Ron Marinucci - March Column - Yoga

Ron Marinucci - March Column - Yoga

Provided by RMDC

Yoga. In January I started taking yoga classes. Karen and I go three times a week for our one-hour sessions. Karen practices five and sometimes six days a week; I’m satisfied, so far, with three.

I’ve written about yoga before, namely the classes my blind running buddy Michael takes. He tried more than once to convince me to try it. But not only had I never taken yoga before, it was never a serious consideration for me—that is, until January.

Karen and our good friend Carrie, one of my running buddies, too, began to practice yoga last summer, in July, right after Karen retired. They enjoyed it and frequently talked about it when we gathered. And they both teased me about coming with them. I laughed their invitations off, not really thinking about joining in on the fun.

Finally, right after the Christmas holiday, they talked me into it. I don’t remember what finally convinced me. With no school on Martin Luther King Day (Carrie is a teacher.), all three of us went. Almost from the start, it was not what I expected from yoga, not at all.

I’m not certain what it was that I expected, but I am sure this wasn’t it. Yoga is, for me at least, strenuous exercise. It’s hard. Maybe my image of yoga were the spiritual and mental angles, but not the physical side. Larry, one of my former football and baseball coaching buddies, has begun classes with us, too. He agrees wholeheartedly. It’s quite a workout! Rare is the time when I’m not tired at the end of class. Anyone who thinks yoga is for wimps is mistaken and probably hasn’t tried it.

Our classes are held at STS Zynergy in Highland. Several different types of classes are offered. There is a beginners’ course which teaches postures and their names. “Healthy Backs” focuses on the spine, stretching and strengthening. “Slow Flow” holds postures longer, with the heat cranked up just a bit. “Vinyasa” combines room temperatures of 90 degrees with energetic postures and even sometimes some weights. There is also a really active class that includes some kick-boxing, plyometrics, and other

higher intensity cardio and endurance exercises. All classes stress movement, feeling, and, especially, breathing.

Karen, Larry, Carrie, and I usually attend the “Healthy Backs” classes. They focus on the core; actually that’s what I really need. My back does give me some problems occasionally, mostly from my years of weight lifting and maybe running. And, since Thanksgiving, I’ve had piriformis/sciatic nerve problems. “Healthy Backs” seemed right up my alley, I hoped.

I’ve found that the exercises and postures work on improving my strength, balance, and flexibility. I wasn’t too worried about the strength part, but my balance and flexibility surely need a great deal of improvement.

The instructors—Jenn, Karen, Susan, Pete, Betty--are very patient and helpful, which helps me a lot. They emphasize breathing, especially through the nose, “yoga breaths,” as much as anything. “If you find yourself breathing through your mouth, back off and take a few ‘yoga breaths.’” That works. “Encourage, but don’t force” is also good advice they give.

I can’t do some of the poses, not yet or maybe not ever. My body, at least parts of it, doesn’t move or bend in those ways. Often, when I struggle and am unable to do those, the instructors take time to show me similar poses that I can do. I am encouraged by Karen, who has made great strides since July. She assures me that, before too long, I will be able to do some, if not all, of those contortions that stymie me now.

After the first week of free trial classes, I registered for a month-long unlimited membership at a discounted price. And I plan to stay with it. I have signed up for a longer term, taking me up to the summer months.

A few weeks ago, we had a fun evening at Zynergy, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. It was “Couple’s Yoga.” We—eight or nine couples--had about an hour and half of tandem postures and exercises. They were ones we don’t often do in our regular classes. It was fun, but also very tough. Capping off an enjoyable evening was conversation around wine and beer.

I can’t say that I liked yoga, not initially, not like I enjoy running, but I never disliked it and I’m getting so I look forward to classes. More important, even after a month and a half, I’ve seen marked gains, substantial improvement in my flexibility, if not my balance quite yet. And I’ve dropped a few pounds! Although my back sometimes still pains me and my sciatica and piriformis act up occasionally, both, too, are noticeably better. I have found that I am sleeping better at night as well. Perhaps it’s just psychological, I don’t know, but my running seems to have become easier, too.

Karen was surprised at, particularly, my lack of flexibility. (I pretty much stopped stretching years ago, when I stopped watching television.) Early on she remarked, “With all that running you do, I can’t believe you can’t” do this stretch or bend that way or touch whatever. But I know how much running tightens muscles, especially without stretching. I don’t expect a month or two of yoga to fix almost 50 years of running and weight lifting.

But as I noted, I see favorable results already. I like them. My yoga classes will happily continue.