I Survived My First Yoga Class

Discover the surprising benefits of yoga for stress relief and tension reduction in this personal account of a youth minister's experience.

I Survived My First Yoga Class
Photo by Carl Barcelo / Unsplash

In the real world, I’m the Minister to Youth and Families at a church in Downtown Orlando. On top of the tragedy that fell just blocks from my office, I spent this summer on four mission trips with various groups of teenagers. Since June 6 I spent more nights on blow-up mattresses and vinyl pads than I did in my own bed.

Would you believe this frequent travel schedule, along with being parent to 100 different children — none of which are actually mine — produces stress and tension? Just a small amount. Add in sleeping (or not sleeping) on the floor or on a wooden board, also known as a “camp bed,” and the end result is twisted shoulders and messed up muscles.

During my short stays back in town, I’d visit a massage therapist. Her task was simple: put me back together long enough to survive the next week. After one session she suggested I try a yoga class. Learning a few basic stretches that could be preformed while on trips could help remove tension and stress — at least that was the theory.

Due to a parent meeting for the next trip and debrief of the previous one, there was only one class I could attend in the six-days I was home. My wife and I booked the class: Warm Vinyasa. I had no idea what it meant and the fancy schedule app had no description, but my wife said it should be fine for my noob status.

This has been the hottest summer on record. In June I spent a week sleeping in 90+ degree heat with no air flow in the Dominican Republic. I spent four-days working in a shade-less field in Starke, Florida with daily heat indexes pushing 114 degrees. None of those things produced as much sweat as that 60-minute yoga class. It wasn’t even close.

The Aussie woman instructing began with a simple pose: at least that’s how she referred to it. To me, it was a test in flexibility and stamina — both of which I have none. About 10 minutes in I felt like I was going to die. I was soaking wet and trying not to fall over or, even worse, somehow get tangled up within myself. At the time, this felt like a very real possibility. Between the heat, the pain in every one of my muscles, my inability to balance or bend or flex or, well, anything, I very much wanted to die.

But then I didn’t die.

In fact, by the end of it when I was lying on the floor trying to sink into the ground or whatever, I didn’t feel half bad.

I didn’t like the heat. I didn’t like the sweating. I didn’t like not being able to follow along with the instructor. But, I liked the class?

I’ve got a second class scheduled. While I’m pretty sure I’m not going to become some tie-died spandex wearing hippie who “goes to yoga,” there might be something to this whole stretching and balance thing. If it does help relieve stress and tension, then I guess all the pain is worth it.

At least, that’s what people who go to yoga tell me.

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!