Facing a time of uncertainty in January 2016, I was in search of finding a natural connection with a community out there that ran deeper than physicality and materialism. Having grown up with a mild case of cerebral palsy, I’ve been physically challenged since I was just a small child. This physical impairment brought forth my need to develop a mentally sound approach to my outlook on life, from a very early age in my childhood. Later on as an adult, despite having come a long way forward from where I was physically and mentally as a child, I still had an innate desire to find a place where I knew I could throw out all the outside distractions, thoughts of the past and anxieties of my future, and focus all my energy strictly on the present. I was looking to reach deeper for a more diversified perspective. There I was, on a chilly Monday afternoon in January, and I suddenly found myself walking into a popular local Bikram hot yoga studio in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. I began to feel instantly surrounded by a unique field of energy in which I had never experienced before. I briefly thought of my mother, a certified Hatha yoga instructor. If I joined Hot Yoga Downtown at the Gardens, it would be a great connection to share with my mother, to come from opposite sides of the yoga community to share our uniquely different experiences that have lead us to our own version of the power of the breath. I walked up to the front desk of the lobby to sign up for my first class with experienced Bikram yoga instructor, Nancy Fisher. I rented my mat and towel, purchased two bottles of water, and then walked through the glass door adjacent to the main studio. I proceeded to place my mat in the back of the studio in front of the ballet bar. I stood in stillness facing straight ahead toward the mirror in the front of the room, awaiting further instructions.
First Class Experience
Standing tall looking straight ahead, toward the front mirror, I listened to the instructor. We begin our practice with standing deep breathing(pranayama) pose,the first posture of the warm-up portion of the standing series. She told the class to lock all ten fingers under the chin, thumbs touching the throat. I proceeded to meditate on a single point in the mirror ahead of me, as instructed. Our teacher Nancy, tells us to keep our heads down, while we inhale through the nose, simultaneously with our arms lifting up toward the ceiling, with our chin kept in the upward position to hold. At that moment I thought to myself, so far, I got this. Holding our arms briefly in the upward position, we are then told to lift the head up,and in an upward exhale through the mouth, we must bring our arms and elbows back in to touch. Did I mention I was supposed to breathe through my mouth during this period of exhalation? This is where any seasoned yogi would be able to tell that this was clearly my first time at yoga. While the rest of the class breathed through a natural, “Ah…”, sound in smooth synchronization through the open mouth, I pushed through a tight space in between my lips to give off a “Psh!” sound that lacked control and ease, which was supposed to come from performing this posture in its correct form. I didn’t understand how to synchronize my breath with the proper movement of the posture. As the class went on though, I started to see I had more than enough capability to do each and every one of the 26 postures in the class, with the occasional modification to alter the posture in a way that was more suited to the current physical state of my body. I found I was flexible enough to do some of the more challenging poses in the standing series, such as half moon, triangle pose, and awkward pose in their full form without modifying. That is a perfect example of how instrumental a progressive mindset is to a yoga class. I’d worked out for years, so I knew despite physical challenges, my body was in good physical shape coming into this class. But coming into an environment of stillness and deep minded concentration, I was able to uncover my ability to perform a timely stretch with more flexibility than I had ever imagined previously.
We finished up in Blowing-in Firm pose, the final posture in the class. Taking my last deep exhale in this spine-relaxing posture to close our practice, I stare straight ahead in mind-centering stillness. I had just completed my first Bikram hot yoga class. As is a tradition with any new student welcomed into Hot Yoga Downtown at the Gardens, instructor Nancy announces, “Let’s all applaud Dan, he just completed his first class with us this afternoon.” At that moment, I could now say for certain, I was fully grounded in the present moment at that time. I began to gather my things and exit the main studio, walking out to the front desk in the lobby.
I started to think joining this community just might craft the alternative perspective on life I was searching for. What happened next only solidified that this was the place I was supposed to be. Unknowingly, I happened to have taken my first class that day with an old family friend who happened to be a member of the studio. “Dan, how are you son?” he says. “How’s it going Mike? Long time no see. This is my first time here. That was a great class. It really felt good being in there.” “Today’s your first class? I am so happy for you. This will change your life!” Mike responds excitedly. We talk a little further. “I really felt at home in there, I think this will be an amazing community to be a part of,” I said. Mike proceeded to ask for my email, and we agreed to stay in touch, and went on our separate ways. Speaking from a sentimental point of view, I feel as though Mike was meant to cross paths with me that day to deliver that life-changing message. It sounds cliche, but in reality it was fitting to have someone who knew me and my family since I was a kid, come up to me in that moment in time to give off words of encouragement on the day of my first yoga class.
Guidance and Personal Connection
The three most important things I learned on the day of my first yoga class, were community,personal connection, and guidance. As I walked out of the yoga studio that day, I suddenly realized I found what I was looking for. I was trying to uncover a guiding principle to abide by, that would allow me to tap deeper toward my inner intuition, and shine it outward through the lens of another person’s point of view, to further appreciate alternative perspectives from other people that walk among me. On that day, I found my guiding principle, and it came to me in the form of yoga. It became clear to me behind its proper breathing and meditation technique,that yoga’s beautiful art form is that very principle I’d been searching for. I began to think again about my mother, a teacher of Hatha yoga. If I adopted the principles of mindful self-discipline which coincide with the philosophy behind my mother’s vinyasa practice, and instilled them into the Bikram series, a set of asanas better suited for the physical nature of my body, it would be an amazing connection to share with my mom for the rest of our lives. On that day, I made that connection whole.