Yesterday I dragged the family all the way to Edinburgh (that’s a 248 mile round trip btw) so I could go to some yoga classes. And frankly this morning I have woken up feeling like I have had a fight with a plank of wood. Why on Earth would a sane person do that?!?
When we lived near Bradford, I didn’t know it, but I lived in an oasis, an abundant land of plenty. At least in terms of access to Iyengar yoga classes. I could have gone to 3 different Iyengar yoga classes within 10 or 15 miles every single day of the week. And generally I did get to 2 or 3 a week. Where we’d lived before, in Sheffield, there had also been wonderful and easily accessible teachers. So when circumstances meant that we had to move away I thought about a lot of things important to me: schools, being near the sea, not too isolated, the quality of the nearest town. It never occurred to me to check that there would be yoga classes nearby.
It quickly became clear that I should have checked since there are no classes at all that I can reach on a regular basis. Bum.
Before I began teaching again this was annoying but I managed. However one of the conditions of being an Iyengar teacher is that to continue to teach you have to do at least 25 hours of classes per year with a more senior teacher. Not so difficult until you are marooned with childcare commitments and a limited budget on the wrong edge of the country. Bum.
And that is how you find yourself travelling to a different county just to get to some yoga classes.
And waking up feeling like I’ve had a fight with a plank of wood? How did that happen? I’m a yoga teacher, surely a couple of classes shouldn’t leave me feeling like that. I’m bionic and indestructible, right?!
Home practice is all well and good but I’m prone, like many people to stay within my comfort zone. And although my comfort zone might be a bit wider than average, I still have a zone and yesterday taught me that clearly I have been lounging around well within it. Bum.
And it does lead a person to ask whether it wouldn’t be easier to just not bother, to just sit around on my bum (word of the day – did you notice?). The trouble with that is that when you get to a certain age, (maybe over 12 years old!) your physical body is at the mercy of the cliche “use it or lose it”.
I watch 10 year old kids on the school field at lunch time doing handsprings (a handstand somersault) and landing in Virasana (kneeling pose) FOR FUN. I watch my 4 year old sit down to watch tv and quietly fold his legs into padmasana (lotus pose) BECAUSE IT’S THE MOST COMFORTABLE WAY FOR HIM TO SIT. Their bodies still have the capacity to do these things and if they carry on moving their joints they will keep them. If they stop, give it a few years and they won’t.
Most of us have stopped moving our bodies and our range of movement gets smaller and smaller and smaller. At first you don’t notice because you lose the extremes of movement. Later you might not notice because you’ll unconsciously adapt your movement to accommodate your restrictions (habitually sit down to put your socks on anyone?). Eventually though, you’ll catch a glimpse of yourself hunched, over or your back will begin to pinch because your tight hamstrings are pulling on your spine, or any number of other little niggles will creep into your everyday experience.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Ok, driving across the country and packing tonnes of yoga into one day is probably not the right option for most people, and I am taking it easy today, but a regular yoga class or a few beneficial stretches really is. Absolutely anyone can not only stop the decline but better still, you can regain movement and freedom at any age or stage.
One of my yoga heroes is Jean a 92 year old woman who I used to go to a class with back in Bradford. I’ll tell you about her one day. She wasn’t an acrobat but she was there every week and she was much more mobile than the average person half her age. If I can be like her when i grow up that’ll be fine with me.
But I’ve got no chance of that lazing around in my comfort zone…