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Grinning At The Window With My Face Near The Floor, Or, Saturday Morning At 9:59am

My legs hurt. To be precise, my hips and the inside of my left thigh are sore because I took a hard yoga class.

Yoga has begun to define a not small part of my retirement. I don’t go every day. I’m not good at extremes; moderation in all things means twice-a-week classes. But they resonate beyond my joints.

You all know I’ve struggled with anxiety much of my life. Ever since college I’ve managed it by retreating like a bunny to a warren. Snuggled up against an ungiving wall, the reassurance of that which does not move. Including myself – some animals freeze instead of running.

I have by no means turned into a new person. I’m still often unsettled by something I can’t define. I feel gray shades ruffling nearby. I still have to watch my drinking. But I have a practice that allows me to look to the longer horizon, and to keep moving.

You know I also struggled with retirement. What am I, I asked, without a to-do list? It was the wrong question. If you want to stay alive, to eat, not to eat too much, to exercise, to keep yourself and your environment clean, you’re going to need to-do list. To care for those you love, another one. To address the paperwork of our automated society, yet another. Can’t we register our automobiles without envelopes?

Things became clearer once I asked myself how to justify the privilege of retiring. Or at least that’s the construct that worked in my life, my self. On the one hand, I do it by caring for my family, by volunteering, and by finally understanding and articulating my political convictions in hopes that our society itself might care better for our members.

Service, generosity, a little courage.

On the other hand, I try to bring as much consideration as I can to my own happiness. I feel it would be wrong to waste this time of life in dissatisfaction. This doesn’t mean finding ever new fun things to do or acquire. It means paying attention to my interior.

Yoga has helped me settle.

It’s a funny thing, when I was blindingly busy with career and children I looked for beauty. A drug, essentially, something to keep me going.

But when I retired,  I had time and space to look instead for virtue and health. How ironic that there I find beauty and joy. Beauty in the children I teach. And joy in yoga. Real joy. Exalted, heart-bursting, comes-upon-you-unexpectedly, smile-in-spite-of-yourself-when-your-chest-is-twisted-past-your-thigh-and-also-parallel-to-the-ground joy. Grinning at the window with your face near the floor.

I would never say, “Everyone should do yoga!” Physical practices are body-type unique, personality-dependent. Nor do I plan to dedicate myself to Yoga in the upper-case, or mention it in every conversation. Way too annoying. But, toward my goal of being helpful here, I will say that finding your physical routine, your “practice,” might bring you so much more than health.

Some people run, some walk, some lift weights, some just never sit down. It’s all good.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone – here’s to our hearts and our breath.




39 Responses

  1. We all should try to find peace,joy,health,faith in oneself and beauty around us-and than there would be hope for everything else
    I was happy ,Lisa,reading this post
    Life is full of precious little things which we could miss, running for one or more of the big things. Or thinking about bad things…..

  2. Be careful. Yoga is deceptive, it’s easy to get hurt.. I feel ancient when I skip Pidgeon, which everyone else seems to anticipate.

    1. @Roseag, It is important to practice with a lot of self-awareness, what you can do and what you cannot. I don’t find yoga deceptive, but I do find my own consciousness prone to exaggerating what I can do;).

  3. Well said. I started doing yoga about 10 years ago, at the age of 65. Over time, my practice has become more than just physical exercise. Despite my initial feelings of distriust of the effect on the ‘inner me’, I have found there is indeed an effect, a very positive one. I do not devote myself to yoga at all, two or three classes a week. But those classes are very important to me, to my physical self, and indeed to my entire self.

    1. @MarcyLuna, I am so happy to hear that you attend classes 2-3 times/week at 75. I would love to do the same. And the woo-woo business can be very off-putting when it’s done poorly, but done well, I agree, it gets incorporated in our feelings about ourselves physical and other.

  4. I think its important to find something physical to do for oneself. I like to walk. It calms me and energizes me all at the same time. Good for you to have found that yoga works for you.

  5. Yep! Yes indeed. To all of this.
    Currently adjusting to a changed fitness practice and the loss of a former beloved yoga studio (because of our move). The new place isn’t suiting me as well, but that’s helped me shift to a different combo of running (3x weekly) and circuit training with a brilliantly inspirational and encouraging Personal Trainer once a week (the idea being I’ll begin working twice a week on my own on routines she works out for me). I’m loving the change, although I miss the meditational and the breathing aspects of yoga. So yesterday evening, a Yin class with my daughter — walking to the bus stop with her after, hugging and kissing her home to her kiddies after we’d both held somewhat awkward poses for almost-too-long durations in a darkened room with fifteen united-in-yoga strangers. . . That was pretty great. Not sure I was grinning at the window with my face near the floor. But I might have been. xo

    1. @Frances/Materfamilias, Your fitness routine is the most exemplary of anyone I know. By far. You manage to run and strength-train and do yoga. It’s quite remarkable.

      The class with your daughter sounds just extraordinary. Beyond fitness:).

  6. I love yoga but have been struggling off and on with benign positional vertigo the past few months. I’m going to continue trying. It would make me sad not to be able to do yoga. It has always made me feel good. Namaste.

  7. I loved what you said “some animals freeze instead of running”. I think that’s an apt description of myself and I had to smile when I read it. Frankly, I’ve been “freezing” all my life! When I was learning to walk as a toddler if I got a little tippy, instead of bending my body and falling onto my bottom I would stiffen up and fall backwards like a plank. Yoga saves me from being a stiff, locked up, frozen person. I’m not one for going to a class, so I do it on my own every morning. Skip a few too many mornings and I pay dearly for it.

    1. @Jeannine, Oh my gosh, this is such a vivid image! And it is so clear how and why yoga would help you. I admire the doing-it-on-your-own, I keep thinking I might but I work best in groups and so here we are. xox.

  8. I recently went back to Yoga and I am finding it so helpful with aches and pains and my flexibility and balance is much better. The slow and mindful breathing and the poses remind me to pay attention to my body and listen to what I “need.”
    a lovely post this morning Lisa…smiling at the window…love that image!

  9. I’ve done yoga on and off since I was 19. Right now, I’m in an “off” period, but was thinking yesterday, that it’s time to go back.

    Your post is just the push I needed. Thanks and so glad you’ve found so much joy in it. I think I miss that part of it, I do Pilates twice a week, but it doesn’t exactly bring me joy.

    1. @Kathy, When I used to work out with a personal trainer I looked great but I got very little joy from it. Yoga feels as though my body itself releases the joy in the poses. <3

    2. It actually is bringing me aggravation at the moment. Because of your post, I’ve put my series on “hold” right now and will go back to yoga and see. I do other cardio workouts which because of the music and being outdoors, do bring me joy. But I miss the peace that yoga brings. Thank you!

  10. “…I will say that finding your physical routine, your ‘practice,’ might bring you so much more than health.” That statement resonated with me.

    I had to give up yoga a couple of years ago (I used a DVD-remember those?-that I loved), unable to lean on an injured knee. But to prepare for a knee-replacement surgery (8 days and counting) I went to a personal trainer for several weeks in order to strengthen my body and mind. I could not believe what a warrior I had become, bound and determined to do more weight, more reps, another round…I never considered myself to be athletic or competitive, but here I was panting and sweating and loving almost every minute of it! I’m hoping to have the same mental attitude as I am put through physical therapy in a few weeks.

    1. @Carol, So good to hear! And I imagine you will bring the same attitude. Different routines for different times of life. I hope your PT is good.

  11. This is lovely.
    I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for (well, since my now 19 year old son was a baby) but lately haven’t had the time and I miss the strength and flexibility (which makes it hard to dive in again). But mostly I miss the feeling – the deep sense of rightness that comes in savasana and holds through the day.

  12. This is lovely.
    I’ve been practicing yoga for (well, since my now 19 year old son was a baby) but lately haven’t had the time and I miss the strength and flexibility (which makes it hard to dive in again). But mostly I miss the feeling – the deep sense of rightness that comes in savasana and holds through the day.

    1. @AnneL, Whoops – it kept telling meI had a duplicate comment but there wasn’t one and then suddenly there was one… Sigh, technology.

  13. I’m trying to find the right yoga studio (is that the right word?). I have hyper-mobility issues so everything has to be done carefully. Had to give up strength training because I became too competitive and injured myself, so I am hoping that this will be good for both body and mind.

  14. I am in an off period with yoga. The one hing that gave me that sense of joy, strength and flexibility was circus training ! However, like Jane above benign postural vertigo brought it to an end. Oh, how I loved being on a static trapeze or doing ribbon work. Anyway, walking soothes my anxious soul.
    Loved this post…. namaste

  15. I have been doing yoga for many years now, but at very irregular intervals because of intervening job obligations. But once retired, I hope to find a regular rhythm of at least one class a week. Beyond the training of strength and flexibility, yoga helps me to “sort my body” (as my yoga teacher puts it): tell my right side from my left, my front from my back and put everything where it belongs. The other thing that I found most helpful was learning to accept that there is nothing like one soaring achievement curve. There are good days and bad days, and each has to be taken as it comes (although I still find this difficult.)

  16. Your post resonates. Thank you for sharing and for your courage.

    Lizer Pearl

  17. A-bloody-men, Lisa. Yoga has also become the thick wall against which I now snuggle. Before retirement I’d done yoga for decades — if taking a yoga class for a week at Chautauqua every summer and thinking about yoga means “doing yoga.”

    But since retiring a year ago, I’ve discovered in our little bitty town an amazing yoga teacher (with 35 years of great training and teaching experience) and a class of women 55 years and older. Our Tuesday/Thursday classes have become the touchstones of my life. I’m also doing yoga (sometimes) while traveling, on ship decks, in airports, at the grocery store, in my kitchen, in elevators.

    So happy to be learning so much these days. And breathing in and out so much more deeply. And trying not to control so many other people. Lucky us and lucky them!

  18. As a recent convert to yoga – I turned to it as a last resort to ease my achy back- I’m now hooked on the calm and focus it brings me. I have fantastic teachers, both kind, wise women. I wish I had met them 30 years ago. Still, better now than never. Namaste.

  19. Thank you for the inspiration. Right now I’m tryng to get my parts stronger that were broken or sprained. So I’m doing walking. Then I need to try yoga and pilates. It’s time at 76 to get it together. Love reading you again.

    1. @Sandra Sallin,

      Sandra, I’m 71. At 68-69 I lost 100 pounds and spent a year and a half walking before I began doing yoga. It is NEVER to late to get it together. We can live until we die. :)

  20. Thank you-loved your words about yoga, retirement and your life now. I do think the psychological aspects of retiring are not stressed enough; it can be difficult not to have to be somewhere and be doing something. There the yoga comes in; for me after many years, it’s still an important part of my life. I try to practice every day but that doesn’t happen much but class 2 times a week-yes. I feel blessed to have such great yoga teachers where I live. My own teacher is amazing.

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