Recently, I started taking a weekly yoga class with my wife, Debbie, and daughter, Rebecca. This was an opportunity to get some much needed exercise and to spend some time together at an activity we wanted to do. Yoga is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being” and involves a sequence of balancing and stretching poses. Our class ranges in age from preteens to older participants and is taught by a young women in her 20’s. The session starts with some relaxation focusing your mind on something you want to contemplate during the class. This is followed by a series of poses involving bending parts of your body, while keeping other parts straight. My first experience I was positioned next to a youngster that was very flexible…I found out that my body has long ago lost that bit of flexibility.
As my body is creaking and groaning, in my mind, I began to picture the life cycle of a tree. When a tree is a sapling, it tends to be more flexible and have an ability to bend easily (like the youth next to me) in the wind. As the tree matures, the trunk broadens the tree becomes more rigid and less flexible (like myself). But is this something that manifests itself in body only? Children have a way of looking at the world with bright wide open eyes, where every new experience is a wonder to them. Their minds are open to take in all that they perceive. How many times as a child have you told your parents of some wonderful new discovery and their responses shut down that avenue for you, couched in some reasoning that made no sense? Have we in turn done the same to our children? I remember early in my career working with some people (that were closer to my age now) in an Accounts Receivable department, laughing at me when I tried showing them how a computer could help them. Time and technology moved forward, but these people had become rigid in their approach. The older we become, the more set in our ways we are and less open to newer thoughts and ideas.
“Bend forward and touch your nose to your knees while keeping your leg straight.” This next instruction woke me from my wondering thoughts, as I could see my knee, but like the mighty oak, there was no bending going on from me. While I made light of the situation, inside I felt frustrated that my body had reached this state. I realized that I am not ready to give up on my flexibility, in either my body or my mind. After the class was over, I asked the instructor if there was a chance that I could become more “bendy” in the future. “Yes,” she answered, “after a few months of practicing.” There is a Yiddish word, bashert, which in its simplest translation means “meant to be”. Initially, taking up Yoga was meant to be a family activity, but I guess it was meant to be a chance to engage in a healthy exercise routine and an opportunity for working on myself to become more flexible in mind, body and soul.