I love yoga and my wife isn’t jealous

rainbows
Exhilaration.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I love yoga. I don’t know any other way to put it.

The regular exercises have transformed my life, body, mind, and soul. And that’s no exaggeration. The class is held weekly, but given my schedule, I can’t always make it. I miss the praxis when I don’t attend.

My wife and I go as often as we can. The routines invigorate these two aging baby boomers with creaky bones and achy muscles.

focusing
Beauty.

Though it’s not a religion, we discovered yoga at church. Sessions were open to all, no experience required.

For the longest time, I thought yoga was something to eat. That’s a different product. Yoga is an ascetic discipline practiced for health and relaxation.

Still, these first lessons whet my taste for this appetizing meditative practice. It’s a non-fattening addiction to have.

My sharp-eyed wife found the starter kits needed for every yoga geek. With a rolled up rubberized mat and yoga blanket, we head to class as faithfully as we can.

The instructor is a gentle woman with a pint-sized body and a super-sized heart. Alana knows what she is doing.

religious banner
Spirit.

Her soothing voice softly commands your attention. Alana’s encouraging and complimentary instructions quietly and positively modify your posing when needed.

Alana’s patience is unending. Not that the small group, mostly boomers like Neva and I, are rowdy. We can just be a little slow and mulish.

But that’s one of the many pluses of doing yoga. Practice makes practice. There is no “perfect” in life unless you’re scoring a 10 in the Olympics. In yoga, a bow and a smile demonstrate reverent respect in mission accomplished.

In fact, yoga is not about competition. It’s about focusing, breathing, stretching, being, contemplating, living. By completing all those action verbs, the 75-minute sessions evaporate.

I love the slow, deliberate pace that stretches my body, clears my mind, and concentrates on my breathing, always through the nose. Given my schnozzle, I have no trouble getting plenty of air.

mother, admonisitions
I can still hear my late mother say, “Sit up straight.”

I will admit that I do have one goal, a simple curative that my saintly mother tried telling me over and over again. “Sit up straight,” she’d say. I’m still working on that.

As I sit cross-legged on my cushion or as we stand in tree pose focusing on a singular spot, concentrating on the calm, soft instructions, my entire being smiles. I am at peace with my world, my God, and myself.

Through the studio windows, I can see and hear birds calling and flitting about. I listen to the next instruction and redirect my thoughts. It’s a mindful process, a healing effort that comes from within and without.

What we do is hatha yoga. I call it kindergarten yoga, with no disrespect intended to our gracious mentor. We work hard, and I am always amazed at how much better I feel at the end of class.

The terms of yoga are as much fun as the various poses. Table, bridge, down dog, triangle, and warrior pose are just some of what unclutters our minds and exhorts our bodies. Balance is both a literal and figurative dynamic of yoga.

Always near the end of our workout, we turn to Shavasana, the death pose. It’s better than it sounds, an extended time for relaxation and reflection. We lie on our backs, arms and legs spread eagle, eyes closed, feeling head to toe the connection with the mat and the floor beneath, not a care in the world.

That’s why I love yoga so much.

the art of wondering
Wonderment.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

A personal note: Neva and I practice our yoga at True Nature Retreat a few miles from our home.

The unforeseen rewards of sleeping in

Amish homes
Pleasant morning.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I slept in. It was Saturday after all. It’s the way lots of folks begin their weekend.

For me, though, arising after 7 a.m. was abnormal even on weekends. I like to beat the sun to its dawn.

I needed the sleep after two consecutive late night outings. Now, the terms “late night” take on significant and liberal interpretation when you are a grandparent and not a teenager.

Thursday I attended another fun night in Cleveland with a good friend. I arrived extra early to avoid the guaranteed congestion since the Indians weren’t the only act in town. Sir Paul McCartney was playing next door to the Tribe, and the Browns lost another football game in front of their faithful mass of masochists.

In other words, the town was full of excited folks. Having lived and worked in the city many moons ago, I walked around the downtown area a bit to kill time and to view the remade public square. I was impressed with the space and the all-around cleanliness of the place.

Downtown Cleveland
Fun in Cleveland.
People sat at street side tables in front of restaurants enjoying the cuisine, drinks, and one another. I found the corner where three decades ago I had crossed the street with 30 first and second graders and their teacher. A religious street barker with hand-printed signs and tracts stopped his doomsday bellowing and moseyed up to me. He quietly asked me if the children were Pilgrims. I stoically replied that they were Amish, and followed the class across the intersection.

I spent a marvelous evening at the ballpark with my friend Rob. Happily, it was another last at-bat win for the Indians.

Elvis, Mark Lonsinger, Millersburg OH
Elvis.
Friday evening was just as much fun. My buddy Tim and I went to hear our friend Elvis perform his last gig for the summer in Millersburg. We weren’t disappointed and met lots of other friendly fans.

Both nights I was up way past my bedtime. So I wasn’t surprised that I had slept through sunrise on Saturday. I needed the rest.

Well behind my usual start time, I wanted to get my walk in before the late summer Saturday warmed too much. I discovered that being tardy had its enjoyable rewards.

I usually walk uninterrupted. Not this day.

morning walk
Where I walk.
Good neighbor Mary was already weeding her roadside flowerbeds. We chatted a while as Baltimore Orioles chased one another in the grove of trees at the south edge of my property. Their brilliant orange blazed neon in the sharp-slanting morning light.

An Eastern Phoebe called from a cluster of hardwoods just as I ran into Brian, another neighbor. We talked about his work, the warm weather, and the exhilaration of yet another fantastic Indians comeback victory.

I turned the corner and met my next-door neighbor, Trish, who was in the home stretch of her morning walk. I didn’t delay her long.

Girls in cerulean dresses pedaling bicycles and families in jet-black buggies silently greeted me with head nods and quick waves of hands. It felt good to be alive.

On the return trip to home, another young neighbor caught up with me on his four-wheeler. He was out scouting hunting spots with the season about to begin. A mourning dove sat atop a snag of a dying ash tree, perhaps eavesdropping on Tyler’s hunting secrets.

Annie Yoder
Annie.
I floated with elation the short distance remaining to my house. I was that invigorated by the gorgeous morning, the multitude of spontaneous interpersonal connections I had had, all after two enjoyable evenings with friends.

In the afternoon, I drove to Wooster to celebrate with my friend Annie on the release of her new album “Thousand.” True to form, she belted it out to the delight of all who attended.

Maybe I need to sleep in more often.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016