On Tuesday, I was in a bad mood. Everything irritated me. Despite my best efforts to be pleasant, I felt sorry for the people who had to be around me. Joe said he could barely tell. But inside, I felt rotten. I knew that I needed to go to a yoga class in the worst way. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend my regular Tuesday class at my regular studio.

I like my regular class at my regular studio. I understand how everything works – where to put my shoes, where to park, where to sign in, where the props are and where to find the bathrooms. I know what the class will be like. I also know a lot of the people there. It’s comfortable and familiar.

Because I had a dental appointment during my regular class at my regular place, I started to look at other available classes online. I found a class at a studio I have never attended at time that worked for me. Part of the reason I haven’t gone there is because I was a little intimidated. It seems like a place where the “cool kids” go. I’m a lot of good things, but cool is not one of them. Also, their classes are primarily hot yoga classes, which I tend to avoid. But I needed a good yoga class to shift my mood. I set aside my reservations and signed up online.

New Class, New Studio

I got to the parking lot and saw a lot of fancy cars. Hmm. Not sure if I was going to fit in here. (Never mind that I drive a fancy car!) But I got my mat out of the trunk and walked in. At the front desk, I told them I was new and didn’t know how anything worked. They showed me where to put my purse and shoes, where to pay and where the yoga room was. The make-up free, radiant teacher was exceptionally kind and did everything she could do to welcome me. But I still felt awkward.

I got into the studio and started to wonder if I had made a mistake. The sleek, modern room was really hot. And as more and more students filtered in, I was struck by how young, fit, beautiful and tan they were. Lots of the women wore those multi-colored, beaded yoga bracelets and had a funky tattoo or two. Many of them seemed to know each other. I didn’t know any of them. The studio is on the fancy side of town where there are miles of huge, new homes. I’ve always wondered who lives in them. Now I know. (Never mind that I live in a pretty nice home myself.) Thankfully, as the room filled up, a friend I’ve known since I was a kid walked in. We waved at each other and I relaxed a little.

As class began, I felt like I was in the middle of a real, live Lululemon commercial. The rock music was blaring. It was hard to hear the instructor over the music, but everyone knew what to do and moved in unison. I did not feel like I fit in, even though I was wearing Lululemon myself. But I tried to focus on my breath. The room was hot. I don’t like the heat normally, but gosh darn it, I wanted to like this class. This studio offers tons of classes each week and if I enjoyed this class, I’d have so many more class options from which to choose.

As class progressed, I started sweating quite a bit. Extreme heat doesn’t agree with me. My Aryuvedic medicine friend told me that heat doesn’t agree with my body’s “personality type” (dosha). She speaks the truth.

I began to feel a little nauseous. Maybe those (organic) chocolate covered almonds before class weren’t such a good idea. My mat was in the far corner of the room – I had put it there to be as inconspicuous as possible. If I left class early, I would draw a lot of attention to myself.  Normally I don’t mind attention, but I didn’t want it now.

I wondered how much time was left in class. I began looking for a clock. There was no clock on the wall. I wasn’t wearing my watch. I tried to read the instructor’s watch from afar. I couldn’t tell what it said, maybe 12:40 p.m.? That would mean there were 20 minutes to go. On the floor, I saw my neighbor’s iphone. I was tempted to push the “Home” button on his phone to see what time it was. But he may have thought that was weird.

Lots of Yoga Experience

For me to feel out of place at a yoga class was surprising. I’ve taken countless yoga classes over the last 7 years. I’ve attended yoga teacher training taught by some famous yogis. I’m fit and athletic. I do yoga classes online. I even subscribe to the magazine Yoga Journal. I probably had more experience than most students in the room. However, none of that mattered. Going to a new studio, with a new format, where I was maybe the oldest person in the room, was intimidating.

If doing this was such a challenge for me, what would it be like for somebody who is overweight and new to yoga? There’s just no way. In fact, how could somebody out-of-shape even go to a gym for the first time? I’ve worked out my entire life and have never understood why some women say they don’t feel comfortable going to the gym. But now I do. I have new empathy for how intimidating this might be.

I was trying “be on my mat” and pay attention to my breathing, but my mind continued to wander. I thought about how hard it is to be new somewhere, anywhere. Most of us don’t experience that very often. We have our regular routines, see our regular friends and go to our regular places. We forget what it’s like to be new.

And just when I thought I couldn’t stand any more hot yoga, the class began to wind down. Gradually we made our way to the final resting pose. I felt transformed. My grumpy mood was gone. I was no longer irritable. My “reset” button had been pushed.

I left class and was happy. I had given it a try and discovered a new yoga option in town. The rest of the day was a breeze. Later I went online, bought a series of 10 classes at this place and signed up for another class later in the week. Eventually, some of the new faces at this studio will become familiar. While I will never be tan and can’t get any younger, I’ll start to feel like I belong.

After that class, I have a renewed commitment to help new people feel welcome, whenever I can. I will keep an eye out for new faces at my home studio. It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be new, but this week, I was reminded about how hard it can be.

They say the practice of yoga can teach a person about life. I think going to a new yoga studio can also teach a person something about life too.

Namaste.