My relationship with yoga has been off-and-on since 1993, when my friend Deb and I (having both just been liberated from grad school) decided to take a class together at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. Cheryl was our teacher, an older (to us, then) woman who made yoga accessible and even humorous. I discovered later that her lack of solemnity was a bit unusual for yoga instructors (in my experience at least).
Deb and I used to joke that between us we made a pretty good yoga student. I was naturally flexible in forward bends, and Deb could balance and do head stands effortlessly. What I liked best about yoga was how it revealed to me in detail what my body was like– in general, that day, in every part of me. Yoga also reminded me that what we’re “good” at vs. “not good” at is really not up to us. Yes, we can practice and make strides and improve and deepen poses. But we work within our own anatomy, and (with good instruction) there’s always a way to modify a pose or movement that will work and feel right.
It’s been 8 years since I last took a yoga class, but when a new yoga studio– Artemis Yoga— opened up near my house, I decided to check it out. It’s less than a 10-minute walk away, they had a $29 for 30 days introductory deal, and my friend Norah was also joining. All of this made it irresistible. So off I went.
My body now is different in a bunch of ways from my body 8 years ago. I’ve had some surgeries (rotator cuff, gall bladder, hernia) and am perimenopausal. The latter is most relevant, as my ambient temperature tolerance has really shifted. Pretty much any yoga feels like hot yoga to me these days. So I dress very lightly and try to accept that sweating is just a natural bodily function, nothing to be ashamed about (see Tracy’s recent post on this issue). But it also requires some planning and response to circumstances. The studios at Artemis are beautiful and brand-new– lovely spaces for yoga. But I learned at my first class that practicing anywhere near a heat vent simply didn’t work for me at all. For the next class I got there early and put my mat as far away from the vents as possible, which made all the difference in the world. My friend Kathy (who’s a yoga teacher herself, and joined me for a class, as it’s walking distance from her house, too) gave me some tips on dealing with sweaty hands and feet on yoga mats. Our instructor also suggested we put our hands on blocks on the mat for some poses, which would steady us if we were slipping on the mats.
All this detail above is to say that many (well, all) problems we might encounter in a yoga class are just problems to solve, not barriers to participation. Sweat happens, age happens, injuries and illness happen. I’m enjoying the change of movement, change of location, getting there under my own power (thus Making My Day Harder— thanks Sam for that post ), and interacting with a new and different group of people. It’s also a great supplement to bike training, which is my main activity.
I’ll report back in a few months with any new revelations. In the meantime, what have you learned from yoga in this or other stages of life?