Author: URMND Editor In-Chief Ryan Brown
Before entering the Honest Soul Yoga Studio with a yoga mat in hand, I embraced my friend of 11 years and licensed social worker Jane Rolander. She is a giant ball of positive energy and happened to be tickled that I was doing her twice a week ritual with her. She took a step back to read my facial expressions.
"Are you ready?" she asked.
"I'm nervous, but ready," I told her with a laugh.
It was 4:15pm on a Friday afternoon about three hours before we were scheduled to record the URMND podcast. Jane a week prior asked me to join her for her scheduled class and then we could wind down at her place before recording. I was definitely eager in the moment when she asked, but when the day actually came, I did not know what to expect. This would be my first time stepping foot in a yoga studio of any kind and Mrs. Rolander signed us up for the strenuous hour-long “detox” class. The poses were harder, you hold the poses a little longer and the room was a moderate 85 degrees. I was warned beforehand of the body fluids I was going to lose and to sip water instead of my usual beer-style chugging.
I walked into the chilly lobby and was greeted by the receptionist and the yoga instructor herself both beaming at me because they knew I was new and slightly uncomfortable.
“HI EVERYONE. I BROUGHT A FRIENDDDDDDD!” Jane bellowed in the lobby as I tried to bury my head in the iPad consent forms from the receptionist. After filling out the forms, Jane showed me around and took me to the bins to put my items.
“I know this goes without saying, but no phones in the studio,” she warned. I threw my phone in the bin as well. Walking into the dimly-lit studio with wood paneling, purple motivational script on the walls and slightly uncomfortable temperature, I can definitely say this: I have never been more intimidated by women in my entire life.
If this was somewhat a beginner class it did not show. All the participants were doing poses and stretches I know I could not do in my most athletic days (and this is before the yoga instructor took over). I would be one of three men in the class and definitely the only bearded black one in a room filled with 20 to 50 year old white women.
“Remember sip the water, do not chug,” Jane explained as she rolled her mat on the floor. “If there are some poses which you can not reach the floor, use the foam blocks for support. The pillow is for the cool down period at the end. Take your time. I fall all the time so don’t worry about falling or looking bad. We’re both tall people.”
After some strenuous stretching, we jumped right into action. A couple downward facing dogs, a few extended side angle poses and a bunch of extended lunges later there was something that I immediately realized: This shit is hard.
Holding your body weight in poses for an extended period of time felt similar to lifting weights. You are putting so much pressure on certain joints and muscles that it was only getting harder the longer you do it. The yoga instructor would ask for five more seconds and it felt like 45.
“Her count is way more slow than usual,” Jane whispered to me as we switched poses.
“She’s doing this to punish my new ass,” I whispered back as I wipe my soaked brow for the millionth time.
I was completely drenched half way into the class. I created a new personal game for myself for when I was in a pose for an extended period of time. I would count how many sweat drops would hit the floor before changing poses. My personal high that session was fourteen. Fourteen sweat drops in what had to be a one minute pose. I took a look around and watched somebody’s mother barely breaking a sweat and perfectly angled in the requested pose as I felt my forearms occasionally wobble and wanting to give out in the same one.
Something else I realized as well, my breathing was way too inconsistent. This was something I realized I did in high school when I was in the gym almost daily for football. I would go a whole heavy set without breathing and this was no different. Every time we switched poses I felt out of breath. I heard the yoga instructor mention to constantly breath, but it felt like my brain was not registering the request until I was almost about to pass out.
Even though it was hard and the room was warmer than I expected (I didn’t ask for fucking bikram Miss Yoga Instructor), I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Having a long time friend in the mix made the whole situation way more comfortable. As intimidated as I was, all the participants were supportive and fun. Even during the wind down period as everyone was laying down on their backs with the lights off and soft pop music playing, I sat there for a few minutes and meditated indian-style for mental health purposes like the fake yogi I was.
“You did a great job for your first time,” the yoga instructor whispered to me.
“You should absolutely come back and join us more often.”
“Maybe I will,” I whispered back.