Downward What Now?!

Yesterday, I went to my very first yoga class. Ever.

I know that probably sounds kind of shocking, but (1) anytime I’ve tried yoga, it’s been at home with a DVD and (2) I tend to be put off by the (perceived) grooviness, so I’ve avoided it. Fair or not, I had a preconception about the music, the potential for incense, the possibility of overly-hairy or overly-smelly classmates, and I have limited time for training. Given a choice, I’d much rather spend an hour listening to some butt-shakin’ music and throwing around some heavy things.

But I’m trying to find a new balance in my life.

I’m meditating every day. The TV is off. I’ve completely eliminated caffeine. I’m remembering to breathe in and out through my nose when life throws a curveball. And I recently read some articles on how yoga can help with stress and adrenal fatigue.

Yoga is the next step on my path to becoming a lean, centered superhero.

My Favorite Part Was The Grooviest Part

I am a big ol’ hypocrite because my favorite part of the lunchtime Vinyasa class was at the end, when we sat with our eyes closed, held our hands in prayer position (a.k.a., Anjali Mudra), and gently touched them to our heads, our lips, and our hearts. It was really beautiful. DAMN IT!

Also, I was kinda digging on the relaxing music. Double damn it!

So, there you have it. I’m a convert.

Some observations from my yoga mat:

1. I got really sweaty.
I knew I would get warm, but I thoroughly underestimated how much I was going to sweat. I WAS DRENCHED. Halfway through the class, my hair was completely soaked and all of my makeup had been washed off, except two wide swathes of black eyeliner and the remnants of my mascara, which had migrated from on my lashes to under my eyes.

2. I could do ‘happy baby pose’ all day long.
After doing about a million Downward Dog to Cobra—with a bunch of challenging static poses in between—we did lovely things like holding our knees into our chests and Happy Baby, which is now my favorite way to lie on the floor. It’s ridiculously comfortable. Go ahead, try it… I’ll wait.

3. I can make an ocean sound when I breathe in and out through my nose.
Our first move was to lie on the floor and become aware of our breathing: in through the nose and out through the nose. We practiced creating a pause at the end of both the inhale and exhale. Love that! Plus, it sounds like waves rolling in and out if you do it right. Again, I wholeheartedly encourage you to try it. No equipment necessary!

4. CrossFit has really prepared me for some yoga poses. CrossFit has really not prepared me for some yoga poses.
If asked, I would assert that I have excellent balance and good core strength. Yesterday showed me I have OK balance and some core strength. This is going to be an excellent complement to my CrossFit WODs and strength training. Plus, it’s the kind of thing you can do for your entire life and still learn stuff.

5. I’m even more impressed with Estelle Parsons.
Way back in July 2008, I wrote about Estelle Parsons and her enviable yoga handstand. At the time, she’d been practicing yoga for 30 years (!) and was also swimming and lifting weights to condition herself for a demanding stage role. She’s now 84 years old and still working in plays on Broadway. Presumably, she’s still kicking my ass in the free-standing handstand department, too.

Do you yoga?

Are you a yoga person? Share a story or two in the comments. I’d love to hear your experiences, good or bad. (And a special shout-out of love to my pal Stacey for going with me to yoga class. I don’t know if she knew it, but I felt really awkward and nerd-rific… it helped so much to have a friend in the room.)


My New Vocabulary

When I started my yoga adventures a few months ago (as part of my Healing Experiment), I didn't know what to expect, but I didn't...

Read More
Delicious, Delicious Sleep

Until I made the switch to eating paleo, I was a terrible sleeper. I never had trouble falling asleep, but I'd wake up at 4:00...

Read More


  • Amber says:

    I’ve found that Yoga is an fantastic compliment to strength training. I gain flexibility, and the strength I get lifting weights helps me with my inversions, in turn, all of the holding of poses helps the small stabilizing muscles which them helps me with things like overhead and front squats. Symbiotic! =)

  • Dana says:

    Funny, I took my first yoga class this week too — Yoga for Athletes at my CrossFit. I left feeling so languid, and happily surprised at how challenging it was. (and no way could I have done the crane and the backbend if it weren’t for CrossFit!)

  • Summer says:

    I can totally relate!! I just tried Bikram for the first time a couple weeks ago and LOVED it. I never thought I would like anything related to yoga…I’m far to too Type-A for that and CF is more my speed. But I felt so refreshed and calm afterwards…I couldn’t wait to go back again.

    I definitely think CF helped with many of the poses. I thank my overhead squat practise for getting me through some of those crazy poses…especially the one where you stand on your 1 set of toes with your arms and legs wrapped around you.

    I was actually going to do a blog post on it soon…I’ll definitely track back to yours.


  • Pensguys says:

    Oh I’ve learned to love yoga too!!! I’m doing a challenge with my friend on to do yoga for 21 days in a row. Some days are shorter and some are longer but it all is GREAT!! I can tell a big difference in my core strength and balance and some days it all is better than other days. That’s why they call it a “practice”. Try hot yoga sometime…done in a 95-105 deg room….and just watch the sweat pour! SO good for those sore muscles because the stretches get down and deep.

  • angela says:

    Hey Melissa- I’ve been reading your site for a couple months now and really enjoying it, thanks :). Couldn’t help but comment on this one as I came to CrossFit/Paleo after many years of being a pure yoga girl. After having a baby, I just didn’t have 90 minutes x times a week to get myself back in shape. And to get strong enough to one day finally do a handstand (congrats to you!) CrossFit really kicks my butt, but I found it made me do even more yoga to get those kinks out. I think I’ll always be a yoga girl at heart, but agree that with a combination of yoga and strength work and meditation you will continue to kick ass in ways you never thought possible :).

  • Karen P. says:

    Ha ha! Yes, yoga can be stinky, incensey, and groovy. But I’m glad you didn’t let it stop you!

    Yoga is, as others have asserted here, an awesome complement to just about any other physical activity, but especially things like CF that require strength and contraction. It’s always a good thing to move our bodies in an opposite direction and gain new perspective.

    I’m guessing that if you keep with it, you’ll find the benefits won’t stay on the mat, but they’ll begin to follow you around in your daily life, even CF.

    Welcome to the groovy side. 🙂

  • Kylie says:

    I’ve been practicing (yogi word… blegh) for 10 years on and off.

    A few of our CrossFit classes end with mobility workouts that use a lot of yoga poses. Those classes are my favorite because the whole time I’m sweating through the WOD I’m thinking of gettin’ down with the downward dog at the end.

    I find yoga and stretching serves as a great offset to the intense training at CrossFit. And, the clothes are cute.

  • Michele says:

    I do yoga at least twice a day and during stressful or difficult times I do it everyday. It changes the whole mood of the day for me, makes me feel strong in a different way than the gym does.

    Most important, to me, is that I can use yoga out in the world so that whatever is thrown at me I can say “OK, take a breath and choose a pose”.

    Yoga on!

  • Annette says:

    Timely post for me. I just did my first cross fit WOD last week. I have been eating paleo for a year — following lots of your delicious recipes, Melissa – and just had to find out what the deal with CF was. Well, I get it. I love it. I’m also glad to read that others agree — the two are great together!!

  • Adam Kayce says:

    I haven’t done yoga seriously for years (just a few poses, or a dvd, here and there), but I’ve had waves where I was really into it – Hatha, Ashtanga, Bikram, etc. I fell out of when I was going to Bikram, and my spine got so flexible (but without the necessary strength), and I threw my back out big time.

    But I think about getting back into some kind of practice often; I also used to do a lot of martial arts, and I miss the inner focus both provided.

    (And yeah, love the ocean breathing!)

  • De23 says:

    I’ve also been doing yoga for years. Sometimes I’m more intense about it, but if I don’t do some at least once a week I can really tell a difference – I feel all stiff and weird. And if you’re not in the mood for relaxing music and “groovy” talk, you can try Steve Ross’s show Inhale (actually it doesn’t look like it’s on Oxygen anymore – I have a bunch of episodes recorded that I use). He’s of the “just do it” school, and I learned to be a fearless attempter of crazy yoga poses from his show. My fav quote: “There’s no such thing as a perfect pose – what makes it perfect is that you’re doing it.” Plus he plays really crazy music, from Sting to hip-hop to Gospel to 60’s Motown.

  • Teresa says:

    Okay. I knew I was going to comment eventually. And I’ll (maybe) keep it brief. But yoga? Saved my life. Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (thus learning why my feet went numb and I stumbled and fell when I ran and lifted and did other awesome stuff) messed me up. It took away my mental and physical and emotional strength. And when I stumbled across yoga and decided to give it a shot, it just tore my heart wide open. In a good way. I learned to focus on what I can do, instead of what I can’t. I discovered that not only do I have the strength to do Crow, I am also strong enough to stick with my almost-Paleo anti-inflammatory diet. And they both make me feel better. Stronger. More myself than I ever was before. So now I’m the fittest I’ve ever been. I teach Pilates. People say they wish they had my body, and I just smile; not out of vanity, but because they obviously don’t know I have a crippling disease. And I’m happy. So. 5 Things My Body Can Do? The Best Versions of Us? Those pieces ARE yoga. You are a natural. (No incense required.)
    (That was NOT brief. Sorry. Now I’m off to get ready for power yoga….)

  • barb says:

    My husband & i started doing yoga together when we were going through a rough patch in our relationship. It was an awesome way to spend some quality time together, no talking. :-)Just having our bodies in motion, next to each other, not touching – was such a great bonding time. Very woo woo crunchy granola but very true.
    I think it’s an amazing add-on to strength training, for me any way – since I know I neglect the flexibility training shamefully.
    Funny story – our instructor pointed out my apparently outstanding triangle pose to the whole class, which was amazing for me, The Girl Who Always Feels Chunky And Not Athletic. My husband grumbled and got very competitive (in a fun way)which has lead to years worth of joking about competitive yoga as Olympic sport.

  • Beth Neff says:

    Yoga is part of my life:) I am freaky strong and bendy too. I am not the yoga looking type, that is what makes it awesome but it also makes me versatile and injury free for 46 years. How does she do that? they ask, and I say yoga baby.

  • Lily says:

    I go to yoga about once a week. I really like it, more for the relaxing-ness than anything else. Unlike you, I almost never break a sweat during class and I can’t do happy baby pose!! I end up rolling to one side because I can’t get my back flat haha. I’m making a goal of going more often because I need more flexibility in my hips/back.

  • Lydia says:

    I’m so happy you had such a great experience with yoga! I’ve been doing Iyengar yoga with a local teacher here for about ten years or so–I love it! I can’t afford to go to class very often these days, but have committed to a daily home practice.

    Regular yoga practice has kept my brain and body from falling apart when I’ve been too sick for more strenuous exercise.

    Mmmmmm, yoga love. Even the woo-woo stuff is nice sometimes. =)

  • Mel says:

    EVERYONE… thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I’ve loved reading all of your responses!

    I went to my second class yesterday — with my own NEW yoga mat, thank you very much — and really enjoyed it. I even tried two moves that I was too chicken to try last week.

    I’m committed to every Wednesday and I’m thisclose to picking a second day each week. I can really sense how much it will help me physically, mentally, and emotionally.

    But I refuse to start burning incense 😉

  • Pensguys says:

    YES< YES< and YES!!! I am ADDICTED to yoga now!!!!! Do it at LEAST twice/week!!! or more! 🙂

  • Susan says:

    I tried a hot yoga class based on your post. I go to CF 3 times a week because those are the only classes that fit into my work schedule. I run for a fourth workout. So I needed another workout to round out my week. I am getting really into it and feel super refreshed afterwards. Thanks for the post!

    • Mel says:

      Hey, Susan! That’s so great. I’m glad to hear you’re feeling the benefits of yoga, too. I didn’t make it to class last week, and I’m missing it! Can’t wait ’til Wednesday to get chilled out!