A quote by Maynard Webb caught my eye some time ago. He stated, “Flexibility has become a modern-day value. But flexibility comes with a cost.”
It brought me back to a time when a friend and I attended yoga classes. Rosalie and I were thirty-something, and our instructor was perhaps in her 60’s. She was amazing! Just watching the spring in her step, her agility and “stretchiness.” Is that a word? Whatever! She had stretchiness! Watching her was inspiring.
While I’m not an expert on kinesiology, it’s known that as we age our joints stiffen, and that lovely suppleness of youth is but a memory. I was experiencing this.
I’m not Elizabeth Gilbert, and it’s unlikely that I will go to an ashram as she wrote about in her book, ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’ But thinking again of my former instructor, it occurred to me going to a yoga class was an excellent idea. I googled Yoga and found a Hatha Yoga school not too far from my house. And surprise, a beginners’ class was scheduled to start in one week!
On day one, I found myself with some ladies ranging in age from twenty to perhaps 60 or 70. We were told some movements tend to be effortless, while others are arduous. We were assured that if we’d stick with it, we would see improvement.
The first thing we were asked to do was sit cross-legged, while maintaining good posture, with knees bent and opened wide like a book. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? I watched the others in the class. Their knees were not only opened wide but almost touching the floor. Mine were up to my ears. It was suggested that I sit on some towels, elevating my bum, so my knees appeared to be closer to the floor. Somehow that seemed like cheating, but at least my “pose” looked more similar to everyone else’s. Of course, I appeared to be a foot taller than everyone else in the room as well.
We proceeded with several poses. Funny, I had no recollection of pain during my earlier classes. Our instructor explained that most of us had spent many years sitting, standing and walking incorrectly. “As a result, some of these poses may be difficult. But don’t worry, just stick with it.” Good grief! I had so many years of lousy sitting, standing and walking to make up for!
And the poses continued: the mountain, the chair, the triangle, downward facing dog — some more difficult than others. I don’t recall perspiration dripping down my face in past classes, but I was beginning to feel it now. Thinking back on my earlier experience, we glided almost ballet-like from one position to another. There was nothing rhythmic in my movements now. Then we were on the floor again — I in an un-lotus like pose. I panicked thinking, “Oh my God, my hips are locking, where is the exit?”
Perhaps, the instructor saw the look of terror on my face, because she asked us to rise again and that’s when it happened. When you’re as stiff as I was, getting up can be a challenge. I didn’t fall, because I was able to catch myself by jamming the second toe of my right foot into the floor. There was PAIN! Just as I was about to let out a gasping cry, I saw the sign:
“NO WHINING PLEASE”
“What? No whining, please? This place must be run by sadists!”
I looked around for an escape.
Our instructor, however, was on to another pose — the ‘Warrior Pose.’ She tried to assist this now wounded warrior by moving my left foot, putting more pressure on the toe on my right foot. She didn’t understand that I couldn’t do that and breathe at the same time.
The hour was almost over. The instructor said,“It’s time for the ‘Corpse Pose.’” CORPSE POSE? They actually have a designated pose for a dead person? I figured they were going to put me out of my misery. Lying on my back, my toe throbbing, I awaited my fate. Fortunately, the Corpse Pose is a time for meditation. I would have enjoyed it but was in so much pain, I couldn’t think of anything else. Then I heard a soft voice say, “Namaste.” The class had ended.
I hoped my ‘corpse toe’ could be revived. Too bad there was no video of me leaving the studio. Limping and appearing to be wearing some kind of body armor, I was the personification of rigidity.
Good old Maynard Webb. He was right. Achieving flexibility does come with a cost. Of course, he was talking about working in the age of the internet. For me, well it came with a broken toe.
For my next act, I think I’ll take up Tai Chi.
Editor’s Note: You may recall this story from back in 2014. Last Wednesday, I was asked to fill in as a speaker at Toastmasters. So reworked the original article to a speech format. Hope you enjoyed this version.