For the last part of this series I’m discussing how an older man can “get into” yoga. Motivation is obviously the main thing one needs before taking classes. For some reason yoga gives a different feedback to someone who is new to it. We’ve all done all sorts of exercises, through high school and college: running, weight lifting, volleyball, softball. But yoga is something entirely different. It involves isometrically working muscles while stretching other muscles at the same time; conscious coordination (rather than muscle memory exercises, like golf or swimming), and conscious breathing. And silence. Oh, the silence.
With that in mind, I always recommend that a newbie take at least three classes in about ten days before deciding whether he likes yoga. Because there are spiritual as well as physical aspect to yoga, it may take a few classes to really get the feel for how it can help.
• The first class he’ll spend forcing himself as deep into every pose as possible, because his ego won’t let him admit that he’s either gotten so out of shape that the young lady next to him is better at this silly stretching than he is; or that he has to look good to impress said young lady.
He may feel his gut hanging out. Even if Johnny Olderman is in relatively good condition, asana practice is a new and demanding form of physical practice. Just holding his arms out and parallel to the floor in Warrior II for 20 seconds can be difficult. He might not be able to straighten his legs in a forward fold, while on the mat next to him is a girl in a magazine cover perfect pose. But keep at it. Chances are pretty good those women haven’t even noticed the dad in back (sorry guys, but get used to it – it’s all part of the self discovery journey of yoga). Just remember: it’s not a contest, you’re not there to impress anyone. Get this first class over with and move on.
• The second class he’ll spend fighting his body (sore!). He didn’t “do” so well in the first class. His ass was sticking out in Warrior II, he couldn’t get his left foot between his hands when the teacher said to, he couldn’t reach his toes in Janu Sirsasana. And the sweat! But he’s perhaps realizing that’s not the ultimate goal. This class may be the first time in years he’s been alone with himself. There’s always noise in his head – T.V. in the morning, radio in the car, people at work. Savasana is the opposite of how he’s spent the last 30+ years. All of sudden there’s no hiding from that voice in his head. So listen. And try not to react – just listen and notice how the voice makes him feel.
• By the third class hopefully some of the first two classes have started to sink in. The soreness may have passed, it may be slightly easier to get into the poses, and one or two may actually feel good to do. He’s realizing that he’s all alone when it comes to his spiritual healing, that he is slowly re-learning how his body works, and that somehow he’s actually felt calm and peaceful inside, at least for the hour or so after his first two classes. His body may be responding just a *little* better than before. He may get “into” a cool pose and feel good about that. And the overall calmness and sanctuary of the yoga experience may let him relax, in body and in mind.
So first off, if you as a Johnny Olderman decide to “try” yoga, schedule a couple of classes and keep that commitment. Then decide if it’s for you.
Check out Part I of this series: Your First Yoga Class – Part I – The Logistics
and Part II of this series: Your First Yoga Class – Part II – Simon Says