This morning I spent another hour and a half doing yoga. This is the first week I’ve gone to class two times. Before going to class I read from a book by Eric Schiffman about how yoga can make us strong in our bodies and minds and spirits and how that strength can make space for love. Last night before going to bed I listened to the Align Your Story module where our teacher talked about listening to our bodies, meditating, doing yoga, finding strength and connection, and our voice. All these things do seem to be connected.

As I walked home from a rare lunch with a friend, poet, writer, and teacher, I was in a rush to get back to work. I could feel the new ease and strength in my body as I picked up the pace. This morning when I aimed for a headstand in the yoga class after trying once on Tuesday with help from my teacher, my legs kicked up unassisted like those of a young girl, second time’s a charm. As I walked home after lunch I remembered watching the home movies of my early life and being surprised at how strong, active, and lithe I was in my early years, jumping, running, happy in my young child’s body, athletic as any of the active children I spend my days with here at WFDC.

Somehow, before watching the home movies a few years ago, I hadn’t remembered that feeling. I hadn’t known that was me. I wonder if the loss of connection to my active body was connected to my dad dying, if it could be a loss of the animus that children who grow up with a father grow as they play catch, get tossed around and teased. Some of the few memories of my dad are of horsing around after dinner, riding on his back, working in the garden, sitting on the arm of his chair while he read, having him rub my back when I was upset, eating the fried potatoes he left me on his breakfast plate when he went off to work, holding the back of the bicycle while I learned to ride, handing me his beer for me to sip while he played cards in our garage with his brothers. All these are physical memories. I haven’t got any words or conversations, no words at all to connect me to my dad, save a letter written on small notepaper my mom sent me recently, written his last week in the hospital in a cheery tone, the last words from him to me.

So, when I find myself back in my body, it is surprising. A few years ago I returned to the water, enjoying swimming as I had as a kid and teen. While my kids were little, I only waded. Once they didn’t need me on the shore, I swam out deeper, making my way half way across the lake or pond, wondering how long until I could go all the way, still wondering. Around that time I also returned to my bike, something I loved as a kid and also didn’t do when my kids were young. With six years between them it was hard to get all of them riding bikes we could ride together. Once they all had large wheels, I gave my old bike to my son and needed one for me. My friend Michael gave me one that made me feel light and young. I still don’t ride much and am a bit nervous on city streets, but I can do it and occasionally I do.

This past year I tried again with yoga, after having dipped into a class or two the last several years. My friend Ferriss invited me to join her at a yoga class in Arlington on Thursday nights. We went together once or twice and I liked the place enough to go on my own. I went a few times, then stopped, being tired after work or wanting to be with my kids, but I was drawn in. After having a bad back this fall, I found my way back to a class at the same place on Thursday mornings that happened to be taught by a woman who wrote a book about yoga for a healthy back. I’ve been hooked ever since, going to class first every other week on when my kids didn’t need the car for school, then every week and walking the weeks I didn’t have a car. Now I’ve discovered there is a Tuesday night class and I’ve got that free, having given up my old Tuesday night commitment. It’s been a slow process, but I love it. I’m drawn and suited to yoga, to the slow pace, to the attention to the body and what it can do, to the the building of flexibility, strength, and focus. And in a week of caring for others, it’s a fine thing to have a yoga teacher caring for me, guiding me in learning to do new things, noticing when I am getting things wrong and right, introducing me to a room full of women older and younger, more and less experienced, with issues in our bodies our teacher attends to with modifications, attention, and care.

We are all getting older. Fifty is a marker I want to honor with strength. At forty I focussed on getting on with the second half of life, making big external and internal changes that sapped a good deal of my energy. My children needed a lot from me, and after taking on the challenges of separation and divorce, shifting adult relationships, and career upheaval and change, I needed every ounce leftover for my kids. Now I’ve got time again for me, and I’m interested to see how it feels to turn some attention to my aging body, no longer a vessel for making babies, a bit flabby and weak in places, but getting stronger every day. I didn’t think when I started yoga again in October about where I was headed, but today when I kicked up easily into a headstand I felt a thrill. As a girl I loved doing cartwheels and somersaults, hand stands and headstands, round offs and back bends. Last time I tried a cartwheel I was in my thirties and I thought I would split in two. Tuesday I did a near split, assisted by foam blocks. Today I did a headstand unassisted, a shoulder stand with help from my teacher to orient my head, next time who knows?

If you haven’t already found a way to love your body, think of a way to get there today. I can’t say I’m adoring mine, but I’m learning to live in it, and I’m hoping to find may way not only in it, but also to find a greater connection in my body to my mind. If Eric Schiffman is right, great things could happen, love, insight, even connection to the divine. How fine.

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