Yoga and the Old Nerd in the Gym

Ok, if you’ve followed me for long in this fitness “thing,” you know I’m a hard sell on some things, in particular, those with crunchy granola or hippy-dippy origins.

Where’d it come from?

According to the website “Yoga Basics,” the practice originated more than 5,000 years ago in India. To be exact they tell us, “The word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda. The Vedas were a collection of texts containing songs, mantras, and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests. Yoga was slowly refined and developed by the Brahmans and Rishis (mystic seers) who documented their practices and beliefs in the Upanishads, a huge work containing over 200 scriptures. The most renowned of the Yogic scriptures is the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, composed around 500 B.C.E. The Upanishads took the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and internalized it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga).” Over time, the practice became a mishmash of ideas, concepts and physical moves. What I have come to call “commercialized” yoga is a mixture of these practices.

So what has any of that to do with Old Nerd. Well, as my fitness work progressed, it was clear one of my biggest problems was flexibility. During the final miles of my first 100K bike ride, I suffered some very serious pain in my iliotibial leg muscles, or “IT bands.” Other issues showed up in doing things like back extensions and exercises requiring a certain level of flexibility that I apparently lacked.

Add to that the level of stress I was enduring at the time because of things like the loss of a lucrative job, family problems, and more and I was a wreck. More than just distracted, I was on edge all the time, not feeling my usual active self and I let my workouts slide, even my swimming. Someone suggested that it might be a good idea to try yoga. But there I stood in my obstinance. I was not, I repeat, not going to yoga.

For someone raised in a rural community in the midwest, Yoga is explained as an idle activity for stay-at-home moms looking for something to do after the soap operas were over or hippies and religious nuts who wanted to sit around like contortionists and chant all day. Then, after a particularly stressful day, I finally gave in. I signed up for a class and went with my girlfriend, Julie – the only way I was going, couldn’t do it alone since I was totally out of my element. I’m good, but I’m not that good. It’s strange just how difficult it is for me to warm up to some things until I’m forced into it for lack of options.

So my biggest fears were that I’d walk into a room full of incense, gongs, and people saying, “ooooohhhmmmm,” for an hour while twisting themselves into wholly unnatural positions. I have no problem expressing the fact that I don’t like mysticism or a lot of snooty people pretending to practice deeply held beliefs of another culture. It all seems very fake and disingenuous. The hokey atmosphere will keep me from focusing on the point – the stretching and flexibility benefits of the exercises. Well, I’m sure that nonsense exists in some class somewhere, but fortunately for me, that was not my first experience. The instructor was a mature woman who led the class slowly and thoughtfully, with little hocus pocus.

My experience was more than positive, it actually settled my mind down – something that is virtually impossible even simply to sleep at night. It goes at light speed, and by the cooldown, quiet relaxation time at the end of the session – I fell asleep. Julie had to gently wake me up. I think I was even snoring. But that was that. One down, and it wasn’t terrible – I actually really enjoyed it, although I still felt weird and out of place. I’ve been to several of these classes now and about to leave to go to one as I’m writing this. I’ve outfitted myself with the proper equipment so I can do it on my own and even stored some videos on my streaming services for that purpose.

My conclusion, if you have any kind of flexibility issues, check out a yoga class near you. Be picky – look for one with an experienced instructor where you can adjust the difficulty to your physical issues. Like any other exercise, you can hurt yourself if you’re not careful. But above all, let your mind go during the session. Try to relax and just focus as best you can on the moves (poses) and the purpose behind them. Don’t worry about what you’re wearing or that you don’t know what’s going on – that’s what the instructor is for. No one is judging you, just get in there and do it – for yourself.

For caregivers – With proper guidance of your doctor and an experienced instructor, Yoga is a great activity for seniors or anyone with a disability. Grab a couple of mats and do some yoga with your family charge. Or, if they’re confined to a wheelchair or other mobility device, adapt! Plus, focus on the psychological benefits of helping yourself and your patient to relax and calm the mind. 

Post a comment about your Yoga experience on our Facebook page @oldnerdfitness.

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