For 20 years, yoga was a no-go … until now
I like to joke that I’ve been doing yoga for 20 years and it’s never done me a bit of good. And then a good friend will gently remind me that in order for this practice to give you any real benefit, you have to do it more than once every three years.
I don’t know why I haven’t already made yoga a regular part of my self-care routine. Maybe it’s because it is hard to eat Oreos when planking. Perhaps it’s my general fear of group workouts, or even fitness clubs in general.
I always feel like such an unconvincing poser in these places — as if I’m wearing the wrong clothes (tight Spanx? No thanx!), will mistake the weight bench for a snack table or will be kicked out of a class for uncontrollable crying.
In fact, the last time I visited a gym as a friend’s “guest,” I wanted to ghost in and out as surreptitiously as possible. Instead, they made me fill out a lengthy form and even — egads! — have my picture taken. I was convinced my photo would wind up on a prominently displayed FBI (Fitness Balkers International) wall chart, along with my body weight and BMI.
Yet even I, a former gym class dropout and current world record holder for competitive couch sitting, was intrigued by yoga. For one thing, basic yoga features slow, measured movement, deep breathing and lots of Enya.
For another, participants are encouraged to honor their bodies by using adaptive poses, if necessary. And, even better, it’s supposed to yield all kinds of benefits — from increased body awareness and strength to enhanced mindfulness and meditation. Of course, this doesn’t include “hot yoga,” yoga competitions (oxymoron, perhaps?) or people who can stand on their noses while doing lotus legs. The yoga I’m interested in is more of a “slowga” kind of yoga.
So when I heard about a young woman who teaches a gentle, non-shamey, “Yoga Foundations” series, I decided to spring for it. (Well, “spring” might be too rambunctious of a word. Let’s just say I decided to limp toward it.)
So here I am, in only my fourth week, and I’m typing this while doing a standing split up against the wall.
Just kidding. Just seeing if you were still paying attention. The closest I’ve come to a split is splitting my yoga pants while attempting the “Baby Pose.”
But I am proud to say that I’ve learned some great breathing techniques and stretches, and that the instructor, Randi Kay, is encouraging, non-shaming and knowledgeable. But even more importantly, I’ve stuck with it — even though I am probably the least in-shape person in the class. I have a knee injury that has made even the Child’s Pose difficult, and I almost started crying when three young college-aged guys not only joined the class, but put their mats behind mine.
But you know what? They have been incredibly quiet and polite. In fact, everyone has.
Yet even if they weren’t, I still discovered something about myself: I don’t care. I really don’t. I’m obviously a beginner who occasionally struggles and looks silly. But at least I’m doing it, and that’s saying something.
I tend to quit things when they become too hard or uncomfortable, but I have not quit this. I’m middle-aged, I have a bad knee and I don’t shop at Tinkerbell’s Yogawear for Fragile Waifs, yet I keep showing up — even though the many steps up to the studio were almost enough to make me turn around on the first day.
Besides, I really, really like the Corpse Pose. I wonder if she would let me watch Netflix and eat a doughnut while doing it?
Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at email@example.com.