Last spring I signed up for a series of yoga classes at a studio that teaches yoga in the Baptiste tradition. I did this because I was feeling hamstrung so to speak over my inability to lift heavy weights as I recovered from an arm injury and wanted something that would help me continue to build muscle strength without further injuring myself.
I first took yoga at college. I remember my teacher well. She was a delightful, down to earth woman from Texas. She told us she was one of few people we’d ever hear say “cow” as a word with three syllables and she was right. Yoga really stuck with me. Over the years some movements or poses just became a normal part of my stretching routines. When I started back at it recently I had not taken yoga in a formal setting in 30 years.
One of my disappointments about middle age is how hard I must fight to retain flexibility. I’ve always been reasonably flexible. Now desk jobs plus age have me suddenly concerned with flexibility in the hips. This is more than an idle concern as the tension in this area can impinge on nerves and cause some fairly uncomfortable sensations which take time and hard work to alleviate once they get started.
The class I’ve taken most is Power Yoga Basics which is really a good full body workout. Some of the poses like the pigeon really seem to help with hip inflexibility. For me the key to making progress in yoga practice are: take a place near the front of the room so I am as little distracted as possible by other people and how flexible and awesome they are and use a foam block to modify poses when needed so that I am doing as close to what I am supposed to be as possible while respecting my own limitations. My favorite place to practice is in the hot studio. It makes my muscles feel more limber. Also it’s just nice being warm at this time of year without being bundled up.
Recently the New York Times magazine had an article on the dangers of yoga. I think the main message I drew from it is that there is no physical activity that if done to extremes or excess does not carry risk and of course the same is true of yoga. That said, I plan to continue to be mindful of my limits and continue to practice. And having completed my series of classes I plan to sign up for more.