At 57, my fitness interests have ebbed and flowed over the years. I grew up as a tomboy, with many of my childhood days spent outside riding my bike, running, playing tennis and swimming. Later, I joined softball leagues and my high school volleyball team. Mind you, I was never “good” at sports, but I relished the feeling of moving, trying and improving.
But as I grew older—got married, had kids—my passion for fitness took a back seat. Sure, I’d joined a few gyms over the years to stay healthy. I hopped on the treadmill, lifted weights and took some aerobics classes. I even tried a few yoga sessions at our local YMCA, but I always felt like I was doing it “wrong.” I wasn’t a gym rat and didn’t enjoy exercise where I felt like I was just going through the motions. My “get-‘er-done” attitude put fitness on my to-do list, keeping me relatively healthy but not sparking any passion or long-term commitment.
Then along came yoga. Or, as I like to call it, yog-ahhhh—that feel-good activity I do to restore body, mind and spirit.
A life out of balance
I impulsively started in August 2021, after staying at home most of the year due to the pandemic. I felt stressed, I had cabin fever and I missed moving my body in ways I enjoyed. My local yoga studio (shout out to Red Sun Yoga in Winter Springs, Florida!) offered a “30 Days for $30” special, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’d driven by the studio thousands of times over the last 15 years but never ventured inside. Quite frankly, I was a bit intimidated—not by the studio, but by my self-limiting beliefs that I had “tried and failed” at yoga before, that I was too old, that I was out of shape, that I wasn’t flexible enough. Blah, blah, blah.
As an entrepreneur, I had the flexibility (no pun intended) to set my own schedule. Yet, over time, my days slowly evolved into “more work, less play,” with the line often blurring between business and personal time. The pandemic only exacerbated the situation as we sheltered in place, saw our communities in lockdown and watched travel take a nose-dive. It felt like there was nothing left to do but work from home. So that’s exactly what I did.
As stress, burnout and cabin fever gripped me, I knew I needed more balance in my life. I happened to notice Red Sun’s “try-me” promotion and grabbed onto it like a lifeline.
I pushed my feelings of self-doubt aside as I lugged my old, dusty yoga mat to my first gentle yoga class.
I was hooked that first week—and it’s entirely transformed my workday.
Yoga, you had me at namaste
My love affair with yoga began at my first class, as I was greeted by the soothing sounds of wind chimes blowing in the breeze outside the studio. I walked in the front door to discover not a brightly lit gym lobby, but a peaceful, intimate zen-den. The soft lighting, hushed voices and cozy couch welcomed me like an old friend. The yoga instructor warmly greeted me and introduced herself, inviting any questions.
I set up my mat at the back of the room and, for the next 60 minutes, melted into self-care. The deep breaths filled me with perspective and contentment. The gentle movement felt as relaxing as a massage. And the inward focus brought mindfulness to my normally distracted monkey brain.
During the last seven months of the pandemic, I’ve discovered this studio has been my go-to source for stress relief. And other than short, daily walks and occasional bike rides, yoga provided regular physical activity. I went from no yoga practice and no regular exercise routine to consistently going to the studio three to four times a week since last August. On many of the days I don’t attend in person, I practice yoga at home, either on my own or with online classes.
Pivoting to a new workday routine
During my 30-day promotional period, I tried a variety of classes, instructors, days and times. While I enjoyed every class and loved all the instructors, I found that, for me, a late afternoon time slot worked best and allowed me to stick to a regular routine.
Prior to falling in love with yoga, I would regularly work until 6 p.m. and frequently continue after dinner. But since my yoga love affair began, I’ve changed my daily routine to stop working at 4 p.m. so I can attend the 4:30 p.m. classes Monday through Thursday. This also enforces a strict “stop-time” where I turn off my work-focused mind and embrace this slow, pleasant wind-down to my business day. When left to my own devices, I do yoga at home when I feel like it, with no predictable rhythm to my schedule. But having a specific class start time forces me to show up and practice regularly. And there’s something to be said about ending the workday early, leaving your (home) office and having something enjoyable to look forward to.
Plus, my new yoga practice reignited my commitment to (and passion for) fitness—on my terms, as a middle-aged woman. I don’t feel the need to “do it right.” The fabulous instructors ensure everyone is practicing safely, offering modifications for more of a challenge or to take it down a notch. As one of my yoga instructors points out, “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.” It truly is a practice for everyone—for people of all ages and abilities.
And the constant reminders not to compete with our yoga neighbors in class—or even with ourselves—conveys self-acceptance and inclusion. The unofficial studio motto is to “do what you can do today” without worrying about what you did yesterday or last month or five years ago. Instead, celebrate what your body can do, here, right now, in this moment.
Yoga has become my treasured self-care practice that refreshes my body, mind and spirit. And it is just as important (if not more so) as running a successful freelance writing business. In fact, it makes me better at what I do, as I come back from each class feeling revitalized and ready to tackle the next day anew.
Photo by @sennnnnya/Twenty20