December 04, 2007

"Yoga is Great at Any Age" by Renee Schwartz

“It’s amazing what you are doing now, considering who you were for the first 55 years of your life,” my mother recently said to me as I was heading out for Tracy’s Monday night Yoga class at the Tai Chi Center of Chicago. And she’s right. If someone had told me 5 years ago that I would be doing Yoga and Tai Chi and Meditation, and that I would be able to touch my toes, I would have thought they were hallucinating. So much has opened up to me since I retired in April 2003, and so much of that is a direct result of studying Yoga with Tracy.

I spent the first 55 years of my life not exactly as a couch potato, because I have always walked a lot, but certainly favoring activities of the mind over those of the body. I have always felt limited physically – not flexible, not graceful, not strong, not coordinated. Those are some pretty serious ‘nots’ when considering doing Yoga! But a funny thing happened over the last 4½ years: I am more flexible, more graceful, stronger, more coordinated.

But even more important, I realize that those are not the things that matter most to me now. Sure, I care about doing the Yoga asanas (poses) correctly, and I sometimes still get upset that I can’t do a graceful Warrior I with my arms lined up with my ears and my upper back arched. Maybe someday I’ll be able to and maybe not. What Yoga means to me now is much more than a set of physical movements – it has become an integral part of who I am and how I view life.

One of the things that I most appreciate about Tracy’s Yoga teaching style is her synthesis of the physical, the spiritual, the movement inward and outward. I hesitate to say ‘spiritual’ too loudly because I know that is a very personal place for many people. But having begun my Yoga journey as a person with strong ethical values but very limited experience with any kind of spirituality, this has become an important area of exploration for me. What Tracy made available to me was an atmosphere that encouraged this exploration without pressure, without expectations. And each class I take with Tracy reinforces the connection that Yoga has to all aspects of my life, and makes me a more fully integrated, more focused, gentler and more peaceful person.

In case this all sounds very serious, I have to say that Tracy has a great sense of humor, and one of the things that I respond to so fully is the joy and humor that she brings to her classes. It is not a frivolous humor – in fact, it enriches the class experience because it reminds me that we are real people doing something special that involves the full range of emotions.

So where do I go from here? I will continue to take Tracy’s Yoga classes three times a week (or more when possible). I will continue to feel a release of stress and a feeling of calm after class that I carry with me with gratitude. I will continue to read and explore the different physical and emotional and spiritual inquiries that I have begun through my exposure to Yoga. And I will continue to marvel as I bend over and touch my toes!