Feline Flow

I’ve always admired people who can exercise on their own at home. They are devoted to their routines and rarely miss a day. I have at least three women friends who do this and a family member who works out almost every morning in his home gym.

It’s so self-contained and convenient. Doesn’t require special clothes, driving, money, or having to talk other human beings on those days we’d rather not.

Many times, I’ve wanted to emulate my self-disciplined friends. But living and working alone, I’ve been afraid I’ll miss the inspiration of good teaching, group energy and companionship. So, until recently I stored this idea away in my mental files.

I became less happy with my yoga studio. Not particularly friendly, lackluster teaching, more money than I can afford and too much rubbing on of oils and the slippery woo-woo philosophy. I went on a quest for another studio and discovered two things: 1) most of the classes in our beach town are heated, and 2) they are powered by 20-something, bendy toothpicks.

After almost fainting in a smelly, cave-like, “hot” yoga class, I tried a couple of outdoor classes next to a temporary trailer where our new Y is being built. A good teacher, but I had to get used to my mat slipping on fake grass and tune out the “Express Circuit” class leaping around next to us. A young woman failed to complete the leap across a big tire and landed in a heap of pain. Cell phones came out and I thought for sure we’d have paramedics, but as soon as the coaches were able to hobble her across the field, all seemed okay. My teacher had to get up, grab a clipboard and “make a report,” but then returned to finish up our class. We both commented on how yoga allows us to calm down.

One morning I was rummaging around in my office closet, and, without thinking, I pulled out my large, thick yoga mat. Not the thinner one I carry to and from class. One I used to store for $5 a month at a fancy studio, too heavy to carry, but perfect for home practice!

I lay it out on my office floor and started moving. My office is peaceful, shaded by trees that cover the windows. I’ve practiced yoga long enough – 18 years – to be able to move from one pose to another and create my own sequence. The only guiding voice I need is my own. The only music I need is the soft wind pushing the branches and leaves into the glass panes.

And I don’t lack for company. My three tabby cats, who normally lie around day and night, have suddenly decided they need yoga too. This is new! Mom sits on couch or lies on bed and we snuggle in close, but this body swinging and bending and legs swinging in air is too much! Must investigate. Must emulate. Underfoot, yes, but graceful.

To my surprise, I love the feel of their little bodies and can move with and around them. Whereas a person’s foot on my mat in a class would annoy me, these little soft paws and bellies are comforting. So far, they have mastered Sphinx (what cat could not?), Puppy (like Sphinx, but with butt in air), Half-Assed Side Plank (not unlike mine) and, of course, Savasana (the cat’s natural state, resting).I now look forward to my routine every morning. I am pleased, not just that I stretch and feel good, but that I am stretching into a new way of being – freedom to move (in my pajamas!) at my convenience. I see myself doing this for the rest of my life, even if I’m away from home.

I also found another studio, a mellow one. Instead of signing up for a membership, I bought a class pack and can go as often or as little as I want. Say once a week. Or not. Depending. (For an overly conscientious person like me, this is HUGELY freeing.)

This morning a woman brought two kittens to class in a carrier. She couldn’t leave them alone with their dog. Brother and sister, Houdini and Magic, grey and white and calico. We took turns petting them. They were quiet during class.

“Welcome to Feline Flow,” said our creative teacher.

Yes, perfect name, I thought as I settled into my mat.

 

 

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Bye, Bye Boot Camp

Another new year. Time for reflection and possible resolutions. Time to assess where we’ve been, where we are, where we hope to be.Eye

It’s tempting to measure, to assign a number on a scale, to compare and contrast.

On a scale of one to ten, say, how was this year? Overall, better than average, perhaps a seven. In some specific areas, the scale hovers at six, in others it reaches an eight with flashes of nine. Compared to former, low-dipping years, years when I lost a job or a when man I cared for developed cancer, or when my mother died, it’s been a good year.

This coming year I aim higher. Slight improvements will be just fine. Maybe accepting that the scale slides is good enough. Life is constant adjustment. It is rarely the same in all areas. We can do well in one segment: lose weight or win a contest, but not so well in another: develop an allergy to a food or a person.

I think that is why I love yoga so much. It reminds me of that. It keeps me grounded and balanced and yet still reaching farther and higher. And it doesn’t force me on days when I feel tired or insecure. I can rest and move gently, honoring myself.

One step at a timeTo tell you the truth, I am tired of measurements, especially those imposed from the outside. As I watch people strap little instruments to themselves to measure footsteps and calories, I realize I don’t want to do that anymore. I’m not being critical. These measures work and have worked for me in the past.

I’m just being realistic about where I am. No more boot camp of the soul! I like gradual changes that grow from within, one step at a time, one day at a time. And even the realization that I am fine where I am and don’t need to change.

Happy Old and New Year!

Good Intentions or Take a Seat

The road to fitness heaven is littered with bad exercise machines. – Linda Hutchison

So what is going on here? Is this exercycle being trashed or recycled? Is it ready for the graveyard, or for a second life with a new exerciser?

And what about the old exerciser? Has he or she traded up to a bigger and better bike, or moved on to another form of exercise, or decided to give the body a rest?Exercise Bike

As far as I’m concerned, good riddance to exercise machines. I’ve never been able to run on a treadmill without feeling like a hamster or a gerbil running in a cage. And going up and down on a stairmaster, back and forth on a rowing machine, or pedaling nowhere on an exercise bike make me want to scream. Visualizing toned legs, arms and abs does nothing to calm down my inner screamer or help my motivation.

I much prefer to be outdoors or in a class. I used to run and take aerobic dance classes and in recent years have evolved into walking and yoga classes, with some weight hoisting for good measure(ments). I like feeling as if I’m moving in my own body, whether along a sidewalk or path or from pose to pose. Outdoors, I like the fresh air, the sky, the ocean, the trees, the birds, the flowers, the nodding hello to neighbors and dogs. Even in the rain, I enjoy walking with an umbrella as long as it’s not hurricane-force stormy.

But I’m fortunate to live in a moderate climate where we can walk outdoors comfortably most of the year. One of my friends who lives in the Midwest loves her exercise bike, especially in the bitterly cold winter. There may be a blizzard outside, but there she sits, cozy by the fire, pedaling away, watching foreign movies, getting both her physical and her mental workout at the same time. In the spring, summer and fall, she enjoys walking and swimming, but she doesn’t like classes. Too many people, too many smelly feet.Chair under tree

Well, it’s great we have such variety and choices. If we all crowded into the same classes, we really would have an odor problem beyond the fix of lavender spritzes. It’s good to know that we can keep our joints moving in a way that works for us and that we can recycle ourselves when we feel like trying something new. Or when we feel like doing nothing under a tree.