Recognizing the Challenge © 2015 Denyse Le Fever
Five years ago was my first encounter with East Meets West Yoga Center in Vienna, VA. After experiencing a number of health issues that resulted in decreased mobility, I decided to embark on a two-year in-depth yoga program. At 55, my body longed for the healthy benefits I remembered from a having a regular yoga practice from my late teens into my early 30s.
I eventually became a yoga teacher with a goal to work with the boomer population. As a Type “A” recovering workaholic, my self-study was focused on moving with ease and not pushing myself into the pretzel poses that my body had a fondness for decades earlier.
As I re-introduced my senior body to yoga, a few of my doctors raised an eyebrow and cautioned me to take it easy. I persevered taking extreme caution in both selecting the teachers that I studied with and the type of yoga I exposed myself to. I was beginning to feel stronger despite some skepticism by some of my health care providers.
Last February, I noticed that East Meets West was offering a 28-day yoga challenge. I had a million reasons why I couldn’t do it – my work schedule was too unpredictable, my body still isn’t strong enough, there aren’t enough “gentle” classes, I don’t have the endurance, and on and on.
Something shifted between 2014 and 2015. Maybe it was turning 60. The 2015 Challenge was announced. “I’m in!” I thought. I signed up and told myself if I only did 10 days in the 28-day challenge that would still be progress. Surely, I could find enough Gentle classes over 10 days. “Wait, it’s a challenge.” I thought, “They don’t all have to be Gentle classes.” So, I vowed to take the challenge and also challenge myself at the same time.
Feeling bold, I wandered into Ann Vari’s “Beginning Hatha” class one evening. After being asked about injuries I might have, I rattled off an abbreviated laundry list of my ailments. When I mentioned my difficulty with balance, she frowned slightly. “I was planning to make Dancer the peak pose this evening. Do you think you can try that?” I cheerfully responded, “I can modify it at the wall.” Inwardly, my tummy did a summersault and I thought, “What were you thinking? You don’t belong in this class!”
Ann created a sequence of poses that would work our muscles up to being ready to become a Dancer. I focused on my breath, rather than my awkwardness. As we prepared to go into Dancer, I moved to the wall. Surprise, I was able to reach my toe as my leg bent behind me. I tentatively stepped away from the wall, and I was in Dancer for the first time in decades.
As I continued to take an almost daily class, I built up my confidence to venture into a Mixed Level Hatha class. I grew less tentative and also became mindful of which poses represented a challenge versus an opportunity to push myself too far. After 28 days, I actually completed 31 classes which were a mix of Gentle Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Beginning Hatha and Mixed Level Hatha. I realized that I had, indeed, met the Challenge both physically and mentally!