Yoga – Melding Mind, Body and Health

I am happy to say that I have been a yoga practitioner for eight years. As a lifelong runner, I felt something was missing from my workouts. I did some weight training, but it wasn’t until I took my fifth class with Rose that it hit me. I needed yoga and I’d have to find time to fit it into my life.

Upon the completion of my first class, I realized that after forty-four years of living, coupled with the daily abuse my mind and body absorbs, my entire being was in need of a major overhaul. My mind was running in too many directions and required that I rein it in. I could hear the words flowing from Rose’s lips as she sat in postures only three-year olds should be able to squeeze into. “Relax your mind. Relax your body and remember to breathe.” Remember to breathe? I could hardly find a wisp of air to replenish my lungs with as I stood, shaking, in what appeared to me to be a tangled mess.

My mind too was tangled with the nagging question of how Rose was able to say a single word as she spoke clear sentences of instruction to her class while tie up in the same pose that I was attempting to strike. “Remember, she continued, I must see you in the pose for it to count.” It wasn’t enough that I, a runner and weight trainer, was embarrassed at my lack of yoga skill. Now my teacher had to see me struggling to make a pose for it to count. I continued to struggle while watching others who appeared to have a better grasp of poses.

After class some students relaxed and sipped tea and ate homemade cookies. I was worn out and didn’t want to stand so sitting and talking made complete sense. As I listened and observed, I carefully crafted an opinion of each person’s yoga skills. They were more flexible than me and understood how to get into the poses as they were instructed. I was not and felt inferior. I wanted to lose my ego when practicing yoga, but wasn’t ready. Miffed, but not angry with myself, I began to drift away thinking of other pursuits that I successfully balanced my desire and ego. My wife and kids were one and work was another.

As if she could hear my thoughts, Rose looked in my direction while speaking to her students and said smiling, “Remember, yoga is a personal practice. It is never a competition. Some days you will find it easier to flow than others. One side of your body may be tighter than the other. It’s okay. With practice, you’ll begin to see improvement in strength, flexibility and inner peace.”

Inner peace? How on earth is this stuff going to help me, I pondered as I painfully sat with my legs crossed. The years of running on the street now reminded me how painfully tight my hips were. I had limited flexibility and struggled to focus on anything but the pain this lady thirty years my senior and all of 100 pounds had put me through. I move around on the floor to find a comfortable position and smiled at Rose. A mother of three whose kids were now parents, she was an inspiration to many.

I drove home listening to music wondering what I had gotten myself into. Was it really worth the pain and humility? All this talk of inner peace, while flowing through a posture, and breathing appeared out of reach for me. The leaves on the trees were flowing and birds were flying and landing effortlessly, so why couldn’t I capture some of nature’s spirit and channel it into beautiful yoga poses?

I plopped down onto my den floor, staring up at my ceiling as I stretched out on my body one muscle at a time. My wife, Meg wanted to know how things went and my answer surprised her. “Babe, things didn’t go so well. I struggled and made a mess of the yoga poses. I thought that everyone was looking at the new guy and laughing internally.”

“I know how competitive you can be, so this must be difficult for you. It’s only your first class Scott. Do you think that most of the people in class today could go on a five mile run with you and finish?”

This was an interesting question and I immediately understood her point. “Of course they couldn’t, they’d have to build up their endurance a little bit at a time.” I got it then. It was foolish for me to think that I could jump into an exercise class and be up to speed with those who regularly attended.

The next day at work I felt energized. Perhaps it was the good night’s sleep I had and maybe my yoga class had kicked in with a dose of needed energy.

I attended two more of Rose’s classes and then I found myself back once a week. Three months passed and little by little my stiffness and limited flexibility improved. My joints and muscles were feeling good and I could touch my toes while breathing for the first time since high school. A physical and mental transformation was occurring as if in slow motion and I welcomed it. A noticeable increase in energy along with better overall focus had me believing that Rose was really on to something.