Many of you who know me are aware of that fact that, until a year or so ago, my favorite form of exercise was lifting my fork from the plate to my mouth. Ok, maybe not that bad… maybe it was aerobically turning the pages of a good book….Or speed/power knitting. Then I discovered yoga and would now be lost without it. It centers me; my back doesn’t hurt, and I’ve lost my fear of falling over. Yoga has made an impact both on and off the mat.
Then, quite by mistake, a week ago, I arrived at the yoga studio for a 9 AM Vinyasa class. Something was quite different. The mats were going the “wrong” way. There were strange flexible rings in the front of the room and pile of elastic exercise bands that brought back memories of physical therapy and a demanding personal trainer. There was no “yoga” music in the background and many of the people in the class had real muscles.
My regular yoga teacher, Michelle, quietly told me that this was a Pilates class—the first one offered. I clearly didn’t check the latest schedule. So I looked her in the eye and said…“Well, can I do this Pilates stuff?” Without pause, she replied, “Of course, get in there.” So I did.
Learning something completely new and physically demanding at the ripe, young age of 61 might have scared me off. But it didn’t. I told the instructor, Monica, this was my first Pilates class ever… she was encouraging and her cues were crystal clear. I could follow her directions and make this Pilates thing work. The stretches we did were different than warm ups in yoga. Each move was more intense, took me out of my comfort zone and had to be repeated multiple times. I stopped worrying if I could do it, and just followed the teacher. Before I knew it, I was pulsing mini sit-ups without fears or tears.
Was it fun—no, not really! It was challenging, and I could feel that I was working my body in a different way than in my yoga practice or when taking long walks. I had to overcome the awkwardness of not really knowing what I was doing—and learn something new. It meant giving up the pretense of control and taking baby steps into the unknown. At the end of class, I was thrilled and amazed that “I did it!” I fully expected to hurt and have multiple Charlie-horses simultaneously—so I took an hour long soak in a hot Epson salt bath—and David did bring me a small (ok, medium) glass of brandy while I sat and soaked until my finger tips looked like white prunes. It was heavenly! I laid back and realized that I walked into a Pilates class unexpectedly and didn’t run away… instead I was looking forward to next Friday’s class.
How could this happen: One self-care action follows another and another and another. An entourage of wise, compassionate, skilled yoga teachers (Thank you and hugs to Kirsten, Megan, Michelle and Sandy McA) move me forward on and off the mat. They teach me yoga and so much more. I meditate and quiet my overactive mind. Most importantly, I delete toxic people and excessive commitments from my life. This all opens up room for new opportunities and new growth. I remember years ago, Danny Rothenberg told me that I ought to consider leaving more open space in my life. He made the comparison to Chinese checkers. “You need some open spots in order to jump ahead. You have too many marbles on the board.” It has taken me years to follow up on his advice.
So the benefits of life with “fewer marbles on the board” are numerous. Yes, I’m a regular Pilates and yoga student now, and I’m in much better shape than I was a year ago. I have learned the value of subtracting obstacles from my life in order to add more of the good stuff. It does come back to simplicity and having a “short list” of what is important. My hubby, David, has been talking about the value of a “short list” forever. I’m getting there.