If you have been reading the articles I’ve written about staying fit while aging, you probably think I am some sort of senior wonder woman. Well, fitness fanatic, anyway. I have to share that this is far from true and all it takes is to enroll in a yoga class with me to see how limited I am.
I simply cannot stretch very far. I am told that this is because of my running, but I have to think that there’s more to the story.
When I was a child, my mother was into yoga. We had to stand on our heads at least one half hour per day. There were six of us children. We had to sit in the lotus position to study — a pretzel formation for your legs. We had a head-standing device so we could read upside down. That way all the information would flow to the brain. My brother could actually stand on his head and go into the lotus position. We have a family portrait, taken by an uncle, of all of us upside down.
This is what happens to military wives stationed alone with just their children in remote outposts for long periods of time. We were in the Far East, yoga country. Those were the days of the cocktail party where the children were sometimes trotted out to demonstrate a new yoga move. One of us would stumble out of bed and show drunk adults our latest auspicious pose.
As an adult, I just have never given yoga enough of a chance. We once hired a yoga instructor here at the agency during a local hospital’s Move and Improve fitness campaign. I don’t think my staff stopped laughing for a week when they realized I could not follow directions, did not know my right side from my left and could not do any of the stretches without writhing in agony. Even the heftiest, most unfit of our employees could achieve a better downward-facing dog pose than I could.
My aging friends have found many life improvements from yoga, such as relief from back pain, stress reduction and even relief from persistent gas. I feel the need to become more accepting of the value of yoga because it benefits many older people. And it probably will help me relax and really become a senior wonder woman.
Noelle Merrill is the executive director of the Eastern Area Agency on Aging in Bangor.