Well Being

Gym Classy Lady: Restorative Yoga Restored My Actual Enjoyment Of Yoga

By  | 

restorative yoga

Like most things sweat-related, I have a love-hate relationship with yoga. We first met in college, when I took “Stretch and Relax” to satisfy a semester’s worth of gym credits (thank you, University of the South). The harmless name aside, it was something like restorative yoga masquerading as the world’s easiest gym credit. Every week, we did downward facing dog and warrior and afterwards, my roommate and I went back to our room and spent the rest of the afternoon in a sleepy haze. It was truly a Zen experience.

After I graduated (and I’d like to think the gym credit was largely responsible for my BA and all subsequent success), I ignored yoga as it became more trendy until I was a broke 24-year-old, living in midtown Manhattan. Fueled by a desire to get in shape for a wedding, a lack of gym membership funds, and aided by Google, I dragged a friend to Yoga to the People in the East Village.

Yoga to the People strives to give everyone access to yoga, regardless of finances. Thus, you pay as much (or as little) as you can afford, but the suggested donation is $10. Like anything cheap in New York, the place was packed full of people, but the class was remarkably similar to Stretch and Relax, if Stretch and Relax were actually quite difficult.

I continued on my cheap yoga thrill for the better part of a year, going once a week. And then I realized that while it was a great workout, I didn’t actually enjoy it at all. In fact, I kind of hated it. I had a hard time breathing while inverted and I think I really hadn’t worked out enough to know that I wasn’t going to hate every form of exercise. I started doing cardio and strength training and dropped yoga like a bad habit. I haven’t looked back.

Still, yoga is extremely beneficial to all types of people. Not only is it a great workout, it can be used for stress relief, preventing injuries, and is as good for the mind as it is for the body. So why shouldn’t I try to integrate yoga into my rotation?

Enter: restorative yoga. Restorative yoga is meant to be less of a workout and more of a focus on rest and recovery. Instead of stretching your body and holding poses, like in a traditional yoga class, restorative classes use props to hold poses for much longer and engage in “passive stretching.” While this doesn’t feel as challenging as other forms of yoga, yoga experts say it is as beneficial to your body and mind, and is a complement to an active lifestyle.

Naturally, I was curious to try this out and was referred to the restorative yoga class at Exhale Spa, called Exhale Chill.

EFFECTIVENESS* – Overall, was it a good workout? How sweaty was I at the end? From black tie ready to fat man in Texas July.

3 – This wasn’t a typical workout in that I wasn’t sweaty, but it did feel like it did my body some good. Afterwards, I felt very limber and relaxed. But I should be clear that this is definitely not a replacement for a cardio or strength training workout. I could have attended a black tie event after a class, that’s how opposite-of-sweaty I was. It was almost comical how non-workout this felt.

AMENITIESHow posh was the gym/spa/studio? From lemon water to BYO.

5 – Exhale, where I also take Core Fusion Barre, is more of a spa in their Manhattan locations (I went to Central Park South). They’re equipped with fancy locker rooms, branded toiletries, and gorgeous, clean studios.

STUDIO VIBEWas the place full of lululemon or ratty old t-shirts? How awkward did I feel, from inner-Beyonce to sixth grade me?

3 – The crowd was lulu-clad and intimidating for a first-timer, but the staff all is very friendly and will show you around so you’re not lost.

TEACHERSDid the teacher add to or detract from the experience? Did they put together a good playlist?

4 – The class I took (Sunday evening at Central Park South) was small and the instructor did a great job of explaining the process and helping students alter their poses for injuries. She really knew what she was talking about and definitely added to the experience.

OVERALL EXPERIENCEWould I go again? What else contributed to my experience?

4 – Exhale seems to schedule these classes in the evenings and it is the perfect way to end a stressful day. I felt much more calm after the class and finally understand those stress relieving benefits yoga boasts. At $26 a class (at least in New York, but classes are cheaper if you purchase a package), it’s certainly not a cheap habit, but it’s probably more beneficial than happy hour, right?

About “Gym Class Lady”: Inspired by my love of trying all things fitness, every other week I’ll be reviewing a class, workout fad, or video, based on several factors. I try all these classes so you don’t have to. Have a class to recommend or a review you’d love to read? Leave me a comment!

*All factors are ranked from 1-5, 5 being the best.