Whenever my friends invite me to sunrise yoga sessions, I recoil. For one thing, I’m not a morning person. Another: I don’t like yoga.
I prefer cardio-based workouts. Besides, it’s embarrassing trying to maneuver into position while surrounded by folks in perfect, back-bending poses. But my main hangup is that, as a disabled woman, I have very little upper body strength and virtually no core, two things required for yoga.
In my adulthood, however, I’ve wondered whether yoga could help me. So, I dipped my toe into YouTube tutorials, like Austin-based Yoga With Adriene’s “Yoga For Scoliosis.” There’s only so much you can do virtually, though, and it was time for me to try an in-person class. I opted for the Beginner Flow class at Black Swan Yoga in Bishop Arts, whose location opened in 2019.
I was five minutes late for my 9 a.m. hot yoga class—again, I’m not a morning person—so I crept in the front door and unrolled my little-used, $7 yoga mat in the back. Someone told me to grab two hard-foam blocks from the cubby area, so I did.
Everyone who had checked in on time had little cards. If you placed it at the end your mat, the instructor explained, then he’d come back and make minor adjustments to your form during the hour-long class. If you didn’t, then he wouldn’t bother you.
The actual class began with breathing. In through your nose, hold, exhale, hold, repeat. It may be simple, but I have always loved this sort of breathing meditation; it helped calm the jittery anxiety I had rushing to get here.
For the next hour, the instructor led the class through various stretching and poses, like cat-cow, child’s pose, mountain, happy baby (hold your knees and roll around), warrior, and spinal twists. Some things came easily. Some I literally could not do. At one point we were in downward facing dog, then hopped into a forward fold, then somehow moved into upward facing dog, and then a plank. It felt like a yogi burpee, and I gave up on trying to go from a plank to downward facing dog.
But that wasn’t a problem. From the beginning, the instructor created a no-judgement atmosphere. “No one is looking at you,” he told the class. He encouraged us to do what we can; if we couldn’t do a specific move, don’t sweat it. And, to be fair, this is hot yoga, so we were sweating—at one point I felt a bead dripping behind my earlobe—but it was not about our ability. People took this to heart and sat out different exercises, when needed.
As for me, I tried as much as I could to do the poses. The foam blocks facilitated my efforts. Because I could grab onto them if needed, I was able to downward facing dog for the first time in my life. This was a big milestone for me.
The class ended as we started: on our backs looking up at the ceiling, which was painted to look like a clear, star-filled night. Our instructor had us lie still, concentrating on breathing for four full minutes. It was soothing, and I found myself reflecting on how much I enjoyed the session. I could do this again, I thought, just maybe not at 9 a.m.
If you don’t mind all your followers seeing you dripping in sweat, this is definitely a spot to tag on your socials. The Bishop Arts location doesn’t have a massive mural (there is a small one) like the one on Lovers Lane, but it does have a “Drip Drip Dallas” neon sign. The sign is just high enough for you to rock your warrior pose and look super cool underneath it.
This was a beginner flow class, so it wasn’t particularly hard. I could do most of the poses, but I was sweating, and not just because it was literally hotter than the summer day outside. I couldn’t do everything, though. There were several poses I had to modify for myself and some I could not do at all. But a quick glance around the room told me others were in the same boat.
During the class, I appreciated how the instructor encouraged the class to push themselves, but there wasn’t any pressure to do moves that were outside of our ability. There was a no-judgement atmosphere, which helped me get out of my own head about my abilities. While they’re a common piece of yoga equipment, I really liked that the blocks were available for support. They helped me reach my arms farther out in downward dog and not fall flat on my face. I also used them to support my weight during some of the lunging. However, because it is a hot yoga class, you should check with a doctor ahead of time if you have any concerns about the 90-plus degree heat.
The Cost of It All
Technically, Black Swan Yoga doesn’t “charge.” Part of Black Swan’s mission is to make yoga accessible to folks who can’t afford typical studio classes. But it does ask you for a “donation” to attend. Sign up online, and the $10 donation guarantees your spot. Walk-ins are allowed, when there’s available space, but expect to give a $15 donation. There are also several membership packages that offer additional perks. Black Swan also hosts plenty of community events and free classes—check out the website for more info on those.
Would I go back?
Catherine Wendlandt is the online associate editor for D Magazine’s Living and Home and Garden blogs, where she covers all…