In undergrad, I had roommates that used to do Pilates. They convinced me to go with them to a Pilates class exactly twice, and I found it to be thinly veiled torture. I wasn't strong enough or flexible enough to do any of the moves properly, so it primarily consisted of me stumbling through the class trying to imitate the teacher.
My roommates told me it was "relaxing and invigorating." I found it anything but. I much preferred to go out to the workshop and sand on the canoe I was building. Sanding, now THAT is a therapeutic activity.
But two different friends of mine have been raving to me about the yoga classes they are taking. There is a highly-rated yoga studio only a fifteen minute walk from where I live (and, only ten minutes from my office). And I know that yoga is supposed to be really good for you.
So, with some trepidation, this January I started going to some yoga classes with my friends, about one a week. I didn't know what to expect for my first class, but to my surprise it was phenomenal. The teacher was excellent (at least I thought so, though what do I know?), and showed both challenging poses and modified versions for beginners like me. There were all levels of students in the class, and everyone could participate as best as they were able.
Something about the class just really resonated with me - at the end of class, I felt like I had stretched muscles that had sat dormant for a long time, and at the same time challenged the strength of my body. Like I had connected my mind and body and breathing. I don't subscribe to the spiritual aspect of yoga, but calming your mind, noticing how you are feeling internally, and providing your body what it needs is really powerful.
The yoga studio I've been going to is almost exclusively a "hot yoga" studio, where the classes are taught at 95-100 F. I had been making my friend go with me to the unheated classes, because I wanted to get used to the yoga part first before I added the heated part. But it turns out that "unheated" just means they turn off the heater for the class, but it's still pretty hot because the previous class was heated, and if you know any heat transfer principles you realize it doesn't cool down instantly!
This Sunday I bit the bullet, and my friend and I went to a heated class. I got over the fact that yes, I was going to be dripping sweat - I just brought a towel, and figured it's okay because the rest of the class is sweating too. Turns out the heat helps with the stretching, and forces you to really relax and breathe if you want to be able to balance and hold difficult poses. In short, I loved it!
Indeed, I might even say it was "relaxing and invigorating"!