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    Yoga for Geezers

    I read a newspaper article the other day about some fellows here in town who had talked a yoga instructor into offering a class for senior citizens. While they’d heard yoga was a healthy means of staying limber and retaining muscle mass, by the time they decided to try it, they said they were barely able put on their own socks and underwear without risking debilitating injury. They needed a class geared to geezers.

    I can relate to the trauma involved in putting on socks and underwear – particularly the long underwear and heavy wool socks I wish to wear for pheasant hunting. If I am to meet a friend early for a hunt, I must wake up at least an hour before departure to get dressed. Long underwear is particularly ominous because the length and tightness of the fabric means I can’t lie on my back and lasso the leg hole and pull because my toenails keep biting into the material. The same with heavy wool socks. I used to keep my toenails closely trimmed to avoid this, but anymore, I can’t bend over far enough to do the job right. And even when I could, the flying shrapnel threatened to blind me. If I haven’t been to town recently to have my toenails trimmed at the Pretty Kitty Nail Salon where I try to ignore the suspicious glares of female patrons, I must forego the long underwear despite the cold and go with my roomy boxers.

    Putting on brush pants isn’t too bad if I have remembered to put the belt through the loops before donning them. Otherwise, the arthritis in my reconstructed shoulder doesn’t allow me to find the back loops. I must always remember to sit down when putting on my pants because my peripheral neuropathy makes my balance poor, and a hurried attempt will cause me to execute a power spin into the wall. As far as footwear goes, I have recently gone with tennis shoes, even in the coldest weather, because they are easy to lace up. And when you can’t feel your feet anyway … what the hell?

    Actually, I tried yoga briefly last summer. I knew I needed to do something if I intended to keep bird hunting through my seventh decade, and my lack of flexibility had recently caused me considerable embarrassment at the sporting goods store when I was unable to get my wallet out of my back pocket at the checkout. The female checker was sympathetic, but at 30-something, she didn’t really understand and balked at my suggestion that she retrieve the wallet from my tight back pocket.

    Anyway, I signed up for a yoga class where I learned the word yoga means to “yoke” or “unite.” It is billed as a mind-body exercise that combines stretching and controlled breathing to achieve relaxation and a stable mood. It just had to help me get dressed and perhaps even improve my shooting. With my nonschedule as a retiree, I didn’t need much help in the relaxation department, and I figure any breathing – controlled or not – is good.

    I felt really out of place at the yoga class. I did not have a yoga mat, and I did not have wooden yoga blocks. The mat was for sanitation and comfort, but the blocks were for those who were so stiff they could not sit cross-legged on the floor without the added elevation gained from putting a block under their butts. Apparently, I was the only one with the problem. Sitting cross-legged on the floor is very important in yoga (I’m not sure why), but it hurts to fall off the blocks.

    There are many different styles of yoga. Physical yoga practices fall under the umbrella of “Hatha,” a term meaning “sun and moon,” with the aim of bringing balance to the body and mind. A flowing and rigorous Hatha class is known as “Vinyasa flow.” I think that’s what we were, though I didn’t feel very balanced teetering on my borrowed blocks, trying to copy what everyone else did without them. The only thing that flowed was the nervous sweat under my arms.

    The instructor kept reminding us to concentrate on our breathing. Our breathing, he said, should mimic the sound of the ocean by constricting the throat. After a few minutes of stretching, mine mimicked the sound of a garbage can full of plastic bottles tipping over in the driveway. All around me, ladies and a few men in their 40s and 50s were sitting cross-legged with no apparent discomfort, chanting “Ommm.” Still trying to make my legs cross, I was chanting some oaths I had used the night in my college apartment when a wrestling match sent me over the couch and separated my shoulder.

    At the end of the class, the instructor smiled at me and said I had done fine for a first-timer, but I didn’t believe him. What I did believe was that I had the flexibility of a garden rake despite all the walking and all the bird hunting I did. I didn’t go back, but I plan on giving yoga another try – in a class for geezers where they start slowly. But I won’t go until I’ve practiced sitting cross-legged without those damn blocks.

    Wolfe Publishing Group