Summer. Teachers live for it. Don’t get me wrong- we are super excited in August stockpiling all those nifty school supplies and planning our room theme with the year stretching out like a ribbon of unexplored highway. We come back and work day and night to get those rooms ready and greet those new little faces. The air is ripe with possibility and we are the world’s optimists. We work feverishly and we’re exhausted, but luckily there is a long weekend right around the corner. Labor Day to Christmas flies by. We return in January to a fragmented month banked by Christmas vacation and the MLK Jr long weekend, and before we know it, it’s February also known as the beginning of the wilderness. This time between Groundhog Day and Spring Break is where we begin to show a little wear and tear around the edges and we begin praying for snow days. The weather channel becomes our favorite website or channel and we watch fervently for the southern storm which will give us an opportunity for a delay or even better a day in our jammies to catch our breath or catch up on our planning, grading, IEPs, laminating file folder activities or PECS, etc. Spring Break dawns like an answered prayer and goes by in a flash and we return rested and ready to plow on toward summer. By late May, we are shells of our former selves- veritable trolls who rarely clean house, eat right, or get enough sleep. We dream about early retirement, but summer looms like a beckoning oasis in the harshest desert.
Every teacher knows that the first week or two off is just like the first pancake or two- right in the trash. We go into a death spiral of languid escapes like sitting in our pajamas catching up on social media until we are suffering from the worst kind of inertia. It happens effortlessly. We think, wow, we have an entire summer to clean out the closets, list all that junk on ebay, plan and execute the perfect vacation, plan our entire next school year, catch up on all those doctor appts., read at least 10 books, go out to lunch with all our old friends we have ignored for another year, and go on cool day adventures with our kids or grandkids, and lose those stubborn pounds we put on this winter by working out. One day, we come back reality and realize that we do not have three months off, that we barely have 10 weeks and oh how quickly that will go. Then, a vacation or a project kicks us into gear, and before we know it, it’s the 4th of July. That’s when the first alarm goes off, holy shit, my summer is almost half over and I haven’t even (well, you can fill the blank here). Then there is that mid-point, where I find myself today, when another month of summer lies before me like a sparkling, shimmering pool. Now, I will live more intentionally and savor each day, unwrapping it like a unique chocolate truffle, a new flavor and mouth feel each day. This is strictly metaphorical since I am off the carbs again, but you get the idea.
This morning I decided to go to yoga class at an actual yoga center in a metropolitan area. This is sort of where you would expect me to be, but then, not so much because while I have always gravitated toward the granola, I’ve never been inclined toward yoga. As a younger woman, I didn’t get it. How could all that standing and leaning over and lying down do anything for you? Fast forward to that rocky precipice we call menopause and chronic illness [Rheumatoid Arthritis if you haven’t been reading this bitchfest of a blog], and you begin to “get it.” So, yeah, I get it now. I should have been eating better–from the years of Capt’n Crunch and Lucky Charms to the young woman stuffing Hershey bars and Kisses like somebody needed those wrappers back to the donut-loving, carb-worshipping. trainwreck who woke up one morning and could not walk on her broken little feet. A body needs to move. It doesn’t have to run marathons, although I’m not discounting those and one day I might get on that bandwagon, but right now, my joints need to be stroked out of their gel-lock by deliberate movement that elongates and opens all those chakras.
So, I studied the center’s menu and settled on a class for 50+ year olds. I am only 51, but I thought, I might find a class of blue haired ladies I could keep up with. I dug the yoga mat I purchased online 3 years ago out of my spare room closet and tossed it into the back of the car. I put on my yoga pants, because we love those things whether we have ever taken a yoga class or not. I’m sure you feel me here. I donned a loose t-shirt and headed to class. I had to park around back and walk around the two-story business complex, up a hill, and loop back around to the front where the yoga center is situated. This 9:45 am walk was smack in the middle of my morning stiffness time and so I had several joints and tendons yelling at me as I climbed the hill in the hot morning sun. My left hip was screaming, my right Achilles tendon was moaning, and my left foot [that feels like a bone might just poke on through at any moment] was whining as usual. I thought, omg, what am I doing here? I walked in to the center and was greeted by a kindly little woman with heavy rimmed glasses and salt and pepper hair pulled back into a perky pony tail. She was wearing a cute little kimono-like top and some loose capris and she asked if I was the new sign up. I said yes, and this would be my first real yoga class. She was incredulous and asked what made me decide to come. I said, because this was a 50 and over class and I was diagnosed with RA a year prior and thought this might help. I knew from her bio that she too was an RA survivor and she quickly shared that remission came after she took up yoga more than 10 years ago. I was in.
The yoga studio was quiet, with shiny blonde wood floors, windows looking out toward a wooded area across the highway, and colorless with gray walls and white trim. The class participants were quite varied. I chose to place my mat between a short, muscular, bald man of about 65 dressed totally in black and a plus sized woman of about 60 with a kind face and a graying pony tail. I was the youngest in the room, but also the greenest. I had to watch what other people were getting off the shelf. Do I want the foam blocks, the blanket rug thing, the pillow bolster, or the bean baggie thing? I had no idea, so I took one of everything. I was way in the back of a room with about 15 or more mostly women, but there were two quite dignified looking men. Everyone sat criss-cross applesauce waiting for the class to begin with their hand palms up on their knees. I had to strain to keep my back straightened as it wanted to fall into the slouchy “c” of the computer user. Keeping my spine in a straight line was an exercise unto itself and my hips, especially left, were dying in this position.
We began with a melodic group Om and then went straight into child position where, with my head down, forehead to mat, I could not see what I was supposed to be doing, and as I am auditory learning challenged [this gives me tons of empathy for my students who are primarily visual learners], I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing down here. My ass was indeed in the air though, flailing about, and I had to concentrate on keeping those straight line. At one point, I sort of laid my cheek on the mat and fell into a private giggle about this particular quandary I was in. Later, on our feet, we entered the warrior pose– now I was made for this pose. The teacher said, “I could see your face become warrior like as you entered this pose.” I enjoyed lunging and back bending in the warrior until a wave of nausea came over me. It’s warm in the yoga room and I had only had a bit of cheese and half apple for breakfast, luckily, or I think I would have up-chucked onto that shiny light wood floor. I had to leave to go out and get my bottle of water and take a sip and make sure I was not going to actually vomit. False alarm, but strong evidence that, yeah, yoga does stimulate the organs and get that digestive train rolling out. By the time we arrived at the part where we got to loll about on the bolster pillow on the floor and meditate, I was all in.
In the end, I felt better than when arrived, and that was enough proof that this was where I needed to be. I plan to go back and am excited about the possibility of attending a restorative yoga class where you get over an hour of all floor pillow-hugging stretches and meditations. Apparently a guy named Steve teaches that class and his voice is quite soothing. I will leave you with a video I found. I am not a skinny girl. I have never been the long lean willow of a woman. Even at my tiniest, I always had curves. Currently, I am between a size 12 and 14, so I am not particularly over-sized, but neither am a I what you typically envision when you see the yoga devotee. This video made me laugh out loud– lots of good tips :).
Fat Girl’s Guide to Yoga
Namaste’ [Yeah, I think I’ll stay]