I did it. I joined the gym, again. Truth be told, I’m a little disgusted at myself for not having done it sooner. I allowed by membership to lapse after a minor stomach surgery this summer, always using the excuse that I didn’t want to come back too soon. The truth is, now it is harder than it ever has been to drag my butt to the gym because I have more legitimate excuses than ever. It’s tough to make myself go while the kids are so little. It requires a lot more schedule juggling. It’s tough to make myself go when I have physical issues, like stomach surgery or aching knees or a shoulder that really could use a scope. It’s tough to make myself go when I already feel stretched so thin and out of spoons, like I don’t do all of the things that I NEED to get done, so how can I justify taking out more time for myself?
But the truth of it all is that those are absolutely the reasons that I need to get back in the gym! I need to keep my strength, stamina, and health up to keep up with my little girls. I need to get my muscles strong and limber again in order to support my body better and to be a better dancer. I need an extra hour, every other morning, just to recalibrate, to do something physical with no distractions, so that I can come back to my role in our family refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
These days, my exercise of choice is yoga. I believe that yoga is a great mode of exercise that EVERYONE should do at some point in his or her life. I started practicing yoga 20 years ago. I took yoga as a PE class at Cal State Long Beach, and our instructor was what I believe is the stereotypical Yogi. She was older and thin, she wore long flowey skirts over her leggings, lots of bracelets, toe rings, and anklets. Everything about her was ethereal: the music we listened to in class, the way she glided across the ground, the whispery way that she spoke, and the smell of incense that followed her around the classroom. She was a strict teacher, there not to just lead us in some stretches, but to teach us the proper alignment in each pose, as well as the Sanskrit name, meaning, and origin of each pose. It was hard, but I loved it. And I’m grateful for her instruction, for at various times in my life I have practiced yoga without a teacher or studio, and had a good understanding of what I was doing.
I got out of my first yoga class in months on Monday and I immediately texted Jen, “I need to write about yoga!” What I love about it is that for an hour, I not only turn off my phone (or leave it in the car), but I also turn off my mind to everything in the outside world. Rather than being stuck on an elliptical machine or treadmill, then some lifting machines where the TVs and music are blaring, competing for more of my already fragmented attention, the yoga mat offers me a time to pause and turn inward. I don’t think about what’s for dinner, or what I have to do that day. I don’t catalog the things that I haven’t had time for or the projects that I have yet to start. For that one hour, I focus on breathing in and releasing the tension in my tight muscles. I check my alignment in my poses and when that little voice inside my head begins to chide me for not being able to touch my toes, I tune her out. One of my favorite parts of every yoga class is the final pose that we take, Savasana or Corpse Pose. Though it takes some practice to really clear one’s mind and not let it wander to the day that lies ahead, lying completely still in mind and body is for me, the most restorative thing that I do.
Most gyms offer some kind of yoga class on their schedule, and those are a great place to get a taste of what yoga has to offer. Oftentimes the classes are filled with people of varying levels of knowledge, but what I love about gym yoga is that the instructors are always so accommodating and helpful. Often, gym yoga is not as “serious” or as technical as yoga studio yoga, nor is it as “Zen,” but still offers a place where strength and stretching meet, where physical activity and spiritual restoring can occur.
For those who are more looking for a little more technical instruction, yoga studios are often really neat places to jump in and become part of a yoga community. The studio I have practiced at here in our area (The Yoga Den, Corona, California) offers a wide variety of classes and times, even prenatal yoga, but also offers other events at the studio. There are special concerts, potlucks, and groups that get together outside of the studio to do other fitness-related things. Truth be told, I would join the studio again, if we lived a little bit closer. It really is a special place to belong.
If you’re curious about yoga, please try it!! It’s great on its own or in conjunction with other forms of exercise. It’s low impact, but still offers cardio and strength building. And it’s absolutely for every body type and fitness level. If you do, let me know how it goes. Afterward, let’s get together, listen to Enya, and have a nice cup of tea. Come on, we can put off meal planning and mopping for another hour.