In yoga as in life, key step is showing up

Jan. 11, 2014 @ 08:54 AM

It wasn't a New Year's intention but a new morning inspiration that got me back into yoga class last week.  I've written this column about yoga before, but despite all the endorsements I've given it in the past, I had let busy-ness and stress overtake me, and I had stopped going.

Fortunately I had previously purchased a non-expiring set of classes at Hillsborough Yoga and Healing Arts (HYHA) and a yoga mat had resided all this time in the boot of my car.  I spend most days wearing what can pass for yoga clothes, so it wasn't much effort to get to class.

The effort was in the session itself.  I had chosen a 90-minute Mindful Yoga gathering and now, two days later, I can still feel the result of the exertion all over my body.  The soreness isn't a deterrent, however.  It is a reminder that I need to go back, and soon.

The class was full, as are yoga studios and gyms all over the U.S. in these early days of January.  People are motivated by resolutions and intentions, or perhaps by a membership received as a gift.  Experience shows that these good goals don't last very long and by March I won't have to look hard for a space in which to unroll my mat.  

The question is, will I still be going in March?  Like so many others, I might succumb to the Holy Grail of the busy life and let go of what is required (for me) to live that life with grace.  As I stood on my mat in Mountain Pose and then twisted my body into a pretzeled one-legged stance, I wondered how it happened that I had ever stopped coming.  I was overwhelmed with the sense that this was exactly where I needed to be.

I am now in the last year of my fifth decade on this earth, and when I started yoga, back in my early 40s, I quickly became convinced that yoga is the path to aging gracefully.  I had watched my parents and other elderly friends struggle with issues of balance, strength and flexibility.  Yoga addresses these issues and in a relatively short time it greatly enhances one's overall well-being -- no matter how old or young you are.  

 If I were the surgeon general or some powerful health guru I'd prescribe yoga for all.  No doubt medical costs would plummet and people would live healthier and more independent later lives.  People in the midst of working and parenting would have more energy and equanimity at their disposal.  There is something in it for everyone, and a class for every person at any level of physical ability.  HYAA even has “pay as you can” classes, and yoga is offered through senior centers and affordably through other non-profit organizations.

“It” doesn’t have to be yoga, of course.  In last week’s class the teacher, Amy Gorely, talked a lot about the value of connecting with our physical selves on a regular basis.  We are a fairly disembodied society.  We don’t like to think or talk much about our bodies, and we often ignore them until they become a problem. Paying attention to our physicality through any form of regular exercise, even brisk walking, can forestall problems and bring on many of the benefits I mentioned.  And there are advantages to the community aspect of a class, even if you mostly keep to yourself.

In the time since I’d last been to yoga class I had injured a shoulder and clearly lost some of the strength, balance and flexibility I so value.  The good news is that these things return quickly with just a weekly class. When I first began yoga I was surprised at how quickly improvements came and how they carried over into other aspects of my life.

As with so many things in life, the key to success is in simply showing up.  Often the most difficult steps we take towards health are those that get us out the front door.  The benefits then follow.

A CHH columnist since 1998, Susan Gladin is a freelance writer, United Methodist minister and curriculum coordinator at the Johnson Intern Program in Chapel Hill. She tends horses and a home business on the farm she shares with her husband. Their two grown daughters live nearby. You may e-mail her at sgladin@gmail.com, or write c/o The Chapel Hill Herald, 2828 Pickett Road, Durham, NC 27705.