In my 40’s, tired of the routine of the gym, I discovered yoga. I practiced an average of three to four times a week. Attracted by the sheer movement, the sweaty workout, and the social aspect, I paid no mind to “breath-work” or “meditation.” I just didn’t get it! All I craved was tough, physical exercise and flow-style yoga fit the bill.
Loving vinyasa most of all, I screamed through sun salutations in a blur, the faster the better! Catherine, our earnest, thirty-something instructor would say, “Slow down, take a breath…in and out…between poses. Deliberate, unrushed movements are what we’re looking for.”
She pretended to be speaking to the whole class, but I knew her comments were meant for me. I just smiled and carried on, never actually hearing her words.
As I entered my sixth decade, many of my friends struggled with health issues. Bad knees, bad shoulders, bad hips. Chalking up their aches and pains to sedate-living, I admit to feeling a surge of smugness.
“My workouts are killer,” I’d whisper to no one. “That will never happen to me.”
Subtle changes began to manifest in my body. An ache developed in my left hip, lower back, and sacrum. At first, I ignored it. “Just a tweak,” I’d mutter. But, as I stubbornly continued my yoga routine, sharp, searing pain replaced the pleasant stretch I used to feel. The more I ignored the pain, the greater the ache. The harder I pressed, the more the ache spread. When I finally went to the doctor, full-blown sciatica nested on the left side of my body. The pain was persistent, throbbing in my QL (Quadratus Lumborum), left glute, and lower back. Intermittent stabs radiated down my left leg. I struggled to do any sequence of yoga poses, let alone continue with vinyasa.
Back x-rays indicated osteoarthritis and some age-related, disk deterioration. Each morning, stiff and oh-so-sore, getting out of bed was a chore. I had to roll onto my right side, use my elbow as a tripod and spin off the edge. It gave me a headache!
Ice, massages, and cold laser treatments offered some relief, but it was becoming blatantly obvious that things had to change. I couldn’t continue with the vigorous and challenging yoga practice I was used to…I had to gear down. Feeling sorry for myself, I was lost, a little whiney, hit by an avalanche of humility.
Not surprisingly, my friends were not at all sympathetic. They said, “Why not do restorative yoga?” Or “Try gentle classes. There are yoga classes for 60+ you know!”
Yes, I did know that…I just never thought those classes would be for me.
Reluctantly I began to accept my situation. I half-heartedly attended restorative classes. I moped on the way to gentle classes. I pouted in yin yoga. At first, I’d throw in an out-of-sequence, challenging pose or two, like dramatically jumping to the front of my mat for no good reason. I wanted to show everyone that I could still do it. But no one cared. So, class by class, bit by bit, at the pace of a large, plump, old turtle, I caved.
Three years passed. A deep sense of contentment began to sprout. I felt a shift in my universe. Appreciation for slow, deliberate movement found its way into my soul. I found solace in daily meditation. What a surprise!
Visiting with my friends goes a little differently now. I joyfully join in the conversation when it turns to discussing our aches and pains. But no longer do I feel smug. Instead, I am humble. Grateful to have friends to visit with, grateful for this old-ish body and its ability to continue to move. Grateful to be living out my third act in peace and contentment.