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A Month of Yoga – or 50 Years in the Review Mirror

It is now more than a year since the variations of lockdown and staying at home began. At the point where I was ready to crawl the walls, a month of yoga saved me. As I write this, I have completed a challenge for an on-line 30-day Hatha yoga program.

By chance, I ran across this offering, and it was just what I needed. After a many-year hiatus from a regular practice, this was my road back.

My History with Yoga

I began to practice Hatha yoga in1967, thanks to a roommate who skipped out before paying her portion of the utility bill. In her hurry to slip away, she left behind a book by Jess Stearn titled Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation.

At first, the title didn’t draw me in. I was already young and wasn’t ready to explore reincarnation, but for some reason the yoga portion spoke to me. At that time, I don’t believe there was a yoga studio anywhere near me. For those who had heard of yoga, it was still viewed as something foreign and suspect.

Stearn’s descriptions and drawings of yoga poses were good enough that I could follow them without a guru or teacher. I developed my own routines which always ended with a meditation. Yoga cleared my thinking then as it does now. I credit the importance of breath technique incorporated with each pose.

A 50-Year Hiatus

So why did I slip away from a regular practice for, oh, let’s see, 45 or 50 years?

Through the years, I have participated in any number of exercise classes. Every now and then it would dawn on me that a good portion of the instructor’s routine was based on some of the yoga poses I learned from Stearn’s book years ago.

The cat stretch or cat/cow is used in a number of – what are called – fitness classes. What those classes left behind is the importance of a breath pattern to center your mind and body.

Since that book fell into my hands in 1967, yoga has gone mainstream. During those 50 years of integration, soft lit yoga studios with bolsters and every type of physical support became common.

And then there are the yoga classes in high temperature rooms and those that gyms slip into their class lineup, described as wellness-related but more like calisthenics. I did try a couple of those in a pinch. It just wasn’t the same without time set aside for a bit of pre and post practice meditation.

Those 50 years now place me in my mid-70s. The 30-day program I just completed was Hatha Yoga, the branch of yoga I began with way back when; one of the oldest schools of yoga.

Back to Hatha

With all the newly-developed forms of yoga available now, it can be a bit difficult to find a pure Hatha yoga class. But with all the yoga variations available, my choice continues to be Hatha Yoga. The postures bring strength, improve balance and create a consciousness of my body. As we move through life, breath is at the center of it.

On this bookend of my life, I plan to continue my 30-day yoga online program and journey into the future. In fact, I am now another three weeks beyond the initial 30-day program. Even in the busiest day, I have carved out a few moments on my yoga mat to engage my breath and stretch out my body in an asana or two.

As Dr. Alisa Sabin advised in her recent Sixty and Me article on the fear of getting old, I plan to continue my 50-year interrupted journey with Hatha Yoga and see where we go together into the future.

Have you rekindled a relationship with a long left-behind activity or joy? How is that experience working for you? Has yoga, in any of its forms, played a role in your life?

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The Author

Mary Lou Harris is a proponent of active living, community volunteerism and inquisitive travel. After a post age 60 retirement from a career in public service, she expanded those interests to include ultra-trail running, hiking and extended-stay travel. She can be contacted through her website or on Twitter at @stillarunner.

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