My 74 year-old father was in town for Memorial Day weekend and I made him take a yoga class. Though fit from years of tennis, gardening, and ballroom dancing, his basic stance on yoga is not atypical of his generation; one of dismissal and moderate disdain. He had his head in his laptop until 2 minutes before we had to leave and then asked me if it was ok to take yoga in jeans. To dad’s credit, he pulled it together nicely and ended up fashion forward in a Patagonia top and a pair of ladies size small sweats from Target.
In class, as the teacher, I saw his competition win over his attitude. He diligently tried to stand up straight, open his chest, position his shoulder girdle and head, straighten his arms and breathe. In supine, he grunted with his neighbor Mike as he attempted to lengthen the back of his legs, open his pelvis and twist his spine. The comments (“I feel like I am in Auschwitz”) began to ebb as he became more internally focused and physically oriented. When seated in a chair for a twist, I saw his tight asthmatic back ribcage begin to open and his energy significantly change.
As the class went into supported shoulder stand, dad insisted he try it. I pretty much assumed he wouldn’t be able to do it, but thought we could give it a go, as I know his health history. I was amazed; he got in it, complained very little, and stayed in it for over 5 minutes! The initial twinge of the chair in his back receded, and afterwards he sunk into a self proclaimed deep and very peaceful final relaxation (he confessed later because he was afraid I was going to make him stand up again, he capitalized on the moment).
When asked by the other class members how he felt after class, dad stated (faint praise is his style) that he “felt better” and “could understand how this could help your body and be good for you” and “would consider doing yoga again if it were available” (he lives in Fargo). Mike, a solid weekly yoga practitioner of over 3 years called him out and made him name his experience.
“Come on Dennis, admit it, you don’t just feel better, you feel good, you feel GOOD” – and the man of faint praise concurred. Total success all around.