I just came back from a yoga class for seniors. It was not a “gentle” yoga class for anybody who did regular yoga and wanted a less strenuous class, but a real, honest to god, yoga class for seniors, with every asana done in a chair.
It was wonderful.
And I’m not talking about the yoga— I’m talking about the seniors themselves.
You know how when you go to yoga everybody is kind of there in their own space. I mean, it’s like everybody has a little invisible wall around them that says, “I won’t bother you if you don’t bother me.” In fact, the teachers actually tell you, “Keep your mind on our own practice.” “Don’t pay attention to your neighbor.”
Well, my yoga class for seniors was about as far away from that approach as you can get.
“You’re new here aren’t you honey?”
“Here, let me get you a chair.”
“You’ll need a ball.”
“No. I’ll get the ball for her.”
“Just follow me if you get confused.”
It was like being adopted by a cluster of clucking hens.
“I have one student in that class that is 100 years old,” the instructor, who was also a senior, told me in my “Get Acquainted Meeting” with her following the class.
“Get acquainted meeting.” How quaint. How old fashioned. How kind.
The thing about it is that I, of course, have always shunned such classes for seniors. After all, despite the fact that I myself am 75-years-old, I told myself that I wasn’t a senior—and if I was, I wasn’t one of “those” seniors. I was different.
In a way, it was true. I was more or less different. I came to the class as a loner. On the other hand, however, the class struck me as a community of friendly, warm, welcoming people who went out of their way to make me feel comfortable as a newcomer. They didn’t seem to mind being seen as individuals who were part of something larger than themselves or thinking of themselves as “the class.”
“Oh, we’ve been coming to this class for years,” one of the women called out from her chair. “We’re all friends here.”
As I said.
It was wonderful.
Surrounded by Heroes
During the five minute savasana I could feel that the warmth had melted my loner status.
In my mind’s eye I looked around the room. Behind me was a Japanese man. Had his family been among those who were sent to the relocation camps during World War II?
To my left was an immigrant from Hungary. Had he escaped the Nazis?
To my right was a woman who came in pushing her oxygen tank in a cart; to my left a woman bent over from the waist as if she’d had a broken back. The people in the room could have been my neighbors, raising their children in the crazy 60’s. Some of them could have even been raising me way back in the 40’s and 50’s. In reality, I wasn’t surrounded by “seniors” I thought to myself. I was surrounded by heroes. I was surrounded by people whose collective wisdom, insight, history and experiences could probably fuel the entire city. Contrary to the feeling I’d had when I signed up for the class—the feeling of wanting to distance myself and to not identify myself as a “senior,” I had an entirely different feeling.
I had the feeling I wanted to be one of them.
“Fold your hands in front of your chest and take a deep breath,” the instructor was saying.
The people around me weren’t people I should shun or people that I should distance myself from. The people around me were from my generation. They were “my people.”
“Here, I’ll put your chair away for you,” the Japanese man was saying.
“Thank you,” I said.
“It’s all right,” he joked back. “But don’t expect me to do it every time. When you come back you’ll be one of us.” We laughed.
I felt a little surge of pride.
I felt like a senior.
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