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.

Breathe in breathe out, a routine too easily forgotten

autumnafternoonbybrucestambaugh
Autumn afternoon. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I sat in the warm sunshine on the back porch steps, eating my simple lunch, taking in all that transpired around me. I basked in the awesome day itself, one of several that we had as summer morphed into autumn.

Typical of fall days in northern Ohio, the day started cool, and took its time warming up. But thanks to skies bluer than my grandchildren’s eyes, the sunshine strengthened to enhance the day to beyond beautiful.

The air warmed, and the wind gently swirled in all directions. Compared to the quiet dawning of the day, everything seemed alive, moving, and vibrant. It was a glorious day, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the Day of Awe.

Sunrays streaming by Bruce Stambaugh
Day of Awe. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
I’m not Jewish, but I certainly was in awe. I had just returned from my weekly yoga lesson, where the students were again reminded to breathe in, and breathe out. It’s a way to encourage each of us to be conscious of just how important breathing can be.

Given our hustle, bustle lifestyles fueled by instantaneous updates from the outside world through our addiction to our electronic gadgets, we sometimes forget life’s simplest lessons. Breathing is one of them.

So there I was, enjoying my wife’s homemade hummus with crunchy gluten free crackers, a homegrown tomato, homemade refrigerator pickles, some fresh turkey breast and locally made cheese, washed down with homemade mint tea, breathing in, breathing out the beauty of the day. I felt ecstatic, really.

Dogwood berries by Bruce Stambaugh
Dogwood arsenal. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
My presence had chased away the Starlings and the American Robins, who were at war over the bright red, ripe dogwood berries. Like most conflicts, it seemed neither side won. In the fracas, most of the berries dotted the ground beneath the trees, their leaves growing more and more crimson.

I breathed in, and saw a family of Chimney Swifts skimming the fields behind our home, and circling over and through our stand of trees. I exhaled with a smile, overjoyed to see the friendly birds again. The ones that occupied our chimney had gone missing a few days prior, likely on their way south, like these chattering brothers and sisters were as they devoured every airborne insect they could.

My solitary picnic didn’t bother the ever-present American Goldfinches, now in their duller decor. They ate right along with me as long as I didn’t breathe too hard.

Clouded Sulphur butterfly by Bruce Stambaugh
Clouded Sulpher. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
At the front of the house, I breathed in another pastoral scene. Clouded Sulphur butterflies and bumblebees flitted about the fall blossoms, especially enjoying the blue salvia and bubblegum petunias my good wife had planted in early June. I breathed out a hearty thanks to them and to her for these special, significant insignificancies.

That’s just one of the tenants that I have learned from six months of yoga. Yoga is much more than physical exercise. Your movements, your thoughts, and especially your breathing need to be congruent. I think the pros call it mindfulness.

I don’t know if it was my breathing, the gorgeous day, my tasty lunch, or that combination that put me in such a peaceful mood. I just know that I want to keep breathing in and breathing out as long as I can.

With that, my mind wandered to too many friends I know locally and globally who would love to love this day, yet who have little opportunity to do so. Illnesses and real wars prevent their abilities to breathe in and breathe out the way I was.

I’ll just have to do it for them.

Changing leaves by Bruce Stambaugh
Turning red. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014