Even Grandpas Can Do Yoga

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By: Jim Harbaugh

Five years ago, I injured my back and after steroid shots in my spine, it got better. About a year ago, I again injured my back and again went and got shots, and while I found some relief, things weren’t quite right. My wife, Shelly, who has been taking yoga classes at Pulsation Yoga since it opened, suggested yoga might be the answer. Being somewhat fit but having no yoga experience at all (and not wanting to make a fool of myself in front of others), I thought beginning with the Yoga 101 series might be the best way to start.

During the classes, I learned basic postures and how one pose was likely to flow into the next. I remember that while it was nothing complicated, particular poses were rather challenging, and I learned that “muscling through” would not be the way to “master” the technique. The teacher covered classroom etiquette and breathing techniques. Also, students were free to ask questions with lots of opportunity for give and take.

After completing the Yoga 101 series, I was willing to see what was next, so I looked for the next easiest classes. I chose the basic level I class held on Monday evenings at 5:15 p.m. and the Wednesday evening restorative/therapeutic class. These classes were perfect for me.  After one year of yoga practice, I am now able to touch the floor, do tree pose (with moderate success), do one arm balances, and fold myself in ways my body is not inclined to go willingly. And I am just now understanding how to “breathe into the pose” and really “extend” or “twist” to get maximum benefit.

When my daughters were young, I enrolled them in martial arts and after three years, they became Black Belts. And while some may feel that was the goal, in the world of martial arts, a Black Belt means you are ready to begin training. I feel the same way about yoga. Only after a year of regular training do I feel ready to begin experiencing what yoga may have to offer me.

I have again begun to move to even more challenging classes and soon may find the courage to overcome my fear of inversions. My right foot still feels asleep to this day, although less so. Perhaps in another year, I will be pain free. But for me, the journey of a thousand miles all started with the single step of taking the Yoga 101 series at Pulsation Yoga.

 

Check out all the details about the current Yoga 101 series here. While classes have started, openings are still available for a prorated fee.

Read Pulsation Yoga student Sheila Kessler’s story about the Yoga 101 series here.

A Pulsation Yoga Student Takes Us Inside the Yoga 101 Series

Guest Writer: Sheila K Kessler

 

Another series of Yoga 101 begins this week. I remember my first call to Pulsation to sign up for 101. Owner Jim Simonik answered the phone, as he always does, and ran through the perfunctory questions: Have you done yoga before? Where? How often? Do you have any injuries or physical limitations that the instructor should keep in mind? What do you hope to learn? 

This was not the gym yoga experience that I had previous to practicing at an actual yoga studio, and I got the sense that this was yoga done right.  No one had asked me these things before, or had taken the time to understand that while I have two rods attached to my spine, it may not present the limitation that one might expect, but it should still be considered.

Yoga and I flirted for many years: at the gym, in books, once with my mom with a groovy-ish ‘70’s vibe when I was a kid. I was flexible and had always been physically active, but I was getting older, creakier, and, let’s face it, sedentary and chubby, bringing with it all the associated aches and pains of not taking care of your health. My exercise routine had grown cobwebs. That said, it always included good form, so signing up for a 101 course to ensure proper technique made sense.

I wasn’t wrong. And I got so much more than a good physical practice. I followed up my 101 experience with a twice-a-week practice that grew to four and then six days a week within a few months. My practice expanded from what started out as a physical outlet to an emotional one as well. And since no one likes to keep something that makes them intoxicatingly happy to themselves, I “coaxed” my husband to take 101, too.

Signing up for a repeat of 101 wasn’t just moral support for my husband, but also a way of making sure that my now daily practice wasn’t missing something. Disciplines other than yoga call this maintaining the “beginner’s mind” and it makes sense for those of us who know what we’re doing, as well as those who don’t. Because at the end of the day, none of us know everything there is to know, and reminders about good habits are never a bad thing.

Yoga 101 provides the perfect opportunity to understand what the mystery of the four-corners of your feet actually mean and why it is truly foundational to all standing poses. The series of classes helps you focus on the essential breathing that should be at the heart of every yoga practice.  Pulsation’s Yoga 101 series’ aim is to give you the necessary tools to further your yoga knowledge as well as your practice. And since you’re in a studio with other beginners, there’s no pressure to keep up—not that there ever should be—because your practice is your practice (you’ll learn that, too).  You also learn proper yoga etiquette, such as removing your shoes and putting away props correctly. 

A yoga studio is not a gym. It’s not a place where you should be worrying about schedules, or what brand of yoga pants you’re wearing, or any of the other details that run through your mind and give you ample excuse not to get started stepping onto the mat. And here’s the best part: you learn all these things in a safe environment, with a Yoga Alliance-certified instructor who breaks apart the pose so you can start small and build from there…and thankfully in English as well as Sanskrit so no one is forced to peek through shaky arms to confirm the suspicion that Adho Mukha-something-something is indeed Downward Dog.

It’s been two years since I first stepped into a 101 class at Pulsation. This week, I came to my mat feeling gratitude for that hour in my day when it didn’t matter what deadlines were hanging over my head, what demands were being made of me, or what perceptions were held of me. Two years in, two 101’s, one 201, and countless workshops, I still can’t do handstand and there are times when even the most basic standing pose twinges at my lower back just days after nailing crow. It’s very likely I would practice even without taking 101, but making the decision to take to the classes rather than make an excuse allowed me to create a deeper practice in a supportive place where questions were okay, and I didn’t have to look like a Yoga Journal cover.  What’s your excuse? And is it really more important than taking care of you?

The next Yoga 101 series begins Oct. 19. There is still time to sign up, so check out all the details here.