I started working out regularly when I was about 18. Actually, I taught aerobics so I could work out at the gym for free, and then kept up my gym visits after I quit teaching. For a while there, my workouts looked a lot like this:
(Mmmm hmmm. I had the wardrobe to prove it – HELLO, 1987!)
I’m a “class” person. If left to my own devices, I’ll find every excuse not to exercise. I want a tough class with good music, fast-paced variety, and energetic trainers. In the early 90s I took Step aerobics, and funky dance classes taught by fabulous, gay, black men who always encouraged, never laughed. By the early 2000s, I was spinning and doing classes that combined weights, plyometrics, body weight work, and cardio. Then came kettle bells and outdoor boot camps, as if the older I got, the harder my workouts had to be. (What? You’re looking at me like I was trying to prove something.) For the last few years I’ve done Fast Twitch and cardio agility classes.
I need to work out. If I don’t sweat and get my heart rate up nearly every day, I get pent up and bitchy, and no one needs to be around that. In ten days, I will turn 45. I don’t know how long I will live, but I definitely want to be healthy and strong for as many years as possible, so I intend to keep working out. The thing I hate about aging is that I can’t push my body the way I used to without it pushing back. It seems like some of my aches and pains have decided to move in and stay awhile, so I’ve been taking it a little easier with my workouts and trying to build more restorative exercise into my routine while still feeling like I am getting a workout. Enter yoga.
A friend posted this on Facebook last year, and as soon as I saw it I thought, “I want to do that!” (Inside of my 45-year-old body lives a 20-something.)
Initially, I resisted yoga because I thought it kind of wimpy – just a bunch of stretching. In my mind, if my heart wasn’t racing and sweat wasn’t pouring off of me, it didn’t count as a workout. But a few years ago, a friend invited me to join her for a yoga class so I gave it a try. The following day, I was surprised how sore I was in places where my more pounding workouts didn’t quite touch, and the yoga sped up the recovery time between my other workouts.
In 2014, I’m changing up my workout routine to align a little more with middle-age. I’m increasing my yoga workouts each week. But I’m still challenging myself by taking power yoga (modeled on the Ashtanga method) in a heated room. This morning was the hardest class I’ve taken yet. A couple of days ago, my friend Shannon talked me into skipping Fast Twitch and joining her for an 8:00 a.m. class at our yoga studio billed as “Power 1” and taught by this sinewy, Russian guy, Alex. Be prepared. She said. It’s super intense. I was sore for several days after last week’s class and kept having to stop and rest just to make it through to the end. But trust me, you will love it!
How did I prepare? By drinking a bottle of wine with a friend and eating a bunch of cheese, crackers and fruit as my dinner last night (that’s the 20-something inside of me guiding my thinking.) I almost bailed this morning, but rallied after a couple cups of coffee and some meditation to get my mind right. I got to the class, settled in and we started to flow, and it was by far the hardest yoga class I’ve ever taken. I got my ass handed to me, in the kindest way, of course, because it is yoga after all.
As I laid on my mat in Savasana after twisting to new depths and learning new techniques for inversions and feeling like a warm, wrung-out washcloth, I realized that Alex had just shown me that there is a whole universe of things for me to work on in yoga – deeper poses, more engaged poses, new poses, advanced variations on poses I can already do. I realized that, while it does increase my flexibility, yoga is way more than just stretching. It requires serious strength to get into some of the poses properly, and it takes stamina to hold a tough pose. And few things pull me into the present moment and gel the mind/body connection quite like holding a challenging pose, consciously engaging all of the muscles involved while trying to relax my face, soften my gaze and breathe evenly through my nose as I skate the edge of my limits. But then that’s why they call it a practice, because I’m pretty sure there’s no graduating in yoga.
In the meantime, I am working on learning to hold handstands and forearm stands without support, twisting and binding, and getting comfortable holding a back bend for longer periods of time.
Until then, here’s where I go for inspiration:
@life_of_jafu on Instagram (Jared out of Vancouver has been doing yoga and pilates for a year. Best I can tell, he’s a quick study with gorgeous form, and seems like a nice guy to boot.)
@laurasykora on Instagram
And handstand master, @patrickbeach on Instagram (He’s an instructor out of Seattle who puts up short video clips each day of various handstand inversions.)