Yoga as snow shovel

Bryhanna Greenough salutes the winter sun.

I’ve just spent another day holed up in the apartment, banging away on the keyboard like a zombie monkey, eating cold pasta from the container. The cat packs my dirty sock around in his mouth as I think to myself “I can’t escape. It’s freezing outside and the sidewalks are clogged with snow.”

I could seriously bite someone.

In February, when the quality of life hits an all-time low, yoga is my answer. It gets me out of the house, fires up my muscles and sets the well-being-o-meter to ‘feelin’ better.’ It’s a shovel with which to dig out of February.

I took my first yoga class about five winters ago when I lived in Montreal. My friend wanted to try out a beginners’ class and thought it would be fun to go together. I mostly don’t enjoy exercise classes, maybe because of the fear of being in a group. But going with a friend provides a bit of a cushion. If you accidentally let a fart rip as you bend you won’t feel quite as abashed.

The appeal of yoga is simple. Unlike swimming, which feels best after you’ve left the pool, yoga feels good while you’re doing it. The dynamic nature of yoga – moving from one position to the next – allows one to avoid the repetitive motion of a gym machine, which can feel a little like torture at the end of a long day. Finally, the onus on individual progress creates a non-competitive environment between students. Unlike high school gym class, there are no winners or losers in yoga.

After months of consistent practice, I could feel my body transforming. Fleshy, indefinite masses reconstructed into more of an efficient frame. Deep in my core I could feel muscles I hadn’t felt before. I was in a more relaxed state. For the first time in my life I felt like I was fully inhabiting my body.

A lot of things have happened since that era in Montreal. I’ve moved a few times, I’ve had less free time. I can no longer hold a handstand, or bend over and touch my hands to the floor. But now after a few years of sporadic, disorganized attempts to begin again, I’ve decided to make yoga a priority.

It’s worth mentioning here that yoga has, to a lot of people, a spiritual dimension. Likely you’ll hear new age music, and may even end up chanting a few Sanskrit words you don’t know the meaning of. Yoga originates in India and in its original form it is one aspect of an entire belief system, so take from it what you will (or won’t). Occasionally instructors reduce yoga to physical exercise only, and while I resist people pushing ideas onto me, I think denying the spiritual part of yoga takes away from the experience and we don’t know why. “Hey, we’re alive, we’ve got these bodies we can do these things with, and that’s pretty cool.”

Many types of yoga exist, but I prefer classes that activate rather than relax. Since I spend my days as an office slug (slither, slither), I need to feel some burn to feel satisfied. I want to sweat.

Tracking down a yoga class in St. John’s is a bit tricky. A scant three listings appear in the Yellow Pages, but I’ve been checking local bulletin boards. Inadvertently, I’ve surely missed some spots. Best thing is to call around and keep your ears open for classes.

It’s often possible to drop in (for a fee) without having to commit to a regular class. Cost is usually $10 – $13 for 1 – 1.5 hours of instruction. As for gear, no need to spend $80 on Lululemon yoga pants. Any stretchy bottoms and a long, fitted t-shirt are fine. Mats are usually available for free, or for a small rental fee. By choosing a class near home or school/work it is more likely to become part of your life routine.

Happy stretching!

FIND A YOGA CLASS

Alive with Yoga
(754-2425 ) 234 Portugal Cv Rd

Dance Studio East & Yoga
(834-3499) 281 Con Bay Hwy

Jill Dreaddy Danceco
(834-9789) 841 Con Bay Hwy

Havenwood Medispa
(773-0465) Long Pond

Peninsula Spa
(739-8555) 22 St. Joseph’s Lane

Sherry Ryan
(753-7267) QV Boathouse & 27 Cookstown

The Spiritual Centre
(739-4429) 52 Prescott

Yoga Room
(739-9642) 1 Prospect (Dtwn)

Yoga Vendanta Centre
(726-0376 ) 32 Drake Cres (East End)

Many gyms/fitness clubs also offer yoga classes.

(Illustration by Kira Sheppard)