Discovering life beyond the barbell / by Dana McMahan

‘She’s not even a yogi’

One of the things I love about powerlifting is the transfer of superpowers it grants me. It’s hard to undo a lifetime of feeling physically inferior, even though I know I can actually do some kind of bad-ass things now. So when I went into a hard-core hour and a half hot yoga class today I was a little intimidated by some of the people –especially one girl — that had that look. You know, the ‘I am a superior specimen and can do things you can only dream of’ look.

I’d chatted briefly with the instructor before going  in, and told her when she asked what my usual workout was that  I’m a powerlifter, so in addition to the apprehension at being new to the studio and this maybe my 3rd or 4th yoga class ever, I felt like I had to represent for my sport.

My friend from the gym, Jenna, who invited me to yoga, was luckily there for moral support. And for me to peek at when I didn’t know what the positions were as they were rattled off. I was pleased to be able to keep up, although I was not as bendy as the instructor and the teacher’s pet at the front of the room, and I hung with all but one of the balance poses (and I kept trying that one, even when some students sat that one out).

Then we got to the head and hands on the floor, knees on elbows pose. Despite how slippery my arms and legs were from the copious sweat, I got into that pose and held it. The super-yoga-girl up front raised her feet from that pose into a headstand. “Seriously?” I thought. Then Jenna did it too. The instructor, meanwhile, was encouraging those struggling with getting into the first position. I can’t resist a new challenge, so when I saw Jenna in a steady headstand, I thought ‘why not?’ and just lifted my knees from my elbows and locked my legs out straight overhead. Once I was there it was just a matter of staying balanced, and it was actually easier than the first part had been.

Then I realized the instructor was talking about me as she continued to encourage students to work their arms, regardless of whether they got into the pose. “Look at Dana,” she said. “She’s not even a yogi. She’s a powerlifter. This pose uses your tris and bis.”  With the whole class looking, I couldn’t just flop back down from my experiment so I held it till I thought I shouldn’t keep letting the blood run to my head, and came back upright grinning like a fool.

A year ago not only would I have not made it through this class, I’d never have had the nerve to try something like that. Now I assume I can do anything I try, and just do it.  Maybe sometimes I’ll fall, but that’s ok. So while I love my powers that let me do chin-ups and heavy squats, and evidently headstands, the greatest superpower I’ve gained of all is this ability — to feel limitless.

 

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4 responses

  1. Hot yoga KILLLLLLS me! (I, uh, overheat kinda easily.) With a reasonably temperate studio, though, it’s fun! I’m still hoping to get a handstand soonish. (Can hold a headstand for a while, but my shoulders…not so strong, not so stable.)

    September 13, 2011 at 5:29 am

    • I haven’t worked out in a gym with AC, so it wasn’t a *lot* hotter that that, but hot enough that my clothes were sopping wet. I’ll never be into yoga like I am into lifting. Sweat doesn’t bother me at the gym, but I didn’t care for the guy next to me sweating onto my mat right where I had to put my hands later. eew.
      I can only do a handstand hold against a wall right now, but I want eventually to be able to do a free standing one.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:34 am

  2. Was that an elbow stand transitioning into the headstand? I always had trouble with the elbow stand because it’s just so damned PAINFUL having my entire body weight squishing my skin between my elbow bones (ulni?) and the floor……

    And this post reminds me of my first experience with yoga: when an EX-boyfriend (did anyone miss the emphasis?) took me to an advanced class first thing Saturday morning totally knackered from a late gig the night before after shaming me repeatedly for having never done yoga. It was apparently obvious that I hadn’t the first clue what was going on, but apparently I held up well enough (I’ve had a lot of training as a dancer and martial artist) for the instructor to say afterward “Please tell me this isn’t your first class!”, and when I said it was, she rebuked my boy”friend” for doing something that absurd, and hoped that experience hadn’t put me off and welcomed me back any time.

    September 13, 2011 at 7:11 am

    • Brenda, good for you! I’m glad you showed him ;)
      Right, this was an elbow stand, which is awkward with being so sweaty. It really did seem less difficult just to balance with my legs up then try to keep them on my elbows.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:36 am

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