Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Thoughts on Yoga and Zumba

One of my October goals was to try yoga and zumba. When I moved to Philadelphia, I joined a great gym that offers many fitness classes as part of the membership fee. I've belonged to three gyms, two of which had fitness classes as well, but have never taken advantage of this perk. This was the first gym that I had to pay my own membership fee (thanks dad), so when I joined I promised myself that I would get the most out of this yearlong experience.

I took my first zumba class during the first week of the month and found it a little difficult, but a good workout (aka, I sweat a lot). I decided to go back two days later (with a different instructor), and although it was still a little confusing, enjoyed it even more than before. I kept going to zumba, and each time I participated it became so much easier and even more fun. Zumba was a little challenging at first because I was so unfamiliar with the style and techniques. But after going for over a month now, I recognize all of the songs and am more confident with the repetitive dance moves. It really helped that I used to take ballet (a long time ago) and played an instrument, and so I can usually pick up the counting, rhythm, and beats of songs pretty quickly. I made Lauren try a zumba class with me, and she hated it. Like she refuses to go again. That's okay though, I still go several times a week by myself. I also like that because most people are so focused on what they look like while they dance and they're trying so hard to watch the instructor to see what to do next, no one really cares what you look like. I've never felt self conscious about how I look when I'm dancing because I know that the people near me aren't watching me. Rather, they're staring in the mirror, making sure they don't look silly themselves. This works out pretty perfectly. The fitness classes rotate on a quarterly schedule, so every week the same exact classes are offered by the same instructors as the previous week. I've attended four different zumba classes with three different instructors so far. I definitely have more fun and get a greater workout in some than I do others, but I pretty much will go to any of the zumba classes as I enjoy them that much.

Yoga on the other hand is completely different than anything I've ever done before. I didn't try a yoga class till the end of the month because I first had to purchase a yoga mat. I was on the fence of buying a mat because I didn't want to invest money into yoga and then end up hating it. But then again, I wouldn't know if I hated yoga unless I tried it. So basically my cyclical thinking convinced me to purchase a yoga mat on one of my Target escapades. I figured even if I ended up hating yoga, I could still use my mat for stretching or trigger point/foam rolling. So I set off for my first yoga class, having no idea what to expect. I don't own any "yoga clothes", so I just wore running clothes. Pretty similar. I made sure to wear cropped pants versus shorts though. I knew I'd be doing a lot of stretching and weird movements, so in an effort not to overexpose myself, I opted not to wear shorts. Good choice on my part; my attire didn't pose any problems during class. Besides my outfit choice, I pretty much suck at yoga. I did go on a day when my legs were really heavy and muscles tight from running, but I don't think those were the true causes of my suckage. Compared to the other people in the class (even the guys), I'm not flexible at all. I can't touch my toes with my knees straight, and oh my goodness my calves burn doing the downward dog (no one else seemed to have an issue with this). I did however find a few poses that do feel really nice and wouldn't mind staying in that position for awhile. But that's not how yoga works; instead as soon as you find a comfortable pose, you immediately have to twist yourself into something a lot more daunting. Besides this, I didn't like that the room was so quiet! I get that yoga is supposed to be about relaxation and peace, but I much prefer music when I'm exercising. All I could think about during class was, "I skipped zumba with fun music to be in a room with 'calming' noises?".

I decided to give yoga another shot yesterday; this time with a different instructor. While I still don't love yoga, this most recent experience went a lot better than my first one. To start off, I actually liked the music. Replace the calming, soothing sounds with music I'm actually familiar with is a huge step in an effort to enjoy yoga. In this class the instructor slowly walked us through a sequence of different poses. We kept repeating this same routine, each time speeding it up a little. I really liked this repetitiveness. Because I'm so new to yoga and I hardly know any of the poses nor recognize their names, repeating the same moves over and over again was so helpful. The instructor, instead of sitting in front and doing yoga with us, actually walked around the room and helped people who were struggling or not quite getting the poses correct. Although she never corrected me, if I was doing something incorrectly I would definitely want to be assisted so I would know what to fix. Most importantly though, I actually felt like I completed some form of physical activity. The poses we did seemed more strength-based rather than all flexibility-based. I know it's important to work on being more limber, but including more strength elements in the class made yoga more of a workout which I really appreciated.

I'm so glad I tried these classes. From the start I have enjoyed going to zumba, and while my first yoga class was a bust and I seriously questioned whether or not I wanted to go to yoga again, my second attempt at it went much better. I still like zumba a lot more than yoga, but knowing there's a style of yoga that I don't mind is reassuring. I'll still go to zumba a lot more often than yoga, but working one or two yoga classes in per week is something I'll try to do.