I was once “adopted” by an elderly woman, called Genevieve. I met her when a group from our church went to help her clean her screens and take care of switching out her storm windows. There was something about her that intrigued me and she felt the same way.
Soon enough we had regular lunch dates, trips to the museum, occasional nights I slept over when she wasn’t feeling well. I guess, in the way of our transient society, I became the granddaughter who lived nearby because her granddaughter lived thousands of miles away.
One day, Genevieve invited me to go to a yoga class with her. I looked at her 84-year-old stooped body and raised my eyebrows. Seriously, yoga? But as I’d gotten to know Genevieve, she didn’t back down from an idea once she got it in her head. “It’s good for us seniors, you know.” Then she peered at me intently, “And it wouldn’t hurt you youngsters either!”
I’d been told. I was 23 at the time and the only yoga I remembered were the triumphant headstands I’d managed to do during gym class in high school. I knew nothing about the health and therapeutic benefits of yoga then. And when I accompanied Genevieve to her senior yoga class, I wasn’t so sure about it either.
Instead of the thin mats most yoga practitioners used, the floor was padded with four inch thick gym mats. The instructor met my raised eyebrows with a murmured explanation, “Their bones and skin are so frail, it’s the only way to get them out of a chair.”
Our yoga instructor started the class by inviting us to assume a comfortable position on the mats. To my surprise, every single senior attending found a way to sit down on the padded floor. “If you can breathe, you can do yoga,” she continued. And the class began.
Young as I was, I had an arrogance about my physical abilities. I hadn’t lived over three-quarters of a century as most of the people in the class had. I found the poses to be very easy to achieve. But then the instructor began to talk as if just to me, “breathe into the pose and notice your body, notice your mind. You may be resisting something, and it is up to you to notice.”
Had I been resisting the message that yoga was for everyone. In my arrogance of youth, I figured that Genevieve and her friends were beyond the reaches of physical fitness. They proved me wrong.
According to recent studies, yoga surpassed conventional physical activity interventions. It proved to be far more beneficial than most other modalities. The next time I accompanied Genevieve to class, I was humbled by the seniors who were determined to life what remained of their lives as fully functional as possible. I loved Genevieve for embracing my ignorance and helping to educate me to the benefits of yoga for seniors.