Fifteen-plus years ago I began learning yoga.
I'd been through 18 months of cardiac rehab (no heart attack or surgery, just stressed and lazy heart muscle), and while the rehab unit offered a variety of activities to get heart rates up and all that jazz, and my health was improving, I grew tired of the same-old, same-old. The nurse in charge of the unit told us about a yoga class we might like to look into. She was herself a yoga practitioner and could attest to the well-being brought about by learning the poses and meditating.
The class was taught at the local YMCA. I visited for one session, then signed up for the class.
Prior to my signing up, there had been two sessions per evening: one beginning, one intermediate. True to my whole life's journey, by the time I got enrolled there weren't enough students for two classes, so we all started out at the intermediate level. (I've always been thrown in at the deep end. But that's another story.)
In time I learned deep breathing techniques, how to take my body to the edge of pain but not into pain, how to ease muscles by doing opposing moves . . . on and on. Lots to learn. (Always will be.)
Through the years I managed to get to class nearly every week, with only a couple of exceptions--one was the instructor's surgery, another was my annual vacation time.
Later, when I again had heart concerns, I changed to chair yoga--a less vigorous practice, but still touching on the basics of breathing, stretching, and poses, done from a seated position; a few standing poses are often used also.
A few years ago I took a break from yoga and went instead to the tai chi class taught at our senior center. Similar but different--still the deep breathing, stretching, slow movement designed to strengthen our muscles for balance and stamina. But slightly different emphasis. Always the same goal--doing good things for our health.
Not sure what exactly nudged me forward into yoga again (along with the tai chi). A year ago I started going to a friend's class, but that required a 20-mile drive each way, and ended up wearing me out. Driving is not a relaxation for me, especially during iffy weather. I hate giving up Maris's class--she's the most peaceful instructor I've ever known and brings her students along with her to a sense of calm.
But winter brought cold/windy weather and snowy roads, so I looked at the new offerings at the senior center and discovered a different yoga instructor (my first one has retired), teaching both chair and floor yoga two days a week. One of the days fit into my schedule very well.
Ten or twelve of us moved and breathed and did the best we could with what our bodies would allow. Maddie is as big as a minute; the rest of us are the size of an hour and a half, but Maddie isn't concerned about that. She wants us to experience the benefits of deep breathing; of movement we may not do every day; and of sitting in silence at the end of the class, letting our bodies and minds enjoy the quiet. (In the best ways, she's like Maris, and I'm thankful for this approach to helping my body.)
I came home from that one-hour session feeling alive and alert after a winter of little activity. My body, mind, and spirit were energized. Oxygen flowed through my veins. I move better, think more clearly, and find my spirit renewed.
Why is it? We know what we should do, but we just don't do it.
I've been needing to get back to yoga for a long time. Why didn't I?
When I miss my early morning walk at the Y, why don't I go the next day for sure?
I recall something like this happened years ago when I was in a weight-loss program. Most of us knew what it meant to binge or go off the rails--we'd shrug and say, "Oh, well, I messed up so I might as well go all the way." And we'd eat ourselves into another 3 or 4 lbs. that would show up at the next weigh-in.
Maybe it takes longer for some of us to learn our lessons.
At the end of a yoga session, we place our hands in prayer position in front of our hearts. And as we come out of our meditation, we say "Namaste." Which means, the light within me sees the light within you.
May your life be lighter, your mind clearer, and your heart renewed.