If you were to ask me what came first, my status as a single mom or my commitment to exercise, I’d have to think long and hard before answering.
This is because I actually still remember life Before Children – which, in era-speak, is the greatest BC of all.
While regular exercise is great for maintaining high energy levels (a must when raising kids alone) it has also always played a role in my life in some form or other. Dance classes as a kid, martial arts in my early 20s and 30s and over the last 15 years or so a regular regime of weight training at my local gym.
Yet lately I’ve been questioning my real motive for exercising. And as always, one little question sets off the revival of the Spanish Inquisition.
Is it a phobia of becoming over-weight?
A need for a little “me” time, without the kids?
This quest for answers was suddenly triggered by the recent expiration of my gym membership. And the fact that my 48th birthday is around the corner.
While I still “feel” like me – agile, strong, energetic (not at all how I imagined I would feel at “this” age) – there’s no denying that having the big 5-0 tauntingly loom in the not too distant future is a great incentive for rethinking my attitude towards fitness.
After all, one can only defy gravity for so long before doing something out of vanity turns into doing something in vain – IF that is in fact my motive for exercising in the first place.
Another age-induced thought clambering up the forefronts of my mind is that maybe it’s time for a more comprehensive form of exercise. You know. Something that would exercise my body AND my soul. Clearly when you’re pushing 50 you start to consider that tending to your soul is probably a good first step in securing a spot next to the gods that may-be in afterlife retirement.
My first experience in this quest for an alternate exercise option was with yoga. Actually, HOT yoga.
Admittedly, my understanding of the word “hot” has changed since my discovery that “exercising at the mouth of hell is not for me” (my thoughts as I tried to discreetly crawl out of the 105 degree yoga studio as everyone else continued to gleam in downward dog position).
“Exercising in that heat CAN’T be healthy!” I said later to a friend, trying to justify my feelings of inadequacy.
This experience almost had me running back to renew my gym membership. But another free trial class offer had me signing up for something called Gentle Yoga.
My concern? With a name like “gentle” will it be enough to maintain muscle tone? I decided to set my ego aside and give yoga another try. After all, toned muscles is another one of those “you can’t take it with you” commodities.
With the temperature of the room not impeding my ability to stay alive, the class started off well enough. We began by sitting cross-legged on our mats, eyes closed as we took deep breaths and listened to the teacher’s zen-like voice talk about the importance of quieting the chatter in our minds.
My first reaction was a sigh of relief. The yoga gods were not out to kill me after all.
Naturally that moment of peace lasted about a third of a second before my eyes discreetly popped open. (And when I say “discreetly”, this is only because opening your eyes has no sound effects.)
The alarming trigger thought: “Oh no! I’m going to turn into a flabby-armed, granola lady with a closet full of tent dresses!” shouted the chatter in my head. Lucky for me, everyone else in the room was too lost in their moment of serenity to notice my moment of deep panic.
Again, I was self-pacified by a vision of me running back to my gym to renew my membership – right after this class.
At some point though I forgot about my inner chatter and fell into the flow of listening to the teacher’s compassionate voice. Soon I was aware of a light pant (mine) as I worked to keep up with the movements the teacher called “sun salutation”. And then sighing breaths of gratitude as I eased into child pose.
To my surprise I walked out of the class feeling both exhilarated AND relaxed. I had experienced the joy of yoga.
The next night I signed up for a Hatha Yoga class. “A little harder than Gentle Yoga,” I was told.
Conclusion: I’m hooked!
Also, I’m not even concerned about how toned my muscles are or aren’t. All I know is that yoga is allowing me to continue an exercise regime while at the same time teaching me to embrace myself – in and out – with both balance and grace.
Even my chatter-filled mind is surprised at how liberating it is to let go of the self-imposed “must exercise all body parts twice weekly” pressure that I’ve been adhering to for the last too many years.
Now if you were to ask me what came first, my born-again yoga enthusiasm or the acceptance of my body as mortal enemy – I would stumble in my answer.
Either way though, my soul feels pretty good. Maybe even perkier than my soon-to-be 50-year-old butt.