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.
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.
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.
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.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2016
A personal note: Neva and I practice our yoga at True Nature Retreat a few miles from our home.