The Philly-Area Yoga Class That Won a Staunch Om-Hater Over

The new studio that converted a lifelong yoga hater.

I hate yoga — hated, I should say. That opinion never bothered me because I thought I gave yoga a fair shake and it, like drinking eight glasses of water a day or not cursing under my breath, just didn’t stick.

I played volleyball in college and my coaches routinely forced us to do yoga every Sunday until we finally revolted (or, more accurately, we quietly stopped showing up and didn’t say anything). Plus, my sister is a trained yoga instructer and has attempted to indoctrinate me many times before.

But it never worked.

In my workouts, I need to be stimulated, I need competition and I need obscenely loud music to distract me from how tired I am. Without these, I give up instantly — especially now that I’m a retired athlete and no one’s blowing their whistle to make me run wind sprints at 6 a.m.

I just didn’t think yoga could offer me what I needed. But then I heard about the new Bulldog Yoga in Villanova. They designed their program to be musically driven without the om-ing and the namastes and all the other yoga speak I never got into. The sweeten the pot, the studio is two minutes from my front door, so I figured why not give it a try. 

I signed up for a class during opening weekend called InvigorateMix76, which, as their website says, offers an “energizing, stimulating and moderately aerobic practice.” My expectations were to sweat a little, hate it a lot, and never go back. But that hourlong class in a pretty, soft-grey studio led me to a different realization: Yoga is hard, you guys. Like, really hard.

I have never dripped that much sweat onto a yoga mat in my life. Which was embarrassing because it was their mat. (I had to do some major damage control before returning it.)

As far as my workout requirements, the class easily met all three. When it comes to stimulation, I don’t think I had a moment to even take in how damn hard the class was until it was over. The instructor, Nicole, moved us from plank position to downward dog to a bunch of other poses I didn’t know in a matter of seconds. After five minutes, I was warm. After 10, I was overheating. After 20, my hair was so waterlogged it looked like I’d sat in a sauna fully clothed for an hour.

However, minute 21 was when I understood I was in over my head. The poses got more complex. My muscles, which had been murmuring complaints, started to scream. Several times Nicole, who was great, said we could always stay in the easier position if it was more comfortable, and I’m pretty sure that was directed specifically toward me and my not-so-stationary tree pose.

The good news? It didn’t matter. I was changing positions so often and sweating so much, I didn’t care that I looked like one of those newborn giraffes walking for the first time. I just avoided looking in the mirror and kept going.

My second requirement for fitness classes is competition, and let me tell you, there’s nothing like being in a room with 20 other people who are doing something way better than you to make you work. Whenever I considered dropping to my knees and tapping out, I looked at the girl at the front who could put her foot to her forehead and kept going. The end result wasn’t necessarily as pretty, but I stuck with it.

As for the music, even though it wasn’t shake-your-body-to-its-core loud, it did include early-2000s Britney Spears — so I was sold. I was able to distract myself from my discomfort by mouthing along to the lyrics, which, yes, totally messed up my breathing. But let’s be honest, I wasn’t getting the hang of that anyway.

The class ended with a core blast, and by the time I settled into my savasana — where you lay down at the end of class — I was beat. Truly and utterly exhausted. Yoga had done me in, but in a good way. It was the kind of workout that makes you feel like you can eat whatever you want for the rest of the day because you deserve it, which is the bar I use to test if I’ll do something again. So yes, I was won over by Bulldog and their upbeat, no-nonsense, zero om-ing yoga. And I’ll probably do it again — but maybe next time I’ll try a beginner class. You know, where I belong.

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