Rebecca Cohen - Yoga | Yoga Teacher Training | SUP Yoga
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I Wasn't Always Into Yoga

In fact I made fun of people that went to yoga classes. Actually I knew nothing about it until a couple of my friends in college were taking yoga classes and tried to get me to come with them. They tried to explain what it was, but it didn't really matter. I was waaay too cool for yoga, whatever it was. I was more of an extreme sport kinda gal - collegiate diving, snowboarding, karate. That sort of thing. I liked to kick things and yell at the same time, not sit on my ass and breathe. 

At age 20, I had a very sore lower back. It hurt all the time and it tortured me day and night. I still remember the pain that I got when I would lay down to sleep. That first 2.5 minutes of my spine decompressing was enough to send me through the roof. Think Garfield when he gets scared and lands on the ceiling hanging by his claws. That's how I felt about going to bed.

So, my friend Shannon thinks that yoga will make my back feel better. I am desperate, so I try it. I go to my very first yoga class, not knowing what in the world yoga even was. I mean, I didn't even know that you do "poses" and chant "OM". Needless to say, the class was excruciating for me. Awkward. Embarrassing. Just plain out of my comfort zone. In fact I didn't know that you do the class barefoot and need to wear spandex of some sort on the bottom. So, there I am in running shorts and a t-shirt, sport socks and sneakers. I sit on my mat with my socks on and the teacher asks me to take them off in front of the class. It just went downhill from there.

Well, now I'm really embarrassed because not only am I not really dressed appropriately, but I have a plantar wart on my foot from being barefoot in the dojo. So, I politely refuse to take off my socks. There. Done. I'm doing the class in socks, thank you. As the class progresses, I'm dying because my feet are slipping in the socks and it takes twice as much energy to do the poses if your feet are slipping. Dying. And the teacher continues to drop hints throughout the class that yoga is easier when done barefoot. Why is she torturing me? I'm not taking the socks off. Not at this point. I finish the class in socks and really all I remember is a blur of embarrassment and me holding onto my big toes through the socks and trying to make sure my underwear wasn't showing while spreading my legs in running shorts. I vow to never go back. At least not until the wart is gone. Probably not then either.

That night when I went to bed, my back didn't hurt. Holy shit. So now what? I have to go back there again? I don't think so. I'm too cool for yoga. Not going.

So, I start doing some of the poses we did in class at home and start making up some strengthening exercises for my low back. In essence, I become a closet yogi. A few years later I get Rodney Yee's "Yoga for Athletes" on VHS. I figured if it was for athletes, then it wasn't for wusses, you know? It was me and Rodney Yee nearly every day for a couple of years in the privacy (more like secrecy) of my own apartment.

I moved to Washington, DC right after I finished grad school on a federal fellowship. I joined a gym that was a block away from my apartment, and they had yoga classes included in the membership. The classes were packed. I mean it was a mob scene then the door to the studio opened up and let the previous class out and the next classes was going in. I figured I could hide in the crowd and try another yoga class. 

I always found a spot way in the back where nobody could see how stiff I was. Plus, I wanted to hide under my mat every time we had to chant Om. Really. I remember the instructor used to walk around the room and give adjustments to the students. I would pray that my alignment was good enough that he wouldn't notice me and embarrass me by adjusting my alignment. I remember vividly, all of the yoga goddesses and pretty boys in my class. Sure I was intimidated, but I kept going.

I just felt so good after class, and it was really sculpting my body in a way that was proportionally perfect for my frame. Weights always left me feeling a little bulky and stiff. Running was okay, but didn't do much for my upper body and it certainly didn't help my back. After that first year of me and Rodney Yee I actually lost 15 pounds, and I went down two whole suit sizes. My waist and my bubble butt shrunk the most which was important for a 5'1" shorty with about an inch between my bottom rib and my hip bone. It just made my dress pants more comfortable. I personally didn't have that much weight to contend with anyway, but yoga has kept my body the right size for my frame. And, that was on "easy" yoga videos alone 4x/wk. I've seen people combine yoga with a little cardio  (yoga 4x/wk + cardio 2x/wk) and make dramatic changes in the way they look and feel. That is a major commitment, but I think it's worth it.

It's been about 16 years since that wart class. Can you believe it? Since my own experience getting into yoga was so ridiculous, I have vowed to make it laid back and relaxed for newbies. I like to have fun and I even though I am serious about the practice, I don't take the practice too seriously.