Monday, March 11, 2013

Yoga options in the Clear Lake area

In this initial blog post titled "Better preparation for a bitter pill", I talked about my unnerved sequential response to the TIME magazine feature titled "Bitter Pill:  Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us". 
In that post, I covered my reaction to the article by listing these responses.  And then I gave a colorful step-by-step procedure for #6 on this list.
I'd like to address #4 now by describing what I know about yoga options in the Bay Area / Clear Lake area of Texas.   

First, a word on positioning (pun intended).  We continue to see case after case of people objecting to the practice of yoga because they interpret a religious goal associated with it, a goal that is perceived as incompatible with Christianity.  In fact, there was another major lawsuit launched just within the past few weeks over a public school district's teaching of yoga.  It is true that yoga originated as a component of Hindu philosophy.  But to my view, that doesn't mean that one has to subscribe to a specific doctrine in order to benefit from the physical practice of yoga.  Without a doubt, many contemporary programs have, by this time, stripped away any religious associations in favor of a focus that is purely health-based.
The City of Friendswood recently announced a series of yoga classes which start today, in fact.  Knowing what we know about Friendswood's religious demographics, its unique municipal history, and its reputation for conservatism, do you reckon that the city government would be openly promoting this kind of activity if there were "alternative" religious motivations associated with it?  My guess is, um, no. 

Screengrab courtesy of the City of Friendswood. 
So at this point you may be wondering... if yoga is perceived as controversial and hindered by cultural baggage, why even choose it?  Why not go for something more mainstream?

The answer for me is as follows: the analogous exercise programs I've tried are either too Americanized or have followings which are smaller than the critical mass needed to form a local group with good rapport.  On the issue of critical mass, for example, have you ever heard of Callanetics? It's a wonderful program but its reach has always been limited, and it arguably peaked in popularity a few decades ago.  By "too Americanized" what I mean is that they focus on competition (implicit or explicit) and punishing oneself under a drill-sergeant-style administrative regime.  If I want that kind of atmosphere, I'll get it in the corporate realm, thank you - I don't need that go, go, go, push, push, push, fight, fight, fight attitude to sour my exercise regime as well.  I was looking for something more introspective, non-competitive, and stress-reducing. 

So for those reasons, yoga was my choice.  When I first went searching for a local class about 20 months ago, it was my intention to avoid any sectarian flavor that some of the programs still retain, and which they usually tell you about up front.  But if they don't explain that up front, go ahead and ask, "Is this a nonsectarian program, or are you incorporating explicit elements of Hinduism or another eastern religious or mystic tradition?"  If the response does not mesh with your spiritual belief structure, find another program. 
Those little dots start to look like "energy centers" and all that new-age jazz.  How about instead focusing on mindful, self-aware contemplative exercise without all that unnecessary narrative? 

Microsoft clip-art. 
I was also searching for a program that was matched to my skill level, which at that time was nonexistent - I had good cardiovascular fitness from jogging and swimming, but I had no small-muscle development, very little strength, mediocre balance, and no flexibility (!).  Furthermore, being middle-aged, I suspected that I had poor prospects for developing flexibility. 
Ain't Never Going To Happen.

Microsoft clip art.
The local options came down to two basic types:
  • A dedicated yoga studio.
  • A yoga program incorporated into a big-box fitness club.
The first option tends to run about $100 per month depending on the facility, which is a lot of money to me.  I ended up deciding that would consider that magnitude of investment only after I had gained a level of proficiency that outstripped what was offered at my existing health club, which is LA Fitness on League City Parkway.  The entire membership there, including yoga classes, is only about $30 per month. 

But guess what??  The classes at LA Fitness have proven to be so good that I may never get to the point of needing a greater challenge. 

This was the schedule published online as of March 2013.  Screengrab courtesy of LA Fitness, yellow yoga highlights mine.
The teacher whose personal style appeals to me the most is Christine - she is absolutely wonderful, both in skill and in mannerism.  She also teaches at the League City 24-Hour Fitness (7 p.m. Wednesdays as of March 2013) and I believe at a few other local clubs as well. 

I'm not the only one who has been surprised by the quality of the in-club instruction.  I have a friend who used to take classes at Yoga Haven in Galveston before Ike forced them to resettle in north county.  She said, "It just amazes me the quality of instruction you can get at these chain clubs - and for no extra money."

If instead you're looking for a local dedicated yoga studio, I have virtually no experience with those, but here are the local ones I've stumbled across:

(1) The Yoga Institute, which has a studio in Nassau Bay and another one on Richmond in Houston.  I have a friend who has attended their Houston studio for a few years now and he absolutely loves it.  Dedicated studios such as this one tend to offer more classes, more class variety, and some people prefer the more sequestered atmospheres of these places (I'll have to admit that, in the LA Fitness, sometimes the adjacent raquetball players drive us bonkers with their noise during our classes). 

(2) Yoga Lola in League City.  They advertise astrology and "energy work" on their homepage, so this doesn't sound like it would be a good choice for me. 

(3) The Yoga Studio, also in League City.  The web pages don't appear to have been updated recently, so I'm not sure if they are still active. 

(4) Yoga Rasa on Mercury Drive in Clear Lake.

(5) Sundance Yoga on Friendswood Drive in Friendswood (and they also have a studio in Pearland).

I found those last two above because I was looking to buy a Manduka yoga mat and I wanted to buy locally.  I don't mind paying a little more if it supports a small business, and both of those studios were cited in the Manduka dealer's list.  I phoned both, but neither had the mat that I needed in stock, and so my excuse to drop in on a local studio went out the window, and I had to order it from Amazon instead.

I was looking for a Manduka Black Pro to replace the existing mat in my four-function room.  I was initially attracted to yoga in part because the overhead is so low.  You don't need a bunch of expensive equipment and paraphernalia - just a mat.
Amazon always delivers, although the mounting accusations that it's destroying local retailers echo the Walmart-related cries of yesteryear

Incidentally, if you're just beginning to do yoga, this particular mat may not be your best choice.  It's got that advertised lifetime guarantee because it's very durable, but durability means it's very dense and hard compared to some other choices.  Depending on your situation, you may need a mat with more cushioning than this model offers. 
So, 20 months after commencing yoga classes, what's my verdict on what they offer?

I'm hooked.  The cliches have proven to have merit - yoga has definitely helped to reduce my stress level and has helped me to focus more on what I can realistically expect of myself, versus what I'm supposed to believe that others are entitled to expect of me.  I'm much stronger, much more self-aware, better-coordinated and my understanding of spatial physicality has improved significantly.  The slow but steady self-development process reminds me of watching a baby learn to walk: month after month, I won't be able to achieve certain poses that require more strength than I've traditionally possessed, and then all of a sudden, there it is: I've surprised myself by achieving it.  It's fascinating that way. 

I'll close with a screengrabbed quote from Andrew Weil, from this CNN editorial published yesterday.  As is often the case in the mainstream media, numerous op-eds have emerged to echo and expound upon TIME magazine's initial feature.  This was one of them.

Myself, I'd prefer to focus on the keeping-healthy part with blog posts such as this one.   

Screengrab courtesy of CNN

1 comment:

  1. another local option is The Inner Space, which is in the JSC rec center and open to the public.


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