Surviving My First-Ever Yoga Class

by Shubhechha Dhar on May 9, 2018

Spring break is the most awaited week of the spring semester. While everyone went off to London, Greece, Paris, and many more amazing places, I, on the other hand, did yoga. One of my Journalism assignments for spring break was to write about an activity that I’d never done before. As yoga originated in India, I decided that doing it here would be interesting and would allow me to experience how it is practiced in other places. So I immediately booked a yoga session at the Philly Yoga Factory.

Little did I know that a physically and emotionally demanding workout was waiting for me.

- Shubhechha Dhar

Having done enough research about yoga beforehand, I was convinced that I could manage my first-ever yoga class. How difficult can a practice that uses breathing and postures be?

Turns out, very!

The walls of the tiny reception at Philly Yoga Factory were covered in Sanskrit quotes and paintings of Hindu gods. There was a miniature Shiva statue placed on the front desk. The woman behind the desk introduced herself as Marie Murphy, the instructor for the yoga session. She asked me and my friend, whom I dragged along with me and forced to do yoga against her will (there was no way I could survive my first yoga class without any company), to fill out some paperwork for first-timers before going into the studio.

I stepped into the dimly lit studio adorned with fairy lights and immediately felt beads of sweat roll down my face. The temperature inside the studio was more than a hundred degrees with heaters blasting hot air from all corners. Coming in from the wintery cold into such heat was starting to make me feel dizzy.  Much to my dismay, I suddenly realized what hot yoga meant. I had assumed that hot yoga referred to profuse sweating after doing yoga. I did not think that hot yoga would literally be “hot.”

Only later when I Googled did I realize that hot yoga was performed under hot conditions to replicate the heat and humidity of India.

I anxiously placed my mat in the corner of the room and sat down. Being the least flexible person on this planet, I was worried if I would be able to do all the poses. Braving a look around, I noticed that I was the youngest person in the room. Not only was everyone older than me, but they clearly were more experienced. I was nervously tapping my foot when the lights of the studio turned on.

Marie Murphy walked inside the studio and, without saying a word, kneeled on the mat in the middle of the room with knees separated and toes together, her arms laid out behind her. Everyone immediately imitated her pose. This seems easy, I thought to myself, but little did I know that a physically and emotionally demanding workout was waiting for me.

Hot yoga essentials— I learned my lesson after wearing leggings my first class!

I do not have any memory of how I went from the first yoga pose down on the mat to one requiring me stand on my feet, but it felt like I had lost half of my body weight in sweat.

I subtly moved my leg and with my toe, turned on my phone lying on the floor next to me to check the time. To my surprise, only 15 minutes had passed. It felt like forever. I wondered how I would survive 45 more minutes of yoga.  

We did everything, from jumping jacks to squats. It was a total workout. I never thought yoga would be so demanding. My throat felt parched, and my energy had drained entirely.

“You got this. Keep moving!” Murphy reassured me with a smile.

Her constant encouragement gave me the strength to keep going. I glanced around the room, and everyone else looked equally exhausted, but still kept going. Sipping cold water felt like heaven when we finally took a break, but it wasn’t too long before we went back to the grind.

Twenty more minutes into the workout, I was ready to give up, lying on my back, staring at the ceiling and breathing heavily.

Although I walked down the stairs with jiggly legs and had to support myself by holding both sides of the staircase railing, I made up my mind to do it all again.

- Shubhechha Dhar

“Yoga is as much about mental strength as physical,” Murphy said. “Tell your mind you can do it, and you will be able to.”

I raised myself up from the mat using my elbows and kept telling myself that I could do it. Having made it this far, I didn’t want to give up now, especially with just 10 minutes to go until the end of class. We were wrapping up with cool-down poses. Murphy walked over to me and corrected my last pose.

“Namaste,” she said, as she walked out of the studio. “Namaste,” everyone responded in unison.

I had done it. I had survived my first-ever yoga class and never felt so accomplished in my life. When Murphy asked me about my experience, all I could say was, “It was intense.”

Even though things didn’t go as I expected— I showed up in long leggings with no water, totally inappropriate for hot yoga— I still fell in love with the practice. I felt like I was in a new state of mind that I never wanted to leave. Although I walked down the stairs with jiggly legs and had to support myself by holding both sides of the staircase railing, I made up my mind to do it all again.