By Terri Arnell
Sixteen years ago, as I approached my forties, I decided to embrace change. I quit my job, sold my house, and moved from Massachusetts to Florida. New job. New town. New life.
It seemed only right that a new life should include new experiences. So, when my workout devotee friend Sue urged me (lifetime couch potato) to go to the YMCA with her, I agreed. Exercise, I thought, that’s the answer. We walked. We cycled. We lifted weights. I wasn’t convinced. My couch beckoned.
Yoga, I thought. Let’s try yoga.
We signed up for the Sarasota YMCA’s Tuesday evening beginners yoga class. The building was old and decrepit and the room redolent with the memory of countless hours of aerobics. We sat at the back of the class, unsure but intrigued. The teacher, Lynn, began to talk. Close your eyes. Move with your breath. Go a little deeper. I loved it from the first.
I also hated it. I hated that I couldn’t do as instructed. (You want me to do what? Put my hands where? Relax my shoulders? You’re kidding, right?) I was annoyed that the person next to me could do what I couldn’t. My inflexibility exasperated me. I simply could not lean forward, not an inch, while sitting with legs apart. And I hated that darn triangle pose.
And yet, I loved it. Despite the frustrations. Despite the aches (“Are you ok?,” my colleagues asked, hearing my groans. “Yes,” I replied.). I cherished the simple pleasure of time spent without interruption, in the pursuit of a quieter mind, breathing and moving and not thinking about work or laundry or my never-completed to do list. I relished discovering what I could do. I was amazed that my wrist, painful since college, didn’t hurt anymore. I loved feeling stronger.
Then torn cartilage from an old knee injury required surgery and the recovery took longer than expected. I slipped back into my old couch potato ways. Ten years passed. Yes, ten.
Last summer, after a year that had been personally and professionally difficult, I was in need of a lift. Sue (ever intrepid friend) grabbed me by the arm and dragged me back to yoga. She had continued with yoga long after me, but had also, eventually, stopped practicing. So there we were, years later, back at Lynn’s Tuesday night beginner class. Same teacher, much nicer studio, but I wondered if I would feel the same about the experience.
And Lynn began to talk. Close your eyes. Move with your breath. Go a little deeper. I loved it from the first, again, for all the same reasons. Six months later, now more than ever, I savor time spent blocking out the noise of life, focusing on finding my mental and physical balance, and getting stronger.
To my great surprise, I also found that a little wisdom came my way in the intervening years. I chuckle when Lynn asks us to do something that seems impossible to me. Laughter is so much better than frustration. I don’t really care what anyone else is doing. Yoga isn’t a competition anymore, it’s a personal journey. And I’m not stressing about what I can’t do, I’m working toward improving what I can.
But I still hate triangle pose.
Blog contributor Terri Arnell, the prodigal yoga student, still maintains a demanding career and some couch time.