I did yoga for a year or two back in university. Partly I did it because a girl I was rather keen on was doing it too (and, in point of fact, pretty much any girl I could have been keen on – which is to say all of them – seemed to be in the class) and this provided an opportunity to not only have her see my sensitive new age side, but also discreetly observe her sides of all sorts.
Wasn’t the only reason though – I also did it because it was good. Every thursday evening I’d roll into the university gym, grab a mat, do some stretches, and then enjoy 5 minutes of lying in a dark warm room at the end with soothing guru mood music drifting through the rec centre sound system.
It was relaxing and somewhat energizing. I heard no end of how good it was for my posture and flexibility… but I was 20 at the time. I did yoga once a week, tai chi twice a week, kung fu twice a week, and drank regularly with no hangovers. My flexibility changed not one whit as a result of Yoga, and I discounted most of the flexibility and inner harmony talk as just a way to get the punters in the doors.
That was then. Now I’m 30 (near as dammit – two days of youth remains to me) and I spend a lot of time sitting in an office. I can still touch my toes, but things let me know that they’d rather I didn’t. There’s certainly none of this palms flat on the floor with straight legs guff of yesteryear. Taichi and kung fu have been replaced by working, and going bouldering or biking a couple of times a week. I’m reasonably fit by the average standard, but my flexibility is fading and my back is complaining. I figured that’s just what happened when you got ‘old’ though and I should just accept it while remaining active. Right?
Cécile has been going to yoga once a week for the last couple of months. Today, I tagged along to the last session of the year for old times sake. I was not in the best of conditions to resume Yoga (the other thing that’s left me is the ability to drink without ill effect) but it seemed like the right thing to do.
It was, definitively, the right thing to do. Firstly, I actually stretched properly for the first time in perhaps a year. I discovered why my back is screwed up simply by sitting still, properly, and concentrating on it.
I can FIX this junk. I discovered also that, despite being pretty active and classically ‘fit’, my strength/endurance has fallen quite a bit. Sure, I could put THAT down to age, no trouble… were it not for father time himself there.
It wasn’t only the physical benefits that came rushing back to me (I’ve lost my doubt that yoga may actually do wonders for flexibility incidentally) but the previously ignored mental benefits. Rather than ’5 minutes at the end’, this class actually had a reasonable amount of meditation – perhaps half an hour in total. I’ve usually felt that meditation was something that people did when they couldn’t handle their real lives, and was clearly a horrendous waste of time that could be better spent learning something, climbing something, or otherwise being actively engaged with the world. I imagine this places me squarely with the other somewhat manic people who need, more than anyone, to spend a little time closing their eyes and sitting peacefully to reflect and relax.
Usually I get this feeling only when I’m in the mountains, preferably in a fairly remote spot. Today I got it sitting in a small room in the middle of Zurich. I definitely need it, and I’m definitely going to pay attention to getting it from now on.
So – I’ll be back when it starts next year. In fact I decided it mattered enough that it’s jumped ahead of ‘work’ on my list of priorities. My life will be better for it, and without wanting to presume too much I suggest that yours probably would be too. Health, spiritual balance, and being proper strong are fine characteristics to have – especially so when you’re still young enough to remember losing them. Give it a try.