Beth Does Yoga sortof

One-Legged downward facing dog

I’m a shadow of my former self is my first thought. I correct myself. No, Beth. You’ve never been graceful, subtle or smoothly moving. You are more of a lumbering sort, moving in a slow, heavy awkward way.

Class members are in an Eagle pose. Instead

of looking like the king of the birds, I have my hand reaching out to the beam support to keep my posture upright and my foot touching the ground, so I won’t fall over. Even with that help I am in danger of tipping.

Balance and Flex Together at the YMCA incorporates Yoga, Pilates and athletic training for balance, mobility, flexibility and core.

Sunday morning and I’m here with a mix of men and women. By the end of class, many will wonder why I’m here. I’m doing them a service as it will become clear that I’m the worst in the class.

My goal is to make it 55 minutes to the end part where we lay on our mat and meditate.

The class moves to a lotus pose. I stretch my legs straight. I’m not able to sit cross-legged due to my inflexibility. Class members don’t know that I’ve have had both of my knees replaced. The only hint is my yoga pants with Twin City Orthopedics stitched to the front. Who knew that you would get swag with a knee replacement?

Maybe class members think that I just don’t like following directions. That’s true too. But, once on the floor it will take me some time to figure how to get back up and it will not be graceful.

The class moves to a cat pose. Since this entails being on your knees, I move to the dolphin plank pose instead. Fluidly the group shifts from one pose to another. I alternate between the plank and downward-facing dog. Eventually, the class will meet me there.

I’m a lesson to others that they don’t have to follow along with the instructor and that they can make this class into anything they want. Indeed, it will at times look like I’m in a totally different class than them.

I’m also an example of how not to be embarrassed but a demonstration of positive thinking that anyone can strive to develop harmony in the body and mind.

On Monday, I will take my lumbering self to a Pilates reformer class. Overall strength, flexibility, coordination and balance are my goals. As well as not hurting myself.

Gracefulness is not on the list.


Gaining Ground

“Feel the Earth beneath you. Draw on the Earth’s energy,” my Yin Yoga instructor often says during the opening meditation. I rarely think about the Earth this way. The Earth is something we walk on, build houses on, and drive cars over. Usually it feels inert. However, my perception of the Earth changed after I visited the big island of Hawai’i.

On the Hilo side of the Big Island, rain forts have overtaken the lava fields.

On the Hilo side of the Big Island, rainforests have overtaken the lava fields.

On the eastern and southern sides of the island, vast lava fields stretch to the horizon. The lava is crumbly, dark brown, and in some places, swaths of it intersperse grassy plains. To my Midwesterner’s eye, it resembled freshly plowed fields—as if some farmer had run amok turning over the soil. Up close, the lava looks like cindery gravel and boulders.

Lava filed on the Kona side of Hawaii.

Lava field on the Kona side of Hawai’i

I am fascinated by this enduring, unyielding evidence of Earth’s energy and power. The Earth erupted dozens, hundreds, or thousands of years ago, depending what part of the plain you’re viewing. Lava flowed down the side of the mountain to the sea. Where it flowed quickly, tumbling over itself, it looks crumbly like crunched up Oreos (a’a lava). Where it flowed more slowly, the lava lapped into thick swirls that resembles the crust of unfrosted brownies (pahoehoe lava).

On the Kona side, a’a lava (like crunched up Oreos) overlaps pahoehoe lava (resemble the crust of unfrosted brownies).

On the Kona side, a’a lava (like crunched up Oreos) overlaps pahoehoe lava (resembling the crust of unfrosted brownies).

Though it’s easy for me to forget it or ignore it, the Earth is still volatile. Today, lava is erupting from the summit of the Kīlauea Volcano in the center of the island and flowing south from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent to the ocean. As the lava cools and hardens, it makes new rock, essentially forming brand new ground. Because of the Earth’s incredible energy and force, the island is expanding, gaining ground—hardly inert.

Lava spouting from a crater in Volcano National park

Lava spouting from a crater in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

But it’s not the explosive force of molten magma I think of in yoga class. Sitting squarely on my mat in the Midwest, thousands of miles from the Hawaiian volcanoes, I now picture Earth’s energy humming beneath me. The energy that both destroys and creates. I visualize sending my irritations and fears down into the Earth to be burned away. Or drawing on the Earth’s creative force to energize me. I have gained a new connection to the Earth.