In the late ’60’s the beloved Beatles headed to India, opening our young minds to the wonders of the East. Within a few years, yoga appeared as an exercise and meditation discipline. Pre-internet, our access to information limited, pictures of contorted old men cleansing their innards defined this strange phenomenon.
In the early ’70’s, desperate to get out of the house for a few adult hours, my friend and I signed up for a yoga class. It took great restraint to control our laughter while sitting on our blankets (no mats in those days) and emitting ‘ohm’. Our instructor was not amused. The night I discovered my husband’s underwear in the freshly washed blanket was my last attempt at yoga at that time. Peggy and I needed a night on the town not on a blanket meditating.
Fast forward 40+ years. Yoga is no longer an exclusive Eastern religious rite. Baby Sis, friend, and I attempted yoga at the local park district. I didn’t get it. My growing physical discomforts were not alleviated with routines in the large gym, the session led by a drill sergeant. But I wasn’t ready to give up, especially after learning that my discomfort was due to an arthritic hip which would require replacement.
A young friend who had taken up yoga and posted beautiful photos of her agility frequently visited San Diego, touting yoga on the beach. Her wedding on Mission Bay provided the perfect opportunity to attend a session. Nick looked the perfect guru: tall, thin, man-bun, and nicely tanned and took great delight in hosting a few old ladies. For my hip, he suggested Yin Yoga.
Thanks to the internet, I found a studio (now closed) which offered Yin Yoga. Amber Samplin and her class greeted me warmly and inquired about any restrictions. The 75 minute class was physically uncomfortable, but I walked out of the door that day without pain, the first time in several months. I was sold. Today I credit yoga with delaying my surgery for at least a year.
Now I attend yoga at the YMCA with tender Noreen, mother of lovely Kelly, leading a classroom full of people my age in gentle yoga. Noreen adapts and corrects our positions as needed, urges us to “move the fleshy parts out of the way”, and laughs when moves are anything but graceful (frequently). It never fails that I feel better physically and emotionally when leaving; looking forward to coffee with friends after class may account in part for the emotional boost.
The beauty of yoga is that it doesn’t require perfection. Ability changes day to day. On one day I may bend 5″ from the hip; the next, I barely discern movement while my neighbor places her forehead on the floor. No matter, it is beneficial.
One caveat: if you are considering yoga, find a good instructor, not a task master. Technique is everything.