Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tips for the yoga n00b

or: I went to yoga four days in a row and now I think I might die.

Yoga: yes or no? Do we like it? I think I like it. I was sucked in by a special deal from a new yoga studio where you pay $20 and can attend as many classes as you like for the next 20 days. Because I am a cheapskate and like to get value for money, I was going to attend ALL OF THEM, WOO-HOO! Then it turned out there are something like 15 classes a day, so I lowered my expectations. But probably not lowly enough.

And now I have questions for any experienced yogis among you:

Am I meant to feel like this? By "this", I mean: after each class I feel like I'm going to throw up. I get a pounding headache, which sometimes starts during the class. And I am incapable of doing anything else all evening except lying on the couch shaking. I have tried drinking more water, drinking less water, eating beforehand, not eating beforehand, pushing myself in class, taking it easy in class: it all makes no difference. Is it just an adjustment period? Is it the heat? (The room is set to 32 C (90 F)). And if anyone starts in with "elimination of toxins" I want peer-reviewed citations from medical journals.

Why is downward-facing dog so hard? The teacher keeps saying it is a relaxing posture. I disagree. It is an arm-trembling, shoulder-cramping, blood-rushing-to-the-head posture. Am I doing it wrong? Are there ways to make it easier? And as for raising a leg, ha ha ha, don't even think about it.

Holding my arms in the air for minutes on end, no matter what the posture is. It ****ing hurts. Let's just not, okay?

I'm pretty sure none of these can be a strength issue, because I'm pretty strong. I have almost no flexibility and (clearly) no stamina, though, so I guess that's the problem.

How long until it gets easier?


Anonymous said...

I don't do hot yoga, but I do yoga at home (which I'm getting ready to transfer to a class).
I find that I'm invigorated after 45 minutes. Downward facing dog isn't hard for me, but I'm not coordinated to do triangle, so maybe it's a heat thing?

Geekman said...

Your chakras are tangled. Massage your aura. Oh, and aligning yourself with local ley lines may help.

The History Enthusiast said...

I've never done bikram yoga (what we call hot yoga here), so I don't know if that's normal. Maybe you could ask the instructor if that is normal for newbies!

I agree with you on downward dog, though! It is my least favorite pose and of course we do it over, and over, and over. The triangle is super easy for me, so I guess it depends on the person and their unique flexibility.

Bardiac said...

It sounds like it's a heat thing. Is that a new way to do yoga now? Is there an option to do classes at a lower room temp?

(Biking is WAY harder for me at 90F than at 70F.)

Are you sweating lots? (You must be?) Are you replacing electrolytes?

How long is the class? If over an hour, maybe try a quick snack? (If you're drinking, you could put something with calories in your drink, or use one of those gels, sports beans, etc.) After an hour, most of us have used up our stored energy, so something with easily digested calories might help.

We've exhausted my knowledge of feeling sick from exercising. Hope it gets better for you!

(Have you talked to the instructor?)

StyleyGeek said...

Thanks for the suggestions (except for Geekman's :) ). It's not Bikram yoga, actually - it's "power yoga", which is basically Ashtanga. The room is not as hot as it would be for Bikram yoga, although it's plenty hot enough for me! All the classes at this studio are in the heated room, so there isn't any choice about this. And I do feel like the heat helps with flexibility. Also, given it's the middle of winter here, it's lovely and cosy to walk into from the outside at first, and a big part of my motivation for going!

Yes, I am sweating lots. I'm not replacing electrolytes: I always assumed sports drinks and so on were a bit of a scam for shortish workouts (an hour or so), but I guess it wouldn't hurt to try it... The classes are 75 or 90 minutes, depending on the time of day.

I did talk to the instructor, which is where I got the "your body is eliminating toxins" bullshit. But she seems the woo-woo-est out of all the instructors, so I might ask one of the others next time.

I was amused to see the difference between sciencegeeka's and the history enthusiast's response. I guess everyone's flexibility really is different!

The History Enthusiast said...

Ahhhh, that makes sense. I wondered what the difference was between Bikram and Ashtanga.

My friend that does Bikram said that it took her a while to get used to it--she was very tired, etc.--but it seems like she bounced out of it without trembling fits, etc. Asking another instructor sounds like a good plan.

StyleyGeek said...

Actually I don't think Ashtanga is always done hot, either. I think this studio is just special :) I think the main thing about Ashtanga yoga is the idea of a "flowing movement" from one posture to the next, and always doing the same sequence. But I don't know anything about Bikram apart from the heat thing.

LJB said...

Sounds like power yoga in a hot room is a bit too much for you at the moment, I would do some Hatha until the downward dog doesn't hurt anymore (it actually IS a very relaxing pose :).

Nicola said...

I did Ashtanga once for some months at normal temperatures, and I never felt as you describe - I always felt (though I cringe to say it) centred, calm and relaxed afterwards.

I *hated* downward-facing dog, though. Absolutely couldn't stand it.

Yoga does get easier from the point of view of going through the postures. At the beginning, I could only manage bad approximations of them and was sweating profusely from the attempts. My flexibility increased markedly as the weeks progressed.

I think a headache like that is a bad sign. Yoga isn't meant to be about forcing yourself - and I wouldn't force yourself to do it if it induces a headache like that every time.

StyleyGeek said...

Oh well, it's this or nothing, since I'm not doing it because I decided I want to do yoga: I'm doing it because I paid my $20 and want my money's worth. I'm hoping my 20 days will kickstart some flexibility and then I can keep it up by stretching at home. I don't intend to keep on paying there or anywhere for classes at the end of the 20 day period.

I'll try drinking something with electrolytes, and keep at it for a few more sessions, but will give it up if things don't improve.

Kate said...

90 is still hot even if it's not technically bikram! You need electrolytes and to drink before, during and after. And probably giving yourself one or two rest days a week would be a good idea :).

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

I think the heat would have that effect on me too - although one of my instructors insisted that 85 was about the ideal temp for most yoga, anything over 80 is really uncomfortable for me. I hated downward dog at first, until I built up more upper-body strength (and I was fairly strong to begin with), and now it really does feel centering and relaxing.

And I'd echo previous comments about individual variation - in every class I've ever done (several different ones w/different instructors), there are positions that are easy for me that everyone else struggles with, and some that I can't imagine doing that seem easy for everyone else, so I think there's a lot of range of individual difference there.

I think the physical challenges will ease up after maybe two weeks, but bottom line is whether you're enjoying it or not.

Bardiac said...

Maybe think about a recovery drink (milk chocolate gets high reviews among bikers), something that's liquid, has protein and carbs.

I hope something helps!

The History Enthusiast said...

If you just want to do yoga at home, there is an app for iTouch or iPhone called Yoga Stretch that walks you through the poses. It is either free or cheap (can't remember). There's a Yoga Relax version too.

StyleyGeek said...

Thanks, guys! I took a rest day yesterday, and discovered that I've actually come down with a cold or something. So maybe that was why I was feeling crappy earlier, not just the yoga.

I meant to say that I am actually enjoying it as well. I don't think I mentioned any of the good stuff. (Oops). But I feel like I'm getting more flexible, and even outside of yoga, feel more graceful and somehow aware of my body. I used to feel like this when I did dancing, so it's a welcome reminder.

I also enjoy the floppy feeling afterwards - it reminds me of how I feel after using a sauna, or after a massage.

So I think I'll keep it up for another week and see if electrolytes, maybe protein or something afterwards, and not having a cold(!) help.

Bardiac said...

Hey Styley, just wondering how you're feeling? Have you given it another try? What did you try, and did it work?

StyleyGeek said...

Hey Bardiac, thanks for asking.

I have tried three things: first, not having a cold :) second: drinking a sports drink during long sessions; third: going to the 60 minute classes instead of the 75 and 90 minute ones.

All of these helped dramatically, or maybe I'm just getting used to it. The only time I got a headache in the last couple of days was at the 90 minute class I went to yesterday (where I finished my sports drink around 60 minutes in). So I think maybe it is dehydration or something, probably exacerbated by my cold earlier in the week.

The 60 minute classes aren't so much fun, because I don't feel quite the same high afterwards, but the 75 minute ones might be a good compromise once I get even more acclimatised.

Also, I've been eating something proteiny right when I get home, and that seems to help me recover faster.

Bardiac said...

I'm glad you've been feeling better!

It sounds like you're doing everything right :) Have fun!