But, I have to confess, I’ve also rolled my eyes at yoga people who speak their own language sometimes. Mindfulness. Meditation. Core. Lotus. Happy. Happy?
Some background. When I was in high school, I was a jock — softball, basketball, volleyball — I excelled at all in a small-town-but-not-good-enough-to-get-any-kind-of-scholarship way. In college, I didn’t play sports but I actually kept up my own physical routine. After I graduated and started working at a local newspaper in Cookeville, Tenn., I maintained some kind of physical activity by hiking and even did some spelunking.
But by the time I moved to Atlanta in 2001, I already had gained significant weight from a diet of mostly fast food and too much time spent watching television. I eventually ballooned to more than 160 pounds and a size 16. I’m 5 feet 2 inches tall and I was no longer the fit, trim jockette I still imagined.
After a couple years living here, I started to lose weight by first cutting out soft drinks after reading you could lose 20 pounds a year by just doing that. Then I went on what’s called the “divorce diet.” After a breakup with a longtime girlfriend who enjoyed having real food in the house, I moved into my own apartment and the refrigerator has been mostly bare for, um, several years.
The divorce diet is not healthy and includes sleeping all the time and not eating. But I did lose 40 pounds, eventually getting down to a size 2, and just digging this new skinny body.
Gradually, though, I started drinking soda again. I started eating out more. And after a couple of years, I’ve put back on about 20 pounds of the 40 pounds. I still wear a size eight — at least that’s what the label says — so I don’t feel like I’ve entirely lost it. But in another couple years at this pace, I know I’ll be at the same weight I was almost a decade ago. To top it off, I’m a smoker. An unapologetic smoker at that.
Walking in to Studio One
When I arrived at the Urban Body Studios building, I was handed a blue yoga mat and told the lesson would be in Studio One. There were about 20 people in the class and ages ranged from the 20s to maybe a few people my age (ahem, that would be 40) and some in the late 50s.
Our instructor, Angela Campbell, began us on back stretching and alignment exercises. Standing upright and raising your toes, then working up the shins and thighs to the spine. As Campbell states in her bio, “We are only as old as our spine is young.”
And it is your core that needs to be built up in order to maintain a healthy spine for decades to come. By folding the shoulder blades into the spine and making sure to “drop your shoulders from your ears,” I could feel the stretching beginning from my toes and reaching to the top of my spine.
More spine and alignment exercises followed, which truly felt good because I tend to sit all day at a desk. Campbell stresses these types of exercises because having a firm core is the best way to ensure health and no injuries in the future should one continue taking yoga.
Yoga truly is about holistic healing, she said after the class, because by being mindful and healthy as an individual, you can spread that out to others in your day-to-day living.
I didn’t roll my eyes when she said that. I believe it’s true. I want to be healthy, have a hot body and a straight spine so I can walk when I’m 90.
I just don’t know if I’m ready, though. The cigarette I smoked on the drive home still tasted good.