Man vs Yoga: Battle begins

I know what you’re
going to say.

Why in the world
would a mature adult male sign up for 30 straight days of yoga classes? Yoga is
a pursuit for pregnant women who want to stay active and hippies looking for
“spiritual enlightenment”, right?

At one point, my
less-enlightened younger self might have agreed with you. But given the fact
that I’m a much wiser 35 (and the knees have started to take a bit less kindly
to running), it might be time to try out some other active pursuits.

Lest anyone doubt
this, the type of yoga taught at Bliss Living and Yoga in Cayman can only be
called an active pursuit. It is a workout. Full stop.

There are three
things one discovers when one takes the first few classes in yoga ‘detox’

You’re not as
flexible as you thought you were.

 Sweat glands can operate at a capacity that
was heretofore unthinkable.

All that
running/biking/whateverotherexercise didn’t prepare you for this

Now, let’s get this
straight too. I’d be lying if I didn’t say the first week of classes wasn’t
tough. But there is an immediate reward at the end of the class if you’ve
worked at it. You feel great! I actually felt up to a run after Friday
morning’s ‘Kundalini’ class – no kidding.

Weird, huh? 

But we’re getting
ahead of ourselves. And that is something one must never do in yoga.


Getting started

Classes for the first
week: Monday the ‘beginners flow’ class at 8pm; Tuesday the regular ‘flow’
class, 5pm; Wednesday the ‘power’ class at 6.30pm; Thursday again ‘power’ at
5pm and Friday it’s the ‘Kundalini’ class at 8.45am. On the weekdays there are
usually eight classes per day; the earliest starts at either 6am or 7am, the
latest at 8pm. So, Bliss is pretty flexible – then again, they are yoga
teachers. Weekend classes currently feature four on Saturday and three on

Classes run for a
little over an hour, on average ,including a period of about ten minutes or so
at the end for a cool-down meditation following the exercises, though
individual classes may vary.

Those who know me
will probably say that I tend to be a bit, ah, goal-oriented when it comes to
doing almost anything. So, being a newbie, I walk in and immediately start my
barrage of questions to Bliss owner Janelle Fleur Kroon.

“Okay, what should I
focus on? Breathing? Form? Power? Meditation?”

Hold on a second, dude.
You’ve already got it all wrong.

“Focus on not having
expectations,” Janelle says. “Just go in there and see what happens. (Have)
expectations and you’re suffering. You say this has to happen, it doesn’t
happen – boom – you’re disappointed.”

That doesn’t make
much sense to me, but I’ll give it a go. Janelle has been practicing yoga for
13 years and I think she could actually bench press me, so it looks like
something’s working for her.

In I go and run into
a friend of mine who has been doing yoga since April.

“Hey, is this your
first class?” she asks.


“(Vague look of pity)
Oh, really? Did you bring a bottle of water?”

It’s good to have a
bottle of water with you in Bliss yoga (water is provided, but you have to go
out of the room to get it). You also might want to bring a spare towel in
addition to your yoga towel. The yoga towel goes over the mat, which is
provided. The spare towel goes on your face occasionally so you can see through
the veil of perspiration. You might also need assistance from the yoga block
and belt to help balance (these can be picked up in the corner of the room).


Heavy lifting

It starts out harmlessly
enough. Knees on the floor, thighs doubled over the calves, chest on top of
that and arms stretched out on the floor. This is called “the child’s pose”.

Then roll up to the
palms of the hands and up on the balls of your feet; your behind is up, knees
slightly bent (I think? – yoga instructor Chantelle Cooper will correct me if I
get it wrong). This is called “downward facing dog”.

Here’s where it gets

From the downward
facing dog position, lift your right leg up and extend your right knee back
over toward your left leg. Hold that a while. Then, turn over to the left side,
straight legs, straight left arm supporting your upraised body. From here you
can raise the right leg, twist sideways to look back at the ceiling, any number
of options.

With the more intense
classes (after beginners) the exercises get tougher. Loved this one: lay on
your back with knees up, then wrap your right leg over your left and your right
arm under your left. Now that you’re in position, start doing sit-ups. Absolute

I actually found the
regular ‘flow’ class the toughest one to finish in the first week. But the
power class was also challenging, and some positions I simply could not
achieve. Instructor Mark Jansen did a good job of pushing me along with some of
them. (Literally, the guy stood over me and moved my arms and legs around until
they went properly – it didn’t hurt a bit.) 

For instance, there’s
one position that requires you to squat down with your forearms on the outside
of your shins. From this position, with the proper core support, you can raise
your feet off the floor and hang suspended – head, body and feet – balancing
your lower legs on your forearms. That one just wasn’t happening for me.

The Kundalini class
was a lot of core work, and it sneaks up on you. Instructor Iliana Eastman
(Bonilla) makes the serious abdominal work involved look effortless. It isn’t.
Try this: lay on your back with legs straight out, hands under your bottom for
support. Lift right leg straight up (breathe in), lift left leg up to match the
right (breathe out), hold it, the lower right leg (breathe in), lower left leg
(breathe out). Ow.

It’s hot in the Bliss
studio (and I think I’ve already mentioned the sweating). But you’ll get a good
cool-down period at the end. The thing is not to just lie there, or wait, maybe
it is. You concentrate on your breathing, keep relaxed, but focused. Clear your

It works. The
beginner may find themselves feeling a bit self-conscious during this period,
but it works.

“We were all
beginners once,” Janelle says. “There’s no judgment. If there’s one thing
that’s common in there, it’s everybody’s trying to…make something better.”

Okay, so first week is done. There are still
a number of classes which I haven’t taken (including the dreaded ‘HOT’ yoga –
my friend advised me to wait a bit before practicing this one). I’ll check back
in two weeks from now to see if I’ve made something better.