In the column that will be in the newspaper this week (and will be on my blog on Friday), I refer to a column I wrote more than ten years ago about a yoga class I was taking. The column originally appeared in the paper on August 9, 2001, and I’m publishing it here now in case you’d like to read the whole thing. In over ten years of writing my column in the Chanhassen Villager, this remains one of my favorites. Enjoy!
For a long time now, I’ve been thinking about taking a yoga
class—even after playing a trivia game in which yoga was the correct answer to
the question, “In what type of exercise do you stand on your head?”
The reason I’ve been thinking about it for so long—as opposed to
doing it—isn’t because I’ve been lazy or procrastinating. It’s because I was
scared. Not about the standing-on-my-head part, although that’s not something
I’ve ever put on my “Things I Want to Do Today” list. What terrified me was the
I think the lotus position is the universal yoga pose. I also
think “the pretzel position” would be a more accurate name for it. It’s the
pose in which a person sits, relaxed and reflective, with eyes closed, legs
crossed, hands resting comfortably on knees, and each foot resting gently on
the upper thigh of the opposite leg.
That doesn’t work for me.
The way I figure it, if God wanted my feet and thighs to be that
close to each other, he wouldn’t have put the femur—the longest bone in the
Still, I know a number of people who swear by yoga. Last year,
while on vacation at the beach, I met a woman who was thin, blonde, gorgeous
and tan. Generally, I try to stay away from people like that, but she was
friendly, too, and we chatted for a few minutes every time we ran into each
other. At one point, she mentioned that she recently lost sixty pounds (which
she had gained during a painful divorce and a difficult custody battle). She
credited her weight loss to yoga.
“It’s all in the breathing,” she said. Never once did she mention
lotuses. Or pretzels.
A close friend of mine, who recently started taking a yoga class,
said that even after just one or two classes, she could feel the difference in
her strength and flexibility. And just last week, another friend told me that
when his mental and physical states were at an all-time low a number of years
ago, yoga literally saved his life.
So I finally signed up.
The first thing we did in class was to lie on our exercise mats in
a quiet room with the lights off—relaxing, aligning our spines, and
concentrating on our breathing. The second thing we did—at least, the second
thing I did—was try not to fall asleep. Then we were led through a series of
poses with interesting names, like dying swan, downward dog, and modified
cobra. Animals figure very prominently in yoga.
By the time we were finished, I did feel relaxed and refreshed,
although I wasn’t tan, blonde, or sixty pounds lighter. I know I had a good
workout because I was sore the next day, the way you’re supposed to feel when
you wake up and shake up muscles you haven’t used in a while. I expected to
feel it in my back and my legs, but I also felt it in my fingers, my ankles,
and my dying swan.
Throughout the class, the instructor kept reminding us not to
push, pull or stretch past our comfort level. “Don’t do anything that hurts,”
she said. Still, she encouraged us with each move to work just a little harder,
and to reach just a little farther.
It suddenly occurred to me that that’s how you get results in yoga
class. Or in anything else, for that matter. Push, pull and stretch. Work a
little harder. Reach a little farther. But don’t do anything that hurts.
I think I’m going to adopt this as my personal philosophy. I also
think I’ll continue going to yoga class. And I’ll set some goals for myself
along the way. One of them will be to keep pushing, pulling and stretching
until I can actually get into the lotus position.
And I won’t stop there. I’ll keep practicing until it’s so easy I
can do it standing on my head.
© Betty Liedtke, 2012