by Laura A. Garren (author & student at Greenville Yoga)
As I described in a couple of earlier blogs, practicing yoga has improved my life by reducing my back pain and acting as a soporific. In addition, I feel physically better in general; the way I remember feeling when I was younger and took for granted the ease with which I could move. I know what the Tin Man must have felt like when he got oiled after all those years of waiting and rusting.
I never thought it would happen to me; that I ever would be middle aged. With my general disbelief came proof that I was indeed aging: grey hair (now colored with henna); wrinkles, sagging skin. But worst of all are the aches and pains that have crept into my life, insidiously and implacably. If I squat or bend over for any length of time, it’s hard to unfold. I have less stamina, more soreness, and take longer to recover when I exert myself. It’s harder to maintain the same level of fitness that I used to be able to easily achieve.
Recently I realized I had to do something to address the back pain and to prevent further physical decline. I no longer was satisfied working out in a gym, but I didn’t want to slide into inactivity. I knew I only would become weaker and more prone to injury if I did. I decided to engage in a more “age appropriate” activity, as my friend Jennie (Wakefield) diplomatically put it. Yoga didn’t look that hard, I told myself as I watched a class full of practitioners. They were moving slowly, sometimes even were immobile, so I figured I could handle it without injuring myself.
I was right about one thing concerning yoga: it is difficult to injure myself, if I am careful and don’t try to push myself into a pose before I’m ready. However, yoga has proven harder than I imagined it would be—a pleasant surprise. I found myself challenged; better yet, as I become stronger, I continue to feel challenged as I push myself deeper into the poses. I can’t think of any other exercise that allows that sort of self-regulation.
Wonderfully, since I’ve been practicing I’ve noticed that my aches and pains are greatly reduced. I move more comfortably; and smoothly, for lack of a better word. My joints have been oiled, and the muscles supporting them seem to have tightened, keeping everything together. No more sciatica or knee popping painfully out of joint. Moreover, I have more stamina, which is surprising, as yoga doesn’t seem to raise my heartbeat significantly enough to be aerobic. But when I recently began walking my dogs again as the weather has cooled (it just doesn’t happen when it’s hot; too hot for two black, sun-absorbing dogs), I found I could power up the hills with less effort than in the past. My muscles, being stronger, need less oxygen to operate.
By whatever mechanism, yoga has changed my life for the better. I still may be middle aged; I just don’t feel it anymore.