No, not those kinds of pretzels. Recently I started adding a very basic yoga series to my bedtime routine. Nothing dramatic or strenuous. Just something restful and stretchy. Back in the days, I used to be a regular when it came to yoga. In fact, when I lived in Austin the first time around I was part-time manager of the Austin Yoga Center and halfway through a training program to become a certified yoga instructor when I moved back to NY to become managing editor of Catholic New York. Anyhow, lately I've been feeling the tug of yoga again. I think it's because yoga is something that has always centered me and helped me pray, and I really want to make progress with my praying, which is incredibly lame at this point. The other night when I was finished doing some basic poses -- Downward Dog, Cat, Cobra, Tree and other stuff like that -- I sat in Half Lotus in quiet meditation for a few minutes and really felt a God connection, which is something I typically don't feel, believe it or not, when I try to pray in church or in my little prayer space at home or in bed before drifting off to sleep. It makes sense that I'd feel that connection at that moment since that's what yoga's all about, quieting your physical self so your spiritual self can go to new places. If you've never tried yoga, find a class. It is SO worth the time and effort.
On a related note, our family joined the YMCA a few days ago. A friend called and asked me to meet her at the "Hot Yoga" class that was being offered. I was more than a little leery. To me yoga -- usually Hatha or Kripalu -- has always been about calmness and a spiritually centered kind of strength, not about building muscle or getting fit (although that's a side benefit). I wasn't so sure I liked the idea of yoga as a workout in the typical sense. But I grabbed my mat and found an inconspicuous spot in the back corner since I knew I'd be behind the eight ball in this class. I not only survived, I did just about every pose (not always gracefully, but, hey, you can't have everything) and I loved it. I have never, even in the midst of yoga teacher training, done anything related to yoga that was this difficult and strenuous. Plus they turn up the heat. Hence, the "hot" classification. A few minutes into class I found myself smiling because I was just so happy to be there, although my legs were shaking and the sweat was dropping onto the mat below me. Talk about pretzels! At one point, when my right knee was up near my head and my right hand was near my outer foot, I looked at the other newcomer next to me and said, "Right foot green." It was a challenge, to say the least, but I would go back in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the teacher's schedule is changing, so I may have to give something else a whirl -- like "Zumba," which is some crazy sounding Latin dance exercise class that starts next week. I can't promise that that outing will be nearly as successful.
So this is our new thing, trying to get the most out of our Y membership, something we put off for years because of the cost but finally realized was just what our family needed. I actually swam laps yesterday. If you knew anything about my swimming ability, you would know this is an incredible feat. I swam the first four laps half expecting the lifeguard to jump in at any moment because surely I must have looked like I was in distress as I flailed along. The last four laps I did with a kickboard to give my upper body a rest. No wonder those Olympic swimmers have the bodies they do!
Noah, who glides through water effortlessly, swam six laps yesterday and 20 -- yes, TWENTY, 2-0 -- laps this morning, not all consecutively, but still, that's a ton of laps. Today I opted for some new machine I've never done before. Maybe it was an elliptical. The cardio guy had to show me how to get started, as I was going backwards when I first stepped on. Way to blend in with the regulars.
Unfortunately, you will probably have to put up with occasional Y updates as we try new things and make physical progress. I mean, if I'm going backwards on an elliptical machine just think what I'll do in Zumba or the spinning class. Stay tuned...