At 53, I Think That I Finally Have The Maturity To Embrace Yoga


You can call me “Madonna” from now on because, since my four-hour yoga retreat on Saturday, I am officially at one with my body, nature and the limitations of my pelvic floor.

Unlike the majority of my mates, I’ve come a little late to the yoga party. I’ve struggled to find my inner or spiritual self, or whatever everyone else seems to get out of it. And fortunately, the excuse of a dodgy lower back – the pain in which is exacerbated by stretching parts of your body that aren’t supposed to be stretched – has given me an excuse. And yoga is also expensive, especially when compared to homemade Freeletics on the beach, that increase your dickhead factor at the same time.

Many of my friends have turned to yoga in later life, for the purposes of body strengthening and to rid themselves of stress. And I must admit that the type of people that do yoga always seem to have an aura of calmness about them that I envy (sort of). They’re a bit like born-again Christians – they just seem like nice people – something I hoped would rub off on me as I set out for Saturday’s session.

I suppose that l felt finally mature enough to “own” my “queefs” as I contorted my body into poses I wouldn’t even attempt in front of the old man after a cask of wine, and to chant without cracking up. And the idea of switching my mind off for a few hours from my to-do list, what I’m cooking for dinner, and what’s next on Netflix, held some appeal.

But FUCK! Yoga is seriously harder than the “Jane Fonda Workout,” when you really try; particularly when you’ve been sold the event as a three-hour sleep-fest by a well-meaning friend and so you’re in the zone for an expensive three-hour nap. My relaxation scale goes from 1. being knocked out on medication, to 10. watching back-to-back episodes of “The Bachelor” on the couch with a bottle of wine, so, no, I don’t call balancing on the balls of my feet – bum three inches off the floor – relaxing. Although I did surprise myself with how wide I can still open my legs – something I shan’t be sharing with the old man.

The Sanskrit mantras sounded like a foreign language – because they are – and I had no real idea to whom or what I was chanting as I Ommed in unison our passionate Canadian yogi, who was on the guitar. But who am I to knock something that frees your mind from the anxieties of life? Indeed, I quite enjoyed working my fingers busily around my beads, ignoring that little voice in my head that kept asking me ‘what the fuck are you doing?’

Be honest, give anyone a neck massage, an eye pack and a warm blanket and most of us will do whatever the fuck is asked of us. And it’s easy to be cynical about things we don’t understand or that take us out of our comfort zone – something I AM a natural at – but when we give them a go, sometimes we surprise ourselves.

Not even the idea of a vegetarian lunch in recompense for two hours of physical purgatory phased me afterward. Admittedly, I’m not certain that I fully relaxed my skin, my organs or my bones (?) during the session, but I did manage to dislodge one of those hard bogeys that really hurt during the nasal breathing.


Midlife Mayhem: Can Yoga Help Me Find My ‘Core’?

I went to yoga for the third time in my ‘spiritual life’ yesterday. I’d like to say it was to focus on my inner tranquility, but my motives were purely egocentric. My lower back ache has now transcended to a stage 2, ‘transition-intense’ labour pain, (in spite of keeping my chiropractor in business), so desperate measures are required.

Personally, I can’t think of a better way to spend the next twenty years, lying prostrate on the sofa, watching re-runs of Gossip Girl and ER, but the old man is of the opinion that I need to contribute to our retirement fund (Bah! Humbug!).

English: Yoga 4 Love Community Outdoor Yoga cl...
English: Yoga 4 Love Community Outdoor Yoga class for Freedom and Gratitude on Independence Day 2010 in DFW Texas. Lisa Ware, Richard Ware, authors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I can’t drink wine all day and hold down a job, I need to find another source of pain relief. So upon the advice of several friends, I decided that  ‘strengthening my ‘core’ via Yoga, might hold the secret.

The only problem is, that I haven’t quite worked out what exactly my ‘core’ is, or if I’ve even got one.

I do vaguely remember, post childbirth, (somewhere in between chapped nipples and infected sutures) all the ‘feeding-on-demand’, new-age mums proclaiming the need to strengthen my pelvic floor, to avoid future ‘issues down below’ (?). But when I tried following their advice, sucking in my girl bits, squeezing my thighs tightly and holding my breath, the combination of that much physical exertion and so little sleep made me almost pass out. To be honest, I didn’t want anything to do with that area of my body for a long time after childbirth – being the entrepreneur that he is, the old man saw it as the optimum opportunity for ‘quickies’ and unlike me, still harks back to those ‘golden days’.

In fact, Yoga might have helped with the narrowing of the four-lane tunnel created by the exit of my second child, (codename ‘Buddha’), if I’d stuck to it. Passing a watermelon would have been a  walk in the park in comparison to the healthy toddler I expelled, (who may in fact have mistakenly grabbed my ‘core’ on the way out, thinking it was food).

The first time I went to a yoga class was probably sometime in the eighties, when the results of too much subsidised uni beer began to accumulate into unwanted kilos around my waist. But after nodding off during the Tadakasana position, (which had all the hallmarks of a sleeping position), loyalty prevailed, and I decided that I preferred ‘feeling the burn’ and the comfort of my fluorescent pink leg warmers, and returned to Jane Fonda.

English: Jane Fonda at the Cannes Film Festival.
English: Jane Fonda at the Cannes Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It would be twenty years before I returned, this time accompanied by my daughter.

Our yogi, Skye, was not exactly what either of us expected, shattering my belief that all yoga teachers are spiritual, ‘nice’ people;  the only people who can walk around in brown flax fisherman trousers and get away with it. Skye’s approach was the opposite of Karmic and unfortunately for us, he didn’t suffer yoga fools gladly.

From my first body collapse mid- ‘plow’ (Halasana), to the refusal of my right foot to adhere to my thigh (at a physically impossible ninety degree angle) in my ‘tree’ (Vrikshasana) posture, it was obvious that our level of spiritual discipline was too amateur to remain in his class; my harmonizing queef during the Om sealed our fate.

Nevertheless, yesterday I decided to give it a final shot.

Thank Buddha the other mums were already ‘omming’ by the time I rolled out my mat and so were blissfully oblivious to my chipped toenail polish, assortment of bunions and the French cheese odour that emanated from my sweaty feet, (which have not been exposed since Daylight Saving). Nevertheless, my determination to rid my back of pain spurred me on, and so, aided by a mental image of Sting in Lotus, I flexed my muscles and endeavoured to zone into a more ‘tantric’ state of mind.

My initial goal was to find my ‘core‘. I closed my eyes as instructed, inhaled deeply and tried to focus on finding it, assuming that at some point it would identify itself to me in some sort of spiritual vision.  ‘Breathing in’ seemed to be the route that everyone else was taking, so I inhaled with an unconvincingly loud vocal sigh in a bid to reach the unchartered depths of my bodily ‘temple’. Disappointingly, the images and thoughts conjured up by my conscience could hardly be described as celestial, ranging from what was for dinner that night to that expensive bottle of Chardy that was tantalisingly waiting for me in the bar fridge at home (secreted into the house when ‘Mr Tight’ was out).

‘Relaxation’ and ‘Yoga’ – not such an obvious association after all.

The humping-dolphin soundtrack certainly entices you into what you think will be a womb-like experience, but before there’s time to say ‘osteoporosis’, your body is contorted into positions you haven’t tried since your sexually liberated days (before children); all at breakneck speed. It’s like patting your head and circling your stomach, ON SPEED. With the twang of tearing muscle tissue resounding in my ears, by the end of the forty-five minutes, I realised that I wouldn’t be walking up or down stairs comfortably for at least a week.

I didn’t find them yesterday after all; my ‘core’ or my spirituality. But I haven’t given up. I can identify with Claire Mockridge’s analogy of your body to a house, where the ‘core’ comprises of all the muscley bits that strengthen the body, like the walls, roof and foundations in a house. (Claire Mockridge – What is your ‘core’?)

This ‘house’ obviously needs some serious underpinning, that’s all. I just need to find the perfect builder to help me with it.