By Carissa Lee
Hands to heart-center, we all breathe in, open-mouth exhale and give final thanks for our practice:
Or at least, that’s the idea anyway.
My first class at CorePower Yoga’s Town and Country location a few Saturdays ago concluded just like that — me (hopefully not visibly) cringing in the back of the heated room as some of the buffest, sweatiest men and women I’ve ever seen unironically bowed their heads and whispered the magic word.
Perhaps Palo Alto’s yoga obsession had indeed gone too far, having clearly instilled a distinct cultishness in its ever-expanding following. Just take a morning stroll down California Avenue — it’s impossible to make it all the way down the road without seeing a single person with a yoga mat slung across their shoulder. Still, a good majority of my classmates were incredibly flexible, and a part of me was determined to attain similar fitness gains.
So there I was fresh out of my 8:15 a.m. C2 yoga class, bemused by the seriousness with which our mystical, perspiry journey was regarded, a full week of free classes ahead of me.
The choice was mine: to nama-stay or nama-run-away?
As I’m writing this piece, I’m sure you can figure out what I chose — and boy, am I glad that I decided to be stubborn and keep at it! I admit I struggled a lot over whether or not to attend the second class, but like the nuclear fission of Uranium-235 (pardon my residual Chem midterm references), getting myself out the door to that second class set off a chain reaction of sorts: as I started to get the hang of it, my interest in improving my practice quickly began to multiply. Contrary to my initial concerns, working yoga into my daily schedule, what with Town and Country being a short five-minute bike away, proved to be no complex feat.
CorePower Yoga’s Palo Alto branch currently offers three types of classes — C1, C2, and Yoga Sculpt — all of which are designed to work the entire body but at differing intensity, speed and room temperature. Over the course of my seven-day trial, I attended six classes in total, making sure to include at least one of each type. For those of you who better understand yoga lingo, Studio Manager Jackie informed me that their pure yoga classes (C1 and C2) are most similar to Vinyasa yoga, while the more “advanced” Yoga Sculpt classes incorporate aerobic exercises and weights. My personal favorite ended up being the C2 class as it best targeted my weaknesses in balance, though I highly recommend the slower-paced (but deeper burn!) C1 class for complete beginners.
I continued my usual running schedule alongside the extra yoga workouts, and I was surprised at how quickly I noticed an improvement in my flexibility and muscle recovery time. I’m incredibly inflexible (it’s a genetic gift, really) and while I generally do my best to stretch before and after running, it wasn’t nearly as effective as the yoga.
In fact, the more I went, the more I began to crave my daily yoga session — the comforting warmth of the heated studio that constructs a climate of complete calm (but also ensures a satisfyingly sweaty workout!), the expertly-tuned playlists that always had an uncanny ability to pick up right when I needed that extra burst of motivation to get through a flow, the pronounced “huh”’s of our group exhales that helped reground our focus mid-practice.
While I could never quite bring myself to say “namaste,” the variety of classes I took during my free trial week provided not only a brief respite from the Stanford bubble (and my many midterms), but from the incessant buzz of my own thoughts as well. Stress doesn’t necessarily arise solely from the pressure to complete assignments or projects; the fast-paced, jam-packed nature of modern life itself often leaves us with insufficient time to process our thoughts and just breathe. The kind instructors at CorePower helped me realize that it’s okay to take that hour-long “breath” to either come to terms with all my thoughts or clear my head entirely.
This brings me to my final words of advice: as we approach the end of midterms season, I think we all owe it to ourselves to relax and loosen up a little. Maybe yoga isn’t for everyone — I sure as hell didn’t think it was for me — but if by some miracle you find yourself with the spare time to try something new, I highly recommend taking the leap with CorePower.
As for me, although I’m nowhere near ready to commit to a full membership (unfortunately Palo Alto’s infamously high prices apply to student “deals” as well), I vastly enjoyed my short-lived adventure into the world of yoga and I highly doubt that this first experience will be my last.
So, to practicing yoga:
Namaste, until another day.
Contact Carissa Lee at carislee ‘at’ stanford.edu.