like every other car sports a bumper sticker that says something like “My Other Car is a Yoga Mat,” “Real Men Do Yoga,” or (my favorite) “Namaste, Bitches.”
Surrendering to the realization that sooner or later I would end up on a yoga mat, I decided that it would, at least, happen on my own terms. So I donned what I hoped would be yoga-appropriate clothing and set out to a nearby class.
As I clumsily unrolled my borrowed mat, I wondered if my fellow yoga-goers could tell it was my first time.
The experience started out well enough. I was pleasantly surprised to find that a number of taboos that are normally considered egregious offenses outside of the yoga studio are completely commonplace when you’re on a mat. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy the right to be barefoot in public, and pass gas with impunity whenever the urge arises?
But just when I was smugly beginning to think that I fit in quite nicely with the yoga crowd, we moved into a new set of poses and it became overwhelmingly clear that there is much more to yoga than stretching and breathing.
The deceptively simple poses with which we had begun the class had evolved and expanded into much more complicated asanas that seemed to require a will of steel and the ability to manipulate gravity in order to perform them correctly.
More than once, I chuckled at what I assumed was a joke that the instructor was making, only to discover it was the name of our next pose (doesn’t Cat Cow sound more like the name of a viral YouTube video than a spinal stretch to you?).
After an hour and a half, the class finally ended and I began making my way home (quite a feat considering the fact that my legs felt like they had been replaced with strings of al dente spaghetti.) As I walked, I tried to take a personal inventory of my post-yoga thoughts and feelings. Did I feel different, now that the deed had finally been done? Given the fact that I could have sworn I had felt my hip pop out of its socket during the Pigeon Pose, I was surprised to realize that I actually felt really good. It felt as though every one of my muscles had been put to work and was now settling back into its place in my body.
Maybe there is something to this yoga stuff after all.
As I walked back to my apartment, I tried to radiate my feelings of satisfaction and relaxation to other pedestrians I passed. In my yoga-induced stupor I even convinced myself that one woman responded with a grateful look (of course, given my glassy eyes and wanly serene smile, she probably assumed I was high and was conveying wary caution instead of gratitude with her glance).
My first time wasn’t at all what I expected it would be, but despite some seriously sore muscles and a slightly bruised ego, I’m excited to go back next week.
Besides, from what I hear, it gets better every time.
Chloe Chatenever lives in Boulder, CO where she is interning with elephantjournal.com and Sweet Letter Press. She is a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz where she earned her Bachelor’s in Modern Literary Studies. She likes to spend her free time traveling, singing in her car, and playing board games. She also thinks penguins are pretty cool.