Downward Facing Dork: Taking Up Yoga at 60
He wanted to find inner peace. Here's what he found instead.
For a guy like me, taking up yoga when pushing 60 was a bit like trying to date a 21 year-old — probably good for my circulation but with a strong chance of falling on my face.
No matter. I decided to give it a whirl, as much for a spiritual as physical overhaul. Still, I had questions. I mean, if yoga is supposed to make you full of inner peace, how does that explain Alec Baldwin? More importantly, what if I wasn't as flexible as I once was?
Actually, no worries there — I was never as flexible as I ever was. I couldn't even yawn without lapsing into a minor myoclonus. For me, yoga would be a leap of faith, followed by a possible leg cramp.
My First Class
I found a yoga studio in the lower West Side of Manhattan offering a free class once a week. For 90 minutes, the teacher led us through a series of poses while — and this is crucial — pausing in between to give us a chance to catch our breath and, if necessary, 40 winks. I left the class each time feeling more renewed than a subscription to the AARP Bulletin.
My wife a saw a new me, one less stressed-out, quietly prideful at using her yoga mat instead of simply pushing it out of the way every time I reached in the closet for my umbrella.
But over time, I no longer looked forward to the 45-minute bus and subway ride home, when the rush hour crowd rudely evaporated my post-yoga bliss. While looking for something closer, I passed a studio with a sign that caught my eye: HOT YOGA INSTRUCTORS. Yeah, now we're talkin'!
Investigating further, I discovered it was the room that was hot — like, 105 degrees — allowing the students to sweat out all that negative chi or whatever. Not being one to deliberately choose dehydration as the preferred cause of death, I decided to take my chances and continue to let toxins course through my chakra.
Go With the Flow
Luckily — no, karmically! — I finally found a neighborhood studio with a Friday morning "Pay What You Want" class. It would be a full 30 minutes shorter than what I was used to, but strictly vinyasa; that is, pose to pose without a pause. That can be difficult for a guy like me, whose poses are less Open Heart than Frozen Computer.
The instructor was kind enough to help me out when I was in trouble, bending my leg or twisting my spine just so, like a nurse coming to the aid of a geriatric patient who can't get out of bed. By the second class, I made sure to take my place between the wall and pillar to steady myself when necessary. And I wasn’t even the oldest one in the room. I think.
It wasn’t just the poses, but the Twister-like instructions themselves that threw me. "Put your left hand on your right inner thigh as you point your right foot to the left, and your left foot behind right your right leg while curling your right toes and pointing your left forefinger toward your right hamstring while stretching your ankle up toward your outer left kneecap."
Over and Out
I was constantly looking over my shoulder to see what everyone else was doing. Since most of the others in the class were women, I was afraid of being reported to management as a Peeping Sadhaka. After two of those classes, I decided yoga wasn’t for me.
I now begin my days, instead, with meditation, followed by push-ups and so-called “energy exercises.” Running is out; brisk walks and biking are in. Twisting myself into a transcendental pretzel, I’m happy to report, isn’t imperative to feeling good.
My male friends ask me what yoga classes are like. I tell them they're a great place to meet women if you’re single. Just don’t expect them to find a 60-year-old man with a charley horse to be a turn-on.