Yesterday, I took my first Yoga class. Well, second one, if you count the one I attempted around 10 years ago. Oooh, I hated it and nearly walked out. There was something about a room full of lycra-clad women, incense (gag) and complete silence that had me nearly bursting out in uncontrollable laughter- sort of like when you hear really horrible news and instead of weeping, you shriek hysterically, because your feelings are so intense, your brain hasn’t had time to figure out an appropriate outlet for them. It just seemed, so…incongruent or something. The ying/yang of intensity and calm was a bit unnerving, I guess
I tried Pilates last winter and left after two sessions- I just couldn’t make sense of it. It was like the teacher was talking in a different language. I wrote about that experience in a past newsletter (check archives here).
For the past month, I’ve been searching for a specialized Yoga class (no-incense, thank you) that would help strengthen my back and core. I’ve had multiple bone related issues and surgeries (yea, getting old, I know…) and knew I needed to get myself in better shape. Jogging the last 35 years hasn’t helped matters.
Anyway, I found what I was looking for: a Yoga class specializing in back problems. My surgeon had told me to work on “THE CORE”, and this class promised to teach me just that.
I took my first class yesterday. I failed miserably. You can’t flunk a Yoga class, you say. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can. This is what happened.
I entered a room that had the heat turned up to 100 degrees. Ok, I’m exaggerating. But not much. I was thinking- why would a Yoga room be blistering hot when all the students (remember, it’s a bad back class) would most likely be perimenopausal or in the throes of menopause itself? I hoped they’d have a hefty supply of towels for the poor sweating women.
Of course, I forgot to bring my own (spanking new) Yoga mat, so I had to rent one from them for $2. I shuddered to think of what nasty microorganisms might be sitting on that pad and wished I had a bottle of antiseptic spray on me. But hey, who was I to complain?
To get my mind off of Cooties and such, I looked at – no, scrutinized – my classmates, who were already in their first pose. Here, I thought I’d be mixing with men and women around my age, feeling relaxed and relieved that no one would question my grunting and groaning, since we’d all be in the same boat with crappy bones and joints.
There were two other students- each could have passed for a 12 year old, looking so petite and lithe. I stared at their youthful flexible bodies in total disbelief (why the heck were they here?), then looked up at my new instructor, Cassie, who appeared to be all of 14 years. Oh, and more lycra. With my hypersensitivities to certain fabrics and a post middle-aged body, lyrca is on my hit list.
Then the game began, the game I call “Terry can’t follow multi-step directions.” This is what I heard:
“Ladies (ladies? Should have been old lady and children), I want you to sit down, then lay back, lean your butt up against the wall, facing it, as close as you can, and extend your right leg straight up onto the wall while bending your left leg and flexing your toes (right? left? I can’t remember). Now extend your arms straight out with your thumbs up and breath through your nose, forcing your stomach to push out, then exhale through your mouth. Turn your head to the door, paying attention to the x muscles (how am I supposed to know which muscles she’s talking about?) and watch your breathing.” Now…this was only part of what she said- I can’t remember the rest. No way. Trying to take it all in and follow the directions was harder than doing the actual exercise.
I felt like I was back in 1st grade, unable to remember which bathroom at school was the boys and which was the girls, terrified to make the wrong choice, and waiting until a classmate entered so I’d know which one was the girl’s room.
Since I absolutely could not follow all of these steps in Yoga class, I decided to do what I did as a first grader- I watched the other students. Back then, they all seemed to know when it was time to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance, when to put supplies away, when to start writing, when to get ready to pack up. Me? I was clueless about such things. I always needed to follow the leader.
Back to Yoga class. The two young women hit each pose like Olympian champions. Right on target, while Cassie had to keep private tutoring me, moving my body parts in the right direction, right positions, correcting this and that. But I had my role models to follow, so I was still in the running- I just had to keep watching their moves. Then everything changed: we were instructed to turn on our other sides. Suddenly, I was the leader (not that they needed one) and I lost my visual cues (you know how important that is for people with ADD, right?).
Cassie (or was it Callie?) stepped up to the plate, realizing she had to work harder with me. I hate to admit it, but I was happy to see that she had a little pooch of a tummy. Thank goodness I wasn’t the only one, though I’d hoped my James Taylor sized L tshirt was hiding mine. Now, I could let myself breath normally instead of sucking it in till I was about to faint. The heat didn’t help.
Then my concentration fell off the cliff, because I was wondering about Cassie/Callie. At 14- I mean- 21- she seemed awfully young to have had a baby or two. And how did she cut her bangs so…straight? And wow- was she tall! Taller than me! I came back to earth when the girls changed position while I was still on my back, studying Cassie’s pooch and bangs.
Suddenly, the moves got harder and harder, the steps more complicated: turn this way! Move your arm that way! Point your foot this way! And don’t forget the breathing!
Class ended and I almost felt like apologizing. The two women/children left without a word. I hesitated, knowing I had to say something to the teacher about my complete clumsiness, but chose not to. Instead, I asked her opinion about whether she felt this class would be useful for my orthopedic conditions. But I faltered and asked if she thought I could keep up with the other two kids. Cassie smiled, and said I’d done pretty well(!)…that others my age often can’t even get down onto the floor. MY AGE? Grrr. I wanted to explain how hard it was to follow all the steps. Should I ask for accommodations? Bring a white board so she could write down the steps? Tape record the class and practice at home?
Naaah. I’ll try at least a few more times to see if I can get the hang of it. Maybe.
How about you? Do you have trouble following multiple steps? Did you know that this is most likely due to our problems with executive functioning? With ADD, we all have difficulties in this area, but to different degrees. Though many women with ADD can be gifted dancers, gymnasts, and such, for many others, just following a dance partner’s simple Waltz can be a huge challenge. I know. Because I can’t dance either.
Please share your story by adding your comment below. I’d love to hear- no, I’m begging to hear that I’m not the only one.
I love the way you wrote and have to admit I laughed quite a bit, mainly because I can relate to your experience. I have gone to a few yoga classes and am hoping to keep going because I can’t help but believe the long-term benefits outweigh the embarrassment and frustration.The executive functioning and getting easily distracted issues do apply here. I have tried a class for Seniors (which I’m not – yet) which I enjoy and feel no youth-envy or pressure to achieve the perfect position. I also watch the others (when our position allows me to face them) and if possible, the instructor, for guidance. I’m learning to do what I can and at my own pace, and hoping if I go enough I can learn some positions to do it more at home (if I can remember how to do them). Now dancing, that’s something I would like to try with my hubby, but we’ve yet to go to any lessons. I’m sure it will be a challenge, but the reward may be worth it. Of course, when we”d actually use, it I don’t know. Keep trying and keep writing.
Thank You So Much For The Laugh! You Are Not Alone! And I’m Glad I’m Not The Only One With Fabric Issues To Me The Only Thing Worse Than Lycra Is That Micro Fiber! 😛 Thank You For All You Do. 🙂
This reminds me of how I learned to do line dances. I was fine so long as I could see other people. When the group turned around and I was the lead, it didn’t work out so well! I now hide in the middle of the pack…
I do go to yoga class occasionally (maybe 2 or 3 times a year!). My yoga class is called “Gentle Yoga” and the average age is over 40. No lycra in sight (mostly sweat pants and t-shirts). And most of us are not very flexible. It’s run by a medical clinic, not a commercial gym. The yoga mats are free if you leave yours at home.
Your yoga class reminds me of one I took on a cruise. The instructor had never taught yoga before, and decided to go for as many poses as possible! My husband dropped out halfway through. That was the most stressful yoga class I’ve ever done.
I do Zumba and don’t have any problems with following its directions. They call it “exercise in disguise” because you’re having so much fun dancing, you don’t realize you’re exercising. Plus, it does AMAZING things for your core!!!!
Come with me to the light, dear cousin. I take a yoga class on Monday nights (instructor also teaches a Tuesday night class) that I love. She’s older, encourages modification and no overdoing poses. About a dozen people (mostly older) in the class-some long timers, some newbies like me. I worked through a knee issue and vertigo in the class. Call me if you want more information. Love you.
Hi Cuz! Where is your class- what city? And thanks for the brisket reminder. I’ll find it and email you. : )
That was the best laugh all day! I can so relate. I tried hot yoga this summer and felt the same way. I just watched the person beside me until one class I think I had all new people around so they were looking at me. I was like don’t look at me because I can’t keep all those steps strait in my head. I also suffer from hearing loss so it resulted in a lot of work of watching others as the instructor talks so quietly. Suppose to be relaxing but not so much when you can’t hear! I wanted to get up and scream some classes. My hearing aid would whistle when I laid on that side so I had to take it out which made my ability to hear her sweet soft voice even worse. I thought also that I should go to the senior class because of my inability to hear and follow the directions. I surprisingly liked it and was able to mostly fake my way through a number of classes. I have been faking my way through a lot of things all my life! You get pretty good at it. I have decided now to resort to trying the P90X yoga in the comfort of my home with the volume up high and the remote close by so I can use the pause button. Enjoy your writing.
Hi Beth! Thanks for your feedback and your experiences. Could you tell me what P90X yoga is?
I only have it a bit, but being a dancer I find copying things with my body fairly easy. Give me a multi step math problem is my downfall though.
I agree though with the seeing what others are doing though. If I don’t see exactly what a person is doing I tend to get lost a little as well. With yoga I always look at others to see if I’m doing it right instead of listening exactly to the instructions. Long instructions always throw me off as well if I don’t concentrate.
Ha! I can totally relate! Although it certainly was a lot easier to take classes and follow instruction before I became perimenopausal and my short term memory really began to fail! 🙂 I have a solution for you:
I became a Certified Personal Trainer (graduated from the class when I turned 40!) I learned how to exercise to help improve ADHD symptoms. Not only can I exercise the “right” way now, I can do it without embarrassing myself! Also, I can help people achieve their personal fitness goals by customizing a work out program for them. It is a very satisfying career which allows me to use my creativity in a very productive way and is anything but boring or confusing. Get a Personal Trainer and kick all those insecurities and ADHD issues in the butt! 😉
Sarah, I’ve thought about that- finding a personal trainer, so if the classes don’t work out, I may go that route. We need more like you who “get” the ADHD part!
Did this make me laugh! I just took my third yoga class yesterday, and while I am liking it, your talking about all the steps involved was a perfect fit with my experience. I just never connect my ADD with the difficulties I have doing multi step tasks that others seem to handle so easily.
It doesn’t help that the instructor whispers her commands- I swear I’m not deaf…
…and she keeps telling us to keep our eyes closed. Gotta say, I fudge a bit on that one. Seriously, how would I ever know what to do if my eyes were always closed?
Anyway, I am going to keep going. I feel the potential to really help my body remain functioning.
Good luck to you!
Hey ladies! I’m loving your responses, here. Makes me feel like I’m not alone in my inability to follow all those instructions which seem to come out in one looooong stream of words.
I have taken classes but I really like doing yoga with a DVD at home. Very relaxing. Stick with yoga. It really helps wake up my ADHD brain.
My EFD kicked in trying to follow all the yoga steps you could remember!!! I, too, can’t do more than one thing at a time! Trying to complete my degree has been challenging. I can’t remember everything my instructors say & forget about assignments that are due. Thank goodness for great friends who keep me straight!
I read this article right when I came home from yoga, so funny! Today was my 4th or 5th class, and I can totally relate! I have always struggled to follow multi-step directions and I’m a visual learner… Even with my Zumba and Pilates classes, I have to watch the instructor the entire time, and I just copy whatever she’s doing. It is too difficult for me to quiet my mind, pay attention to what she is saying and follow instructions, and be sure that I’m doing everything the way it’s supposed to be done and not be self conscious. Though I’m sure once I’ve been going for a month or two, it’ll be easier. I have to say, I can already see a huge differene in my endurance and strength… These classes can have so many benefits, and can actually be enjoyable andthereputic once you get over the initial hurdles… I would say give it at least a month before you make up your mind… I was amazed today at what my body was capable of, and that feeling makes it all worth it! Thanks for sharing your stories, it’s so nice to relate to others and know that I’m not the only one! 🙂
Hi Terry, You are hilarious. I try real hard not to go to that kind of class.Haute? whaut?? I am sooo lucky that the YMCA where I Yoga has Chair Yoga, Gentlest Yoga, Gentle Yoga, Old people’s Yoga,etc. quite joint impaired here. I started with this and the instructor has ADD as well(You know one when you see one) He is very zen, and that is calming.I pretty much close my eyes during the sitting poses.There is a lot of explanation. Instructors say “do what your body can today”. That’s my goal. I can’t run. Keep being Hilarious. You rock. 67 out.
Thanks, Carol : )
This is such a relief to read! I have a lot of trouble with this sort of thing and didn’t realize it was a part of the ADD. Nice to know I’m not just dumb. One of my kids has this issue as well and it causes a lot of frustration for her also.
I can so relate to having to watch the others. I was living in the Netherlands when I was pregnant with my daughter. Not only were the pre-natal classes in Dutch (I’m Canadian), but the leader was German, so she spoke Dutch with a heavy German accent. I could compensate for my ADD and my imperfect understanding quite well by watching the others – until we got to the relaxation exercises. We were supposed to lie on our backs and relax each body part as she called them out. I would be as rigid as a board as my mind struggled with the vocabulary while I strained to see what part the others were relaxing (it’s IMPOSSIBLE to tell!).
I have a hard time with multiple directions and often feel like a complete flop in exercise classes. I suggest going to YouTube and searching for yoga. There are lots of yoga classes of varying lengths. I have had better luck in exercise classes if I am familiar with a few basic moves beforehand, and YouTube is a quick, inexpensive way to do this. I detested yoga the first few times I tried it, but loved it once I got a good teacher. Good luck! It also helped a lot with my focus, so I was glad I kept searching.
Jen, great idea about You Tube. Totally forgot about that option. You and a few others have a great point- become familiar with the poses before heading to class. Thanks for the tips and I’m glad you are enjoying your Yoga classes 🙂
Terry, try starting at home with a beginner Yoga DVD. By the time I got to the club, I felt like I knew a thing or two. Also, my class was through a fitness club (reasonable fees) that included many classes & a variety of instructors. I found 2 that I love that are skilled, very encouraging & are old enough to know what menopausal aches & pains are- lol. Also found I love Zumba- lots of fun & invigorating, although when I am learning a new routine, I have been known to murmur “what- do they think this is try out’s for ‘So you think you can dance’?” Lol!
On a different note- have you ever heard if the Fly Lady? A friend recently turned me on to her site after hearing me complain about not being able to get my life under control. She sends out loads of tips on how to de-clutter, clean, organize, as well as offers encouragement to love yourself & bless those around you. She also encourages baby steps & calls her readers ‘Fly Babies’. I love it! It seems perfect for my ADD brain to handle & I urge you to check it out if you haven’t & offer it to your subscribers, as well.
Dora, great idea re: a DVD. We have a game console, so I may get one of the Yoga programs and try that especially with the winter coming soon. Yes, I know of Flylady- she’s great! Lots find her emails helpful, but personally, I got overwhelmed with them. I do try and let people know about her. Thanks for your comments!
Well, in a way I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles with multi step instructions (now I know why I flunked sewing in middle school), but it’s also sad that we have to struggle.
Lots of great comments, great suggestions here- thanks, everyone! One idea is to find a class specifically geared towards the “older crowd”, so if this class doesn’t work out, I’ll search for that. I like the idea of NOT being the only one wearing loose knit pants and an old James Taylor tshirt. 🙂
I had a similar experience in a hot yoga class several years ago! It was the most difficult class! Since then I have taken a couple classes, with normal room temp, geared towards beginners. It is less difficult and more relaxing when the instructor knows you and gears the training to your level. I might also mention, I have the same difficulty in martial arts classes, remembering all the instructions, especially since they are typically in another language, which creates more challenges because it further compounds the memory issues. No, you’re not alone! 🙂 But hang in there and keep taking classes, you have every right to learn these skills and improve your body and mind! 🙂
Hi Terry…. I can relate to most of what you said….. But I think if you went for two more classes to give it a try.. you’d see by the third time it gets a bit easier.. If by the 4th or 5th, your not seeing any improvement in your body.. its not for you… Have you tried Zumba?? They have a senior Zumba that alot of people in their 50’s take, because its structured in a more relaxed way….