A New Love

I love to learn.  This might be why I occasionally love to teach, too.  I also love a good deal.  This might be proof that I'm Armenian.

Thus, I purchased a Groupon awhile back for a month of yoga classes at Charm City Yoga (turn volume down if exploring that link!) which has four locations around Baltimore; I got to six classes in a month, most with my friend Jamie, and I'm sad to know it will end tonight.

As I drove home from class, I reflected on some of the things I love about yoga, none of which I could have predicted until I tried it.  From least to most important:

1. It's a great workout. Anyone who thinks it's simply stretching is woefully misinformed.  I left my first Vinyasa class drenched in sweat and was sore for several days afterward.

2. It leaves you feeling peaceful. As much as I loved running and hated to give it up, I never liked the way I felt afterwards: tense.  Yes, I got a nice feeling of exhaustion and a rush from the endorphins, but my neck and shoulders were always tight, and my feet hurt, even before I developed plantar fasciitis.  When you leave a yoga class, you feel tired, but very peaceful; more flexible, more open.

3. It's centering. I know I have shared this Tolstoy story before, but in case you haven't read it, please do; it explains so much of what I hate about modern life.  I feel we are always looking back, with nostalgia and relief, or forward, with anticipation and dread.  We try to accomplish so much at once that we rarely take the time to ground ourselves in the beauty of the present moment.  Yoga forces you to do this: you concentrate on your breath, your body, the room you're in, the presence of others, the voice of your instructor -- all the visceral and tangible signs of the world around you.  You have to pay attention and be present.

4. It's deeply spiritual. I have always thought Orthodoxy had much in common with other Eastern religions, and I have found yoga to be very much in line with its tenets.  At the beginning of each session you set an intention, a prayer -- something you lift up and ask for throughout the practice, either physical or spiritual.  As I breathe, I say the Jesus Prayer. I often find myself praying for others in the class, for the instructor, and for myself: as my body grows stronger, I pray that my faith will, too.

So.  Yoga.  Who knew?  This is why learning is such an amazing thing.