Yoga, Part I

Expand your consciousness by becoming aware and accepting of your body and state of mind. Improve your physical health and mental stability while expanding your emotional and spiritual awareness. Get inspired to change in order to grow. Lunch time drop-in: $10.

And I thought five bucks for drop-in kayaking on Thursday nights was a good deal.

It’s true that the website for Shanti Yoga, on Hanson Street, aspires to lofty goals for all those who walk through the door. But if you’ve ever wanted to try a yoga class, don’t be intimidated; as I have learned, sometimes walking through the door can be the hardest part.

There’s a surprising number of yoga options in Whitehorse, but it was the tantalizing prospect of breaking up a Monday otherwise spent sitting at a desk and staring into the glowing abyss of a computer monitor that recently found me outside Shanti’s door before a lunchtime drop-in class.

As I stood there staring at posters boasting photos of rather bendy-looking people, the two sides of my brain waged a pitched battle:

Right brain: Don’t think. Grab the door handle. Go in. Learn something. Get out of your comfort zone.

Left brain: Sun-dried tomato turkey sandwich at the Deli.

Right brain: Sweet … I think your free sandwich card is almost full … no, wait! Carpe diem, carpe diem!

With tremendous determination (and the reassuring thought that the sandwich line at the Deli would be shorter in 45 minutes), I found myself standing inside Shanti’s pleasant and peaceful confines, welcomed warmly by instructor Jyoti Chaitanya.

I’m a big believer in the power of the beginner’s mind, but one of the most daunting challenges when you take the leap and try something new is overcoming the fear of doing something embarrassing out of ignorance for the cultural norms of whatever activity you’ve chosen.

I understood yoga to be steeped in tradition and ritual, so as I entered the studio I was especially determined to proceed carefully and not do anything stupid. I like to think I was pretty darn successful at this, but I will, however, offer the following little tidbits that may prove helpful:

1. In your haste to find the most-anonymous spot in the studio, don’t take the mat closest to the wall. If you do, a fellow participant will politely whisper that you have just taken the instructor’s mat and should probably choose another.

2. After you have sheepishly re-located to another mat, don’t sit facing the wall in the hopes of securing any lingering anonymity. If you do, the instructor will gently inform you that you should sit facing the middle of the room – sort of like everyone else is already doing.

3. If at some point during the class you find yourself lying comfortably on your belly and the instructor, in a calm reassuring voice, soothingly advises you to now arch your spine and reach back to grab hold of your ankles, you won’t be the first person to laugh out loud. That distinction belongs to me.

My first yoga class was challenging. It was fun; and yes, it was also a little humbling. The question is, did I expand my consciousness? Did my physical and mental stability improve while expanding my emotional and spiritual awareness?

Well, no.

But I wasn’t exactly asking for my 10 bucks back, either, and next week I’ll share some insights I gained from my conversation with Sabu Chaitanya, Director and Senior Instructor at Shanti, that left me hopeful that I may yet achieve these benefits.

Got a suggestion for an active pursuit that could be profiled in this column? Want to draw attention to your sporting or recreational organization? Are you staying fit in some unique way? Drop me a line and tell me about it at [email protected]