Yoga: I’m Just There For The Stretching
It’s been estimated that 37 million Americans currently practice yoga.
So, surely I can’t be the only one who cheats during the breathing exercises, cringes during the chanting and peeks at her watch during savasana - the rest period at the end of class.
I know, I know, you’re supposed to use interlude at the conclusion of yoga practice to clear your mind, relax completely and have some sort of mystical, out-of-body experience.
I use that time to worry about whether I locked my car, paid the electric bill or let the dogs out before I left. Can't help it.
I once had an instructor tiptoe over to ask me to please refrain from drumming my fingers on the wood floor while everyone else was in a state of bliss.
"Sorry," I whispered back.
Shoot, as long as I’m admitting that I’m a yoga class delinquent, am I the only one who doesn’t actually do the breathing exercises?
Long breath in. Longer breath out. Again. Long breath in. Longer breath out.
What's the point of that? Breathing is one of the few things I can do without thinking. I don’t want to focus on it.
I’m just there for the stretching.
Look, there is a lot to like about yoga.
First, there is no better way to become strong and limber. I believe that. I like going to class and working up a sweat.
I also like watching as the lithe yoga instructors do things with their bodies that I’ve never been able to do with mine.
And here’s something weird: I like the smell of my yoga mat. I can’t fully explain that.
But when the instructors burn incense, ding little bells or try to make me join in a droning chorus of “OM” over and over, I’m ready to bolt.
I started yoga about a decade ago to become more flexible. Like everything else I do, I went overboard. Heck, if one class a week is good, surely seven are even better, right?
About two years ago I tore my right rotator cuff while attempting an arm balance that I had no business trying. I’m still not convinced that anyone over the age of 50 ought to be balancing his or her entire body weight on one skinny appendage.
It was agonizing. Eventually, I crawled to a pain doc and begged for numbing shots in my shoulder. Next came an MRI and nearly a year of physical therapy before I could put a jacket on by myself.
Turned out, my physical therapist - a rugby player - wasn’t a yoga fan. At all. He’d seen lots of yoga injuries and was especially critical of practices where students were asked to hold poses for extended periods.
Not good for you, he told me. Find something else to do.
“But there’s the mental aspect of yoga,” I protested. “It’s very calming. I need it.”
Clearly, I do.