I walked into my local library with my yoga mat and very few expectations. I didn’t even know if the library was closed or if I’d be parading my stretch-cotton clad body through a group of unsuspecting readers. (No and yes and no one noticed.)
The moment I stepped into Room A the expectation void was filled with a flood of assumptions.
Most of the other people gathered for Yoga with Phyllis were significantly older than me, well into the category of Old People even. Almost no one wore proper yoga gear; instead I saw an assortment of scrubs, pajamas, and casual wear more suited for a stroll through the food court than an exercise class.
“I’m not going to fit in here”, said my first assumption.
A woman who appeared to be in her seventies sat on a chair at the front of the room. I suspected from her turquoise capri pants and functional vest that she was an administrator of some kind, perhaps taking a head count to keep the library abreast of the success of their community programming.
“Let’s come to a sitting position to begin,” she said, using her hands to position her legs more squarely on the chair.
“Great. This must be a class for people who can’t move very well,” muttered my next assumption.
I felt stupid for trying to take advantage of a free yoga class and for having imagined a gathering of barter-loving hippies who would wear ‘I’m Here for the Savasana’ t-shirts. I was annoyed and smug knowing that the heavily modified poses we’d be led through would offer no challenge for my young and agile body.
It was fun for a moment to by the most physically gifted person in a room.
And then class started.
It turns out it’s entirely possible to bend, fold, and stretch wearing walking pants.
And age, it seems, does not make one more or less capable of doing a back bend or balancing in eagle.
Or of teaching a yoga class.
The elderly woman perched on the chair quickly transformed into a happy yogi who often laughed out loud while demonstrating how to move one’s toe into one’s ear. She giggled. She made us sing “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” while we squatted in chair. She sounded fierce instead of reverent when she talked about the energy we were pushing up, around, and into our bodies.
I wondered while I was in downward dog (which we only did once!) if my shoulders were properly rotated, and I wished for a moment that she was the kind of yoga teacher that did adjustments. But most of the time I just wondered about my own body and what it was trying to teach me from pose to pose.
At the end of class Phyllis guided us through a lengthy meditation that was both relaxing and invigorating. The guy beside me fell asleep. I decided I’d be coming back.
This was the first time I’d experienced a yoga class that felt like yoga in real life. It was natural and flawed; it was completely unpretentious.
Of course there are many lessons I could point to here. We could talk about ageism or yoga as a workout for everyone. I could hit you over the head with the reminder that perceptions are not facts. I could chide myself for judging.
Instead, what I choose to take away with me is gratitude for an amazing experience, one that was unexpected and exactly what I needed when I needed it.
What was your last right-time-right-place experience?