Having passed a milestone birthday recently, I decided that, rather than get old, I’d get awesome. Since I’d spent the better part of my life becoming mature, responsible, competent, educated, and other of life’s expectations, I wondered how does one become awesome?
I always admired health and fitness, so I resolved to re-create my 62 year old self into an improved version of me. To become awesome, I would go toe-to-toe, head-to-head and eye-to-eye against the progression of aging. It was going to take all my body parts working together to tame this thing. Turning back the clock may not be possible, but slowing down its forward movement was definitely an option.
Exercise is like the new fountain of youth, I am told, making it possible to age gracefully. So the timing was perfect when my 25-year old daughter-in-law invited me to join her for hot yoga.
“Thanks,” I told her. “No time like the present to strengthen my core, beat stress, and become one with the universe.” And become awesome in the process, I said to myself.
A former yoga practitioner, I figured that after a few downward facing dogs and child’s poses, I’d be on my merry way. Barely inside the studio, I realized that I was totally unprepared. The room temperature soared to a sweltering 105 degrees. Somber people sat sweating on mats. When the instructor asked who was there for the first time, it was only I who feebly raised a sodden hand.
With the first pose, standing deep breathing, I started to choke like an amateur fire-eater in a carnival sideshow. The guy to my left eyed me warily, and I felt a bit guilty for hampering his “ohm”. But when my entire being erupted like a raging brush fire, I almost bombarded everyone’s namaste with epithets.
My altered state of consciousness verged on unconscious. The room began to vibrate, and my middle ear pulsated with a tinny shrill echo that blasted the inner membranes of my cranium. Was the crackling sound that enveloped me the heater or my bones leaching calcium?
Halfway through class, the teacher stopped coming to my mat to help me. I think I saw her glance my way in disgust, as I crumpled into non-pose, elbows and knees entangled shriveled vines on a lifeless tree.
I was prepared to make a pact with the devil to survive. He must have been in there somewhere. It was his kind of place. Brain cells burning, chest collapsing, I gave up. I thought it best not to taunt Satan any longer.
When class ended, my refreshed and vibrant daughter-in-law found me, sprawled like a scarecrow on a bench in the waiting room. “That was great!” she gushed.
“Will you come back to hot yoga some other time?” she asked.
“Certainly,” I sputtered, “when they blast the air conditioner to a comfortable 55 degrees”. Yup, it’ll be a cold day in hell, I thought, facing the reality that hot yoga wasn’t my path to awesomeness.
Undaunted, I searched fitness magazines. I read that the secret to youthful aging is strong, healthy bones. Weight-bearing exercise, calcium and green leafy vegetables became my religion. To show my bones how much they meant to me, I worked out with a trainer. I learned how to swing kettle bells around like cotton balls. With every move, my bones breathed a raspy Thank you. Jumping jacks, which I once dismissed as foolish, became weight-bearing gifts from the goddess of awesome. Leaping into the air, landing on the balls of my feet, the throaty gratitude of my bones reached my ears, rejoicing You go, girl. A strong bone is a happy bone.
Even the treadmill, that boring stretch of faux distance that kept me running to nowhere, became vital to my pursuit of awesomeness. My bones are boss, and they told me that we are going to run to nowhere as long and as far as necessary.
I added jogging, swimming, calisthenics and Zumba to what has become my own personal Olympics. Competing against myself is pretty challenging.
I see signs of success. My limbs are limber. Breathing is a breeze. Strength is sublime.
And, although I haven’t yet challenged my 18 year old grandson to a race, I am optimistic at the thought of it.
That’s pretty awesome!