Wildcard Workout

We all know how things went the last time I attempted a wildcard workout: P90X fail. I kept things a little bit gentler this time around, but first, a confession:

My name is Jillian and I am addicted to groupons.

I generally stick to yoga classes and other workout deals, but right now I have groupons for Back Bay Yoga, Sweat & Soul Yoga, Exhale Yoga, and Secret Physique barre studio. What can I say, I’m not that into the classes offered at my gym. On Tuesday night, my friend Katherine and I had a post-work yoga date at Sweat & Soul for a 90-minute… wait for it… hip hop yoga class.

One word, two syllables: Awe-some.

First of all, it was jammed. It was a hole in the wall kind of place, but clearly there was something great happening because the studio must have had close to 40 or 50 lycra-clad ladies (and one dude) lined up row after row. I need to learn how to stake out my space better because this girl right here scored the worst spot in the room — as in, it wasn’t a spot at all. With everyone else lined up front-to-back, I was squeezed in side-to-side in the back corner with four or five inches of my mat rolled up onto the wall… squeezed in next to the sound system table. Things were snug.

The teacher, Erica, was outstanding. She was lighthearted, fun, and paid attention to everyone in class (yes, even the girl in the corner). The hip hop part of it was no joke. I think we might be kindred spirits, because the play list rolled out like one of my infamous college party mixes. Totally entertaining. Why hip hop yoga? To prove that yoga doesn’t have to be so serious, Erica told us. That you can work hard and apply the principles of yoga in all sorts of different ways.It worked.

The light bulb moment of the night? I knew it as soon as it happened and it was the first thing Katherine and I said to each other while recapping and waiting for the T afterwards. Well into class, Erica starting introducing some tough balancing poses. During one, while explaining all of the placements of hands, triceps, shoulders, and shins, she encouraged everyone to lean forward until your back leg becomes light. You don’t always have to be in control, she reminded the room. I’m not going to claim that I leaned forward and was suddenly rocking one of these (maybe? I think it was supposed to resemble something like that)… but I learned pretty far forward and must have been sorta close! Most importantly, I gave it a shot and let go of control.

When I mentioned the class to Katherine on Monday she reminded me that she is never going to be a yogi, but likes to hit up a class every so often to switch things up. I nodded, agreed completely, and then started to realize how much I’ve actually come to enjoy and benefit from the classes I’ve taken.

Last weekend I stumbled across a blog post talking about Strala Yoga and Tara Stiles — who, apparently, is known as the Yoga Rebel, according to New York Times. What makes her loved is that she makes yoga unpretentious, accessible, and straightforward. What makes her controversial is that she focuses primarily on the physical and health aspects of yoga instead of the spiritual or philosophical. Many yogis think that skipping those two components makes the practice cheap, or disrespects what’s most important about the practice.

I think about the classes I’ve taken at my gym, at Exhale, and now, at Sweat & Soul. They’ve ranged from 60-minute stretch sessions, to om-chanting, traditional vinyasa, to hip hop yoga. From zen quiet to full on chatter until the teacher brings the focus back to get things started. The bottom line for me has been open-mindedness: going in and focusing and giving it a shot. I certainly can’t find fault in any kind of activity that you work at for the sake of getting fit; nor can I deny the benefits and solitude that come from 90-minutes of mindful practice. And maybe what you need depends on the day, how you’re feeling, and what your goals are.

Remembering the day after Hurricane Sandy, sitting front and center in the Exhale studio and setting my intention to my friends and family and everyone suffering in New Jersey with tears streaming down my face — that was the exact outlet I needed. This week, I laughed out loud coming out of the studio to Ashleigh’s post on my Facebook “check-in” at Sweat & Soul — Bikram to Biggie?

I have to think there is room for both.