One day last week, I didn’t feel like going for a run, and I had done some strength training at the gym the day before, so I decided to engage in an activity that’s still new to me: yoga.
I’m almost positive I don’t do any of the moves correctly, and I’m way too self-conscious to go to a yoga class. Superficial though it may sound, I hate appearing as though I don’t know what I’m doing. I was never the new kid at school, I was never the new kid on the soccer team, most schoolwork came easy to me, etc. I’ve never been the “noob.” With my embarrassing lack of flexibility, I have little doubt that I would look and feel clumsy and bulky in a room of lithe, easily twisted bodies. Instead, I choose to look clumsy and bulky in the comfort of my own home.
With a Pandora playlist that includes James Taylor, the Eagles and other mellow songwriters, I Google some routines for beginners and give it a go. Like I said, I’m still new to this thing, so I have to continually remind myself to breathe and try to count out the time length for a single move.
Having engaged in yoga at home close to 10 times now, I started to feel a little more confident this last time.I even felt a little pride at somewhat “looking the part” when I caught my black-cami-black-sweatpants-barefoot reflection in the darkened television screen. I’m aware that, like any other form of exercise, not everyone who does yoga is identical. Not all yoga folks decorate their home with lotus flowers and drink vanilla spice lattes every morning. But I couldn’t resist contemplating (or at least contemplating what I would look like) sipping a kale smoothie, or something similar.
As I leaned in to the Warrior Pose (see, I’m even remembering some terms!), I faced my desk, atop which sit photos of my parents and me, Cory and me, and my grandparents. My mom’s parents, specifically, who raised my mom and uncle on a farm and lived into their nineties thanks (mostly, I believe) to a lifelong active farming and gardening lifestyle.
Seeing my grandparents’ faces brought to mind images of my grandma down on her knees pulling weeds from the dirt or pruning back the numerous plants and flowers that adorned all sides of their house; and also of my grandpa, tromping through rows of vegetables in his clod-hoppers at the height of the summer in long sleeves and overalls, depositing the ripe findings into a bucket. Although my grandma began frequenting the gym three days a week after triple bypass surgery at 82 years old (yes, you read that correctly), it was still her constantly active lifestyle that, like my grandpa – with a pacemaker running in his chest – kept her sharp and in good health for a lot of years.
And there I stood, staring at their faces while in a pose that looked like I was either trying really hard to balance on the solid floor or preparing to fence an invisible opponent. They didn’t actually speak to me from the photo, of course, but it almost seemed like they did: What on earth is this you’re doing?
It’s hit me before, but it hit me again in that moment that our bodies are designed as machines, made to move and work in order to function properly. Our society has changed so drastically since Pa was born in 1915 and Gra-ma in 1917 that we have literally had to erect businesses that make money off us paying to make our bodies move in ways they’re already supposed to be moving. We have classes with fake bicycles and mats and individual platforms just so we can maintain these daily underused machines we sit around in every day. Our cities organize initiatives to encourage us to walk or bike rather than drive. Companies are getting rich manufacturing treadmill- and bicycle-desks for stiff-backed nine-to-fivers and inactive schoolchildren.
Times sure have changed.
My grandparents lived in a time when the constant activity wasn’t meant to get their bodies swimsuit-ready or receive good marks on their next doctor visit, but rather just because that’s the way it was. If you weren’t moving, you weren’t working; and if you weren’t working, you weren’t eating; and if you weren’t eating, you weren’t surviving. Staying active was a means of practicality.
We live in a time that is exactly the opposite of all that.
I certainly think it’s great that there are people, namely in first-world countries, who don’t want the population to wither away (or physically expand away) because of ignorance or apathy regarding their bodies. I just can’t help but take a step back and see how bizarre the necessity for those advocates really is.
Food is a big part of all this, too, but I think I’ve reached my preachy peak for the day, so I’ll save that for another post.