Beginning Yoga Without All The Pixie Dust
I am no yogi. Actually, I think I was once told lady yoga-doers are called “yoginis,” which is adorable.
I think most yoga terms sound more like fancy foods than poses -— you say savasana, I hear “antipasta” or “chicken parmigiana” —- and though I’ve taken a handful of classes over the years, I still need to cheat-peek and constantly look at the instructor, because I don’t know if I’m doing the pose correctly.
In other words, despite spending a bit of time on the mat in my day, I still consider myself a novice.
Lucky me, though -- I got a chance to take a free class with a professional instructor recently at the YogaWorks Teacher Training Facility in NYC, and I was the first one there to give the workout a shot.
No really, I was the first person there. I arrived at the airy SoHo studio, huffed and puffed my way up three flights of stairs and almost bailed on account of getting my cardio in for the day with that stair climb.
But I stuck around, and I’m so glad I did. Yoga instructor Chrissy Carter is awesome (and she has a new DVD out, hence the free class!).
It took me a while to try yoga, because I held the preconceived belief that it was all spiritual and “om”-y and meditative. I eventually learned that’s not the case with many instructors. Chrissy’s practice is less “sense your shakras, feel your pixie dust” and more, “hey girl, I’m here to be your best friend, and lemme just guide you through a few bendy, feel-good stretches while we chat and laugh, K?”
She didn’t actually say “Hey girl” or “K,” but by the end of our 30-minute class, I was convinced Chrissy and I were on our way to becoming super tight.
Chrissy guided us through some basic yoga poses, and it was clear we were in good hands. Chrissy has been in the yoga biz for years, and she leads a teacher training program in NYC. She’s a teacher who teaches teachers, and she’s all about the basics.
If you’re a beginner (Hello! Welcome!), Chrissy’s DVD is a great place to start, because it’s non-threatening, intimidating and easy to follow. For advanced yogis and yoginis (See? I’m learning!), don’t let the “beginner” title totally fool you -— Chrissy’s practice will help you break any bad yoga habits you’re harboring and you’ll get a heck of a nice stretch along the way.
Throughout the practice, Chrissy explained the poses in yoga-speak (Sanskrit), but also gave us the English “plain speak” definition for each one, which was helpful. And instead of using ultra-sophisticated language, she sometimes used food references, which is perfect for a Girl Scout cookie-lover such as myself. For example: When we were in plank pose, she wanted us to engage our cores and ground ourselves, pushing down through the palms of our hands. But instead of saying that, she said, “Imagine you’re using your hands to dip a piece of foccacia bread into a bowl of olive oil. Now really dip it in there!”
Sanskrit I may not know. But olive oil? Olive oil I know.
Chrissy was personable and sweet and I laughed a handful of times during her class -— a yoga first for me.
Except for that time when my first instructor said to imagine my body filled with magical pixie dust. That made me laugh, but in a different way.
Class photo credits: Jim Lafferty iPhone photos: Courtesy Alison Feller