I might have been in over my head. Like a beginning swimmer over my head. Over my head like a novice bungee jumper. You get the picture. Well, actually let me set the scene for you. I'm out of shape. I exercise too infrequently and there I was, at 8:30 in the a.m. at the Land O'Lakes Rec Center, attempting — mostly failing — to perform yoga for the first time. There is no easy part of yoga. Maybe the meditation, the last few minutes of bliss before I realized I'd have difficulty walking the rest of the day, but that's about it.
This type of yoga, taught by certified instructor Brandy Pollicita, focuses on strength, relaxation, flexibility and balance. Well, I guess if I look at it that way, I had three of four of those aspects — meaning I was batting .750.
However, I struck out on plenty poses and postures.
"We have all different types of participants," Pollicita said. "There are always people who have physical limitations, and they're flexible as their bodies allow. … Most people will break a sweat and it sort of sneaks up on you. Yoga is a slow flowing type of exercise, but it utilizes muscles, and your breathing intake increases. That makes you sweat.
"But this isn't a contest. You do what you can and your body will thank you."
Mine wasn't. I realized it wasn't a competition but, hey, I still wanted to get it right, still wanted to push my body because that's the type of exercise I'm used to.
"Believe it or not," Pollicita said, "there are just some people who don't listen, but if you have a background, like in sports, where someone tells you what to do, like a coach, you do it.
"If you're an athlete, or used to be one, you're going to take it to another level."
Bingo. That's me.
I used to play all kind of sports, even have trophies and varsity letters to prove it. Now my biggest exercise is walking up the stairs at Tropicana Field to get a hot dog. However, I excelled at soccer and still try to run a few miles when I can.
So when I got to yoga class, I still had leg strength and balance, which I used to my advantage.
There was the one-footed stance, known as Warrior 3, which was the highest of three. That involved balancing while leaning forward, keeping my back straight and having my hands at my side. I thought this was quite possibly the hardest poses, and despite being drenched in sweat, I accomplished it with just a couple near-falls.
"It takes balance to do some of the poses I do," Pollicita said, "and I would say that's one of the finer things you did."
Ah, thank you.
I also did the candle well. That, to me, was similar to a jackknife that I did in soccer, in which I would bring up my hands and touch my feet in the air, strengthening my abs. In the candle, you support yourself by putting your hands on your hips and your feet in the air.
That one stretched my spine like I was on a medieval torture rack.
As for one I had a hard time pulling off?
Well, that was anything that involved flexing my set-in-stone hips, such as pulling my feet to my head, sitting butterfly style or twisting in ways God never intended a man to.
"Overall, I think you did really well," Pollicita told me. "Looking at you, you do some sort of athletics. That showed in what you were able to do."
Oh, you're too kind.
My body punished me the day after, taking it out on me for being so cruel to it. My exercise regimen has stayed the same, however, I used some of these stretching techniques and when I run 4 to 5 miles, my legs and, even those tight hips of mine, feel much looser.
Yoga helped, I feel, with my future exercises. It was a success, to say the least.
Which is good, because it'll let me keep my head up.
Community Sports Editor Mike Camunas can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 544-9480.