Like many people, I came to yoga in the 1990s mostly out of curiosity. And, like many people, I was interested in yoga for its physical benefits. I had always been involved in some type of exercise or sport, starting in high school with field hockey and volleyball, then continuing through the tennis and racquetball boom. In the late 70s, I worked at the YMCA for three years and have maintained a gym or health club membership ever since. Running, aerobic classes, stationary bikes, weight machines…did them all. For me, yoga’s best offer was a subtle promise to stretch my spine. As a short, small-boned woman whose grandmothers and aunts all had the shrimp-backed, sure signs of osteoporosis, this had great appeal. Any help with concentration and attention would be a bonus. Surprisingly, there were other unexpected benefits.
Whenever I find myself on top of a mountain in winter, especially when it’s snowing, I feel a rush of emotions. Above all, I am always amazed that I am there; that I ever took up the sport to begin with and then stuck with it despite a discouraging beginning. Equally important, I am grateful that I can physically do it and can afford it, as it takes stamina, some level of skill, and a decent chunk of money. I’ve experienced this same introspective moment every year for 30 years straight and I’ve experienced it all over the globe.
This post is a tribute to friendship and a testimony to how women’s lives have improved in my lifetime. This year, 2016, I turned 70 and so did many of my friends, including my college room-mate Maxene. She was given a surprise party by her husband, who asked all of the guests to write a letter, poem, or story to be bound in book as a gift for her…an appropriate gift because Max is very close to publishing her own book, a memoir. Of course, I went to her party. Flew to Atlanta on Labor Day. This has been a hard year for my friend, she has struggled through many months of health issues, which alone was a big reason to be there for her. But, more importantly, Max and I have a lasting bond, a connection that I share with no one else.
As yoga gains in popularity, the claims of its benefits are numerous, ranging from the technically medical to the wildly metaphysical. At times it seems like a cure-all, which can also make it appear over-rated and perhaps bogus.
Yoga is a both a weight-bearing and stretching exercise so it is expected that it will improve your strength and flexibility. From my own practice and the comments from my colleagues and students, I’ve decided that there are three simple yet wonderful things that are particular to yoga and can be widely achieved.
The U.S. Women’s Soccer team, winners of the 2015 World Cup, are ranked #1 in the world and were recently honored at a White House celebration. These women, like many top female athletes, are an inspiration for girls who participate in sports at any level, from playing kickball in the streets to competing in school tournaments. But for women like me, who grew up without Title IX to guarantee fair access to athletic opportunities, their accomplishments resonate at a much deeper level.
The North Carolina Unemployment Insurance Office distributes a list of 18 tips that will “convince the employer that it is good business to hire you”. Most are standard advice that you would expect to find: learn as much as you can about the company, be prompt, dress appropriately. Some seemed a bit elementary. In this category were: be polite and courteous, answer employer’s questions honestly, don’t discuss your domestic and financial troubles. But, one of them seemed outright strange to me. Tip #12 advises you to “avoid any arguments with your prospective employer”.