Yoga at ACAC

IMG_20140115_132157Hatha Flow
Downtown location.

I knew to arrive well in advance this time, which allowed me to snag a spot in the back corner of the room (my favorite spot).

The first thing I noticed when I walked in, was how pretty and light the space was. Windows stretched from floor to ceiling for the entire length of the side wall. The floors were dark wood and the walls were painted a very soothing blue. I loved it.

The instructor (Tara) noticed that I was new and came over to ask if I had any injuries or specific things I wanted to focus on. I told her I did not.

There were a lot of people, but not nearly as many as there were in the last class I’d attended.

Tara was very good about giving easy to understand verbal cues. I appreciate being reminded of which muscles to tighten, which ones to relax, where my feet should be, etc. She also spent quite a bit of time walking around, making sure we all knew what we were doing.

The class was basic enough that I could mostly follow along. There were a few times I had to stop and look at Tara, or the people around me to make sure I was doing something right.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this class, and would definitely go back.

Gentle Hatha
Downtown location

When I walked into the studio this time, I noticed that everybody was facing the side wall, instead of the windows.

I got my mat and found my spot in the back corner. Everybody seemed to have blocks, so I grabbed a couple. I figured they must be regulars and know what we would need.

The instructor came in, introduced herself (Alex) and told us that we’d need a bolster and 3 blankets (but no blocks). I wondered if the first person just grabbed blocks and everybody else just followed suit (like I had).

Anyway, we did very few and very basic movements, but I REALLY enjoyed the class. Alex had us repeat simple movement patterns such as cat/cow focusing on our breath. She’d tell us exactly when to breathe in and when to breathe out and then have us continue for several minutes, working with our own breath.

I always have a hard time knowing when I’m supposed to breathe in and out, so I found it very helpful to stay on one movement. It felt meditative. I think most people are able to do this with more complex sequences, but I always struggle with it.

Considering how little we did, the time went by surprisingly fast.

As we prepared for shavasana, Alex gave the option of doing it with our feet up the wall. Loved it.

I felt amazing when I left this class.

Downtown location

This time, even though I arrived more than 10 minutes early, the room was already full. Also, instead of everybody facing the same direction, each half of the room was facing in, toward the center.

It was the most cramped class I’d seen so far. Luckily, I was by the windows on one side, but people were within inches of my mat on the remaining 3 sides.

I was a little nervous sitting and waiting for the class to start. Everybody looked extremely fit and people were doing head stands and splits. I also didn’t like the fact that I was facing half a room full of people (or more accurately, that they were facing me).

Hilary had us start in Hero’s pose, which isn’t uncomfortable for me, but we stayed there so long that it eventually became uncomfortable. Not terribly so, and from what she was saying, it sounded like she meant for us to stay there long enough for it to become uncomfortable.

Once we stood up and started moving, we moved fast. I’ve always been told to move through vinyasas with my breath. Hilary must have a much faster respiratory rate than I do.  She went from plank, through chaturanga, to up dog to down dog so quickly! I was always a little behind. Luckily, she had us stay in down dog for 5 breaths (2 or 3 for me, by the time I got there).

My shirt was soaked around the collar and sweat was dripping from my face. My feet kept sliding during warrior 2. The guy next to me was sweating as much as I was, but we seemed to be in the minority.

Why did everybody else look like they were doing some light, easy stretching before their morning stroll?

We worked hard. It was the kind of yoga class I would love if I were looking for a substitute for running, but I’m in marathon training mode again, and that’s not what I’m looking for right now. I don’t think my body could handle a class this physically demanding at the moment.

I was a little shell-shocked as I left the studio.

Instead of the usual after-yoga calm, I drove home in a bit of a stupor.

Two days later, I was mildly sore in my glutes and hamstrings (muscles that could definitely use strengthening!).

Under the right circumstances, I could see myself becoming a devoted fan of this class, but for my two remaining weeks at ACAC, I think I’ll stick to the less strenuous classes.


A new-to-me gym and yoga

IMG_20140106_191053Trying a new gym

For the past several years I’ve been going to the City of Charlotteville’s Aquatic & Rec Centers (Smith & Carver). This has worked well for me because I can pay by the month.

I mostly run outside, so as long as I’m not injured, I don’t need a gym (although, it is really nice to have a place in town to shower after a run). The Charlottesville facilities allow me to pay for a month here and there, which I do when the weather is bad or I’m dealing with an injury.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to make yoga a weekly habit.

The city offers several yoga classes. When I first joined, there was a Vinyasa class that I absolutely loved. But the instructor left, the class was canceled, and four years later I still haven’t found a yoga class there that I like that I am able to attend on a regular basis.

ACAC offers more than a dozen yoga classes every day. ACAC also costs twice as much as I am used to paying for a gym, and I’m pretty sure they don’t allow you to pay by the month. However, for a few weeks before New Year’s Day, they were offering a special “Gift of Wellness” deal of 4 weeks for $49. That’s the same monthly rate I pay for my current gym, so I signed up.

My membership started on January 5th. There was a multi-level Kripalu style yoga class at 9am that morning. I was not familiar with Kripalu style yoga, but a quick internet search assured me that it probably wouldn’t be (overly) strenuous, or involve an hour of chanting. In other words, it sounded like it might work for me.

The class was at the Albemarle Square location of ACAC, which is further from my house than the Downtown location. I had run 16 miles in 17 degree weather the day before and was still feeling the effects (I was tired!). There was also slushy freezing rain falling from the sky. My tiredness and the nasty weather outside caused me to linger over my morning coffee longer than I had planned. My intention had been to run 4 or 5 easy miles on the treadmill before class, but I didn’t make it there in time to do that.

Instead, I did a quick walk-through and checked everything out. The facility is huge compared to where I usually work out.

I found an Adaptive Motion Trainer (my favorite non-treadmill piece of cardio equipment) and did 5 minutes, followed by 10 TRX push-ups (my gym doesn’t have a TRX). I then did 5 minutes on a new-to-me cardio machine that involved lateral leg motion (kind of like speed skating) followed by 10 more TRX push-ups, and then 5 minutes on the ARC trainer, and 10 more push-ups.

I was on my way to do 5 minutes on a bike, when I saw a familiar face. It was one of my first-ever (and also one of my favorite) personal training clients, who I hadn’t seen since I’d left that job about 5 years ago. We spent a few minutes catching up, and then she mentioned that her husband was taking the 9am yoga class. I told her I was, too, and she said “you better get going then, it’s about to start!”


She was right. As I entered the Mind Body Studio, I was quickly reminded why I like to get to classes early. It was packed! The only space left was in the very front of the room. My spot was actually right next to the yoga instructor.  I had to turn sideways to see what he was doing. Not good.

The instructor turned out to be a substitute who wasn’t familiar with Kripalu style yoga. Instead, he taught what I think of as a Hatha Flow style class. He moved very quickly through poses, which is the kind of class I most enjoy, although not the kind of class I think I benefit from the most.

Even though we moved quickly through poses, it didn’t feel particularly strenuous because we did a lot of seated poses and balance poses.

I enjoyed the class and left feeling calm and happy, which, for me, is the ultimate goal of any yoga practice.

I’m still curious about Kripalu style yoga, though. I may have to try this class again when the regular instructor is teaching.