Yoga in the Middle Ages
Ten months ago the only downward facing dogs I knew were the two droopy mutts I carried around in my bra. In July of 2013, I tipped the scales at 210 pounds. My sitz bones were buried somewhere in the resplendence that was my backside and the only third eye I could imagine was when I placed my reading glasses over my prescription glasses in order to see anything on my computer screen. I was 46 but I felt 106. I was stuck.
A close friend’s decision to have weight loss surgery was my call to action. I decided that I would take my fading well-being seriously. Thus began my journey to gain health. I wasn’t interested in losing much more as I had already shed my energy, my dignity, my health and my street cred as a worthy mother and wife. I longed for more energy, to be the old vivacious me.
In structuring my plan to gain health, I knew it might have to require some kind of… what did they call it?... ah, yes… fitness! Part of my gaining plan was that I needed actual exercise, a kind that involved more than simply sprinting away from cameras (an act I dubbed the chub-rub hustle!).
In the town where I live, there sits a modest, almost humble yoga studio. I knew it was there because it’s above the bakery, home of sticky rolls and sugar cookies. With resolve, I walked through the waft of cinnamon and butter and, for the first time, up the stairs to the studio. In truth, simply climbing those stairs left me more than a bit winded which seemed an inauspicious sign.
I thought the wise thing to do was to start with a Gentle Yoga class so I could ease into this yoga-thing slowly. Wrong! I had a full-on panic attack fifteen minutes into class as I couldn’t catch my breath—I only wish I were joking. I escaped to the bathroom where I repeatedly splashed cold water all over my red-hot and hugely embarrassed face.
“Hey! We thought this was supposed to be gentle,” bemoaned the bad-guy voices in my head, scolding me for being so utterly out of shape and encouraging me to grab solace in a few croissants on my mad dash home.
But I didn’t go home! (Insert heroic music here, preferably from a few decades ago, something like the Mighty Mouse theme song or the one played when Rocky climbed all those steps!)
I rejoined the class.
I continued to take “gentle” classes for weeks until I felt just a bit more bendy and a lot less winded. I did the best damn down dog I could muster, even if my heels were inches off the ground. And I loved it!
I found that over time, I actually could quiet my ever-racing thoughts. I moved up—up!—to beginner’s yoga and had my second panic attack, and yet I still stuck with my practice. The Vinyassa flow class always preceded the Beginners class so I watched as they did seemingly impossible things with the beauty of synchronized swimmers and the athleticism of Olympians. I felt the body heat they left behind in that studio. “That,” I thought, “I will never be able to do!”