The Yoga for Baby Boomers Experiment

I started taking yoga classes this week. After several years of thinking and reading about the potential benefits of yoga, I finally searched for a yoga studio and signed up. So far, I am very glad that I did.

The appeal of yoga to me was its focus on a combination of mind/body health and awareness. I wanted to try something that specifically included mental health as part of the program. Baby boomers have lots of life experiences – good and bad – that can create a lot of  residual stress, anxiety, and other mental health “baggage.” I’m sure you know what I mean. I wanted to learn a way to help clear that baggage away. What I had read about how yoga could aid that process was interesting to me. Of course, I was also interested in the strength and flexibility benefits that yoga had to offer.

Finding a yoga studio was not difficult. There are two within 5 minutes of our Brentwood house and another just a 10 minute drive. One of the studios was primarily a “hot yoga” gym. I didn’t want to start my yoga experience in a high temperature room so I crossed that off the list. The other studio close by offered a variety of classes and programs, 7 days a week. They also had a “new student” special – unlimited classes for a month, all for $39.

Signing up was also easy. You pay for and register for classes online as well. First, I called the studio owner and explained my situation: A 61 year old guy who had never tried yoga before. She recommended their “deep and stretchy” class as being perfect for beginners. Everything is done in moderation, with long poses and slow transitions. Sounded good to me.

The “deep and stretchy” class is offered at least 6 days each week, by different instructors. I had my first class on Wednesday, starting at 11:30 AM.  (This is one of the advantages of having a job where I can mostly work whenever and wherever suits me best. I am very fortunate to be in this situation.)  There were only four of us in the class. This dude plus a woman about my age, a woman who looked to be in her 70′s, and 30-ish woman who appeared to be recovering from cancer therapy (a bald head with fuzzy re-growth.)  The instructor was a woman – maybe in her late 30′s – of Indian heritage.

As I settled in waiting for the class to start – a very strange thing happened. I became very emotional. It took everything I had to not openly shed tears. I think it was a combination of factors – the peaceful room, the quiet music, the vision of calm as my instructor prepared herself to teach, and just knowing why I was there – why we all were there:  To improve our minds and bodies.  It was as if my body was expressing relief in anticipation of what was to come.

What was to come was a real ass-kicking, although in a good way.

In a nutshell, we slowly learned different poses, each providing a different challenge to a body afflicted with years of in-grained inflexibility. The instructor was very helpful to me, as she understood that I was brand new to the practice of yoga. During each pose, she would gently talk about how the pose and our breathing could be used to improve both our minds and bodies. I tried very hard to follow her guidance.

75 minutes later, we were done. Even though every movement was slow and deliberate, I felt as though I had gone through a real workout. On the other hand, there was no residual soreness so apparently I hadn’t pushed myself too hard. Kudos to my yoga instructor for that.

My second class was yesterday morning at 9:30 AM. This was a much larger class, with a different instructor. The class was all female except for me and one other man who was older than me.

Many of the poses were different. Clearly, each instructor has a different approach, with the ultimate goal being the same. I liked her too. We held the poses longer and she talked us through the proper (and optional positions), with plenty of spiritual philosophy included.  I liked every bit of it, including learning again how little flexibility I have. But I am determined to change that.

My third class is tomorrow. I am hoping that my wife will join me. I will miss the first 45 minutes of the Super Bowl but my sons have assured me that I will not lose my man-card for that.

Do any of you have experience with yoga as a baby boomer?

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