Yoga for Your Body and Mind

This is a post from my Mom 🙂

Four months ago I began babysitting my granddaughter three days a week while her parents headed to work. Both physical therapists, my daughter and son-in-law have great jobs, ones for which they are well trained and that they enjoy. Fortunately, as a retiree though also a volunteer to vast entities, I knew I could scramble up the free time to accept this wonderful prospect: bonding with my little sweetheart.

I am willing to sacrifice many items when it comes to helping others, but exercise is not one of them. Yes, I would probably give it up a little if I could not otherwise care for my granddaughter, but… Having started running in college, 45 years later it is a vital part of life, along with swimming, walking, and gardening. Oh, yes, there is all of the other “stuff” I do as well like playing the piano and writing, but a day without exercise is stifling, non-productive, and exhausting.

So right before I began my babysitting stint I checked out the local running trails and paths and was pleased to find a terrific variety just steps from the kids’ front door. However, knowing that during the winter roads might be slick and that darkness might force cancellation, I headed toward a local fitness club to check out the facilities.

Friendly staff immediately led me on an extensive tour of the fitness equipment, swimming pools, and other predominant features of the gym and then they handed me a list of classes also available. I scanned the list when my eyes lit on “Yoga”. Two of my sisters swear by their yoga sessions, always encouraging me to give it a whirl. But time and other obligations have prevented me taking them up on this idea. Until now, that is. Opportunity and timing are in synch and so mornings include rigorous activity and also a smattering of yoga.

My first day in yoga class I was completely lost. I didn’t know a thing about mats and blocks let alone any of the movements or their names. Luckily, a gentleman led me to the equipment area and made recommendations. I then proceeded with my bundle to a dark, unobtrusive corner of the room, hoping to become invisible as I learned the ropes of my new endeavor.

Knowing that I had to leave class a little early so that I could be home to assume Grandma duties, I did not want to interrupt, if possible, during my exit. Soon our instructor strode into the room, greeting familiar faces and smiling at the newbie. Following the rest of the class, I folded myself into sitting position and then mimicked the group as we moved through a number of positions. I found it very interesting and I was also shocked to realize how stiff and rigid some parts of my body had become. But I survived, and returned the next morning.

Yoga is slow, sustained movement with lots of stretching and re-positioning back and arms and legs and necks and every other vital body part. The biggest problem I encountered was the slow part. After all, I am a runner and a swimmer. Can you fathom what it is like to move in a sloth-like format for 60 minutes? You who are of the pent-up energy type will understand my frustration and edginess. But I was committed to improving posture and flexibility and so I returned week after week, glimpsing progress with each session. I was moving better. However, I would not say that I was happy or content. Just dedicated.

And then the day finally arrived. It was a week when I had been able to attend four sessions and by the third day I was getting into the groove. Our class of 30-35 was only about 15 that day so our instructor had us get belts to hook onto the wall, then wrap the belt around our waists. Next we slung one leg over the belt and twisted forward, securely held and thus prevented from unwanted face-plants, we began to glide.

We swept up with hands waving above our heads then swooshed downward with fingers touching our toes. Up and down and up and down again and again. The exercise was invigorating yet peaceful, empowering and inducing a sense of free-floating freedom. What had appeared impossible at first glance was terrific. The bird-like me emerged and joy filled my body and mind. Perseverance and the perfect movement combined and changed a floundering yoga student into a determined believer. What fun!

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