A Beginner's Guide
I'm head over heels about yoga
There I was with my hands and feet on the floor, my butt sticking way up in the air surrounded by a roomful of women when suddenly I heard the Talking Heads song that asks: “My God…How did I get here?"
Was I having some kind of strange, masochistic dream? Was it a fantasy of performing at La Bare? No, I was doing the pose simply known as the Downward Dog (#2) in a yoga class.
So why is a 50-something like me doing yoga in the first place?
Well, it all began after I lost my job and was looking for something productive to do. In between my bouts of rejection, being totally ignored and pondering life’s funny twists of fate, my wife suggested that we attend a yoga class. With visions of the scene from Couples Retreat in my head, I joined her and very quickly discovered the joys and tribulations of yoga.
The word yoga means "union" in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India where it originated. It’s a way to combine strength and stretching — all on one exercise mat. I soon learned that someone of my height (6 ft. 4 in.) and age faces special challenges (a high center of balance and a body that has seen better days). But I was determined not to make a fool of myself.
It all starts innocently enough. You sit on the floor in “seated position,” breathing through your nose. (Hey, I can do this!) After a while, the instructor/teacher (kids, don’t try this on your own) begins to move you into different yoga positions resembling something from a Stanley Kubrick movie. There’s “The Cow Face,” “The Half Spinal Twist,” “The Corpse” (something I’m really good at) and others too numerous to mention here. It gets better because each position has a thing called “progressions” (otherwise known as different kind of pain) that helps you get an even more intensive work-out.
After a while I began to feel parts of my body ache that I thought were lost forever. During the “Pyramid Pose," which stretches and strengthens the legs, my knee tightened up stiffer than a drunk on New Year's Eve. Thank goodness for “The Extended Child’s Pose," which gave me time to catch my breath and contemplate the universe and why we exist.
Don’t get me wrong; I really like doing yoga. It’s an amazing workout that many people simply don’t understand. It helps reduce stress and ease tension, all while creating strength you never knew you had. And the best part is there are so many different types of yoga workouts that you’re bound to find something that works for you. I find that I’m actually more limber now than I have ever been and in the best shape of my life (which, in reality, is the same thing as saying bank executives are human beings, too).
So come on, give it a try. Just be sure to leave your dignity at the door. Lord knows I do.
From the Talking Heads, "Once in a Lifetime":