I remember, one time, when I was in my early twenties, being in a yoga class with my then-teacher - she whom I've mentioned was a formative, if somewhat complicated influence. She was joking about how, when she was becoming a teacher, she attended Iyengar training with a like-minded friend and they'd often kick around the principles of practice and discuss their progress. My teacher spoke about her challenge with a certain series of poses they were committed to study (I don't remember which) and her friend concurred that the practice was rather strenuous. When my teacher asked her friend for more info about what she struggled with most, the friend blithely responded that it wasn't so much the poses, but more the zeitgeist of the series. You see, she wasn't actually doing the practice (which seemed onerous to her), instead she undertook it in her mind.
That was the punchline. My teacher, inasmuch as she found her friend charming, also found her somewhat absurd. The lesson, in my class that day, was that you have to struggle to achieve. And while I laughed at this anecdote, along with everyone else, even then I wondered whether that might work on occasion. I mean, I ruminate about everything - including whether or not rumination could produce an inkling of benefit.
Fast forward to 20-minutes ago. I found myself surfing a post from a paleo-nutrition website I subscribe to. Don't misunderstand. This is not the diet I follow. The diet I follow is one I like to call the European Vacation Plan. While it lacks all properties of anti-inflammation, I can attest to the fact that it's infinitely more sustainable. After all, I've been on it - more often than not - for nearly 47 years.
That post somehow took me to Kathy Smith's website - you know, founding pioneer of the Aerobics Movement. I did her prenatal video (produced @1988) when I was pregnant in 1999. It was hilarious, but oddly effective for keeping back pain at bay. (Little did I know then what I'd come to learn of back pain...) At any rate, somehow I found myself watching a 10 minute free video. Note to reader: I hate aerobics. I only intended to watch a minute or so, to see how Ms. Smith looks now that she's well into her 60s and still kicking it cardio-style. (Yeah, I know that makes me shallow. Whatevs.)
I assure you, the woman does not look a year older than she did in 1988. In fact, maybe she looks better (cuz let's face it, pregnancy is often not one's most gorgeous phase). And she was dancing around like a 20 year old. In fact, she was practically dancing better than the numerous 20 year olds by whom she was surrounded. Plus she was freakin' shouting instructions every 4 seconds in the most enthusiastic way.
I was transfixed.
So, how does this pertain to my yoga teacher 25 years ago? Well, since then I've learned some interesting things about the brain. In fairness, since then, so has everyone else - 25 years ago is like the neuroscience dark-ages. What we know now is that my teacher's friend probably did benefit physiologically - in a statistical sense - from the practice she conducted mentally. Sure, it was likely not as notable as the benefit gained by someone who actually physically undertook it (i.e. my most type A of teachers), but still... If I remember correctly, this friend eventually opted to physically encounter her challenging poses and became a noteworthy Iyengar teacher...
On this topic, as I watched Kathy Smith (who now provides low intensity options for her baby-boomer viewers), I realized that I was feeling the freakin' class?! Out of the blue, in my mind I followed the choreography. (Note: I got into yoga cuz choreography is not my scene. I crave unlinked postures or repetitive vinyasa because that dance memorization shit is hard. Not to mention jumping sucks.) I observed the various "co-exercisers" and their unique, crazy-bouncy ways. I got a bit flushed when Kathy raised her voice to say "and 3 more!". It was actually quite enjoyable.
Now, don't get me wrong, I am not inclined to take up aerobics. But I may just look up a couple of her online offerings (presuming she has them), in the event that she does something "cardio-based for ladies under the age of 50, recently diagnosed with arthritis of the spine and hips". Of course, there's also Ms. Fonda to consider - the high-priestess of this genre (and aptly senior). Perhaps I'll just watch and learn for a while. Maybe while eating cheese and crackers. It is a lifestyle, after all.
OMG update: You have got to check out Jane Fonda's videos from the 80s. I remember doing the original workout with my mum (admittedly, she only did it once, as far as I remember). I did not recall how utterly, insanely campy it all was. I just spent 20 minutes LMAO. I believe that counts as abdominal crunches.