How I Became A Gym Rat

This past November the owner of the yoga studio we’d been practicing at for three years announced she was closing up shop. She was done instructing her mostly female clientele the proper way to execute downward dog and happy baby and child’s pose.  Guess she’d seen enough mangled poses for a lifetime and it was time for a major paradigm shift in her life.  End of December she uttered her last Namaste.

The closing of the studio was quite the shock for her small but devoted yoga clientele. My wife, along with many of the other MAFYE’s (Middle Age Female Yoga Enthusiasts….made that up, as if it wasn’t obvious) had countless discussion about where this left them.  Fortunately for us and several others the decision was easy.  Several of the instructors at the now closed studio were already teaching yoga classes at a big gym (similar to LA Fitness) just a short drive away. So we drove over to take a tour of the facility.  We immediately liked the friendly staff, low pressure salesman and the variety of other activities and gym equipment that would be at our disposal. Best of all the gym had a room away from the hubbub devoted to only yoga.  Did I mention that signing up would save us a small fortune?  Yoga, along with all other classes, plus access to all the gym equipment, would monthly cost us each about the same as two classes at the fancy, and now closed, studio we had been frequenting!

I’ve really liked the transition from fancy suburban yoga studio to the sweaty gym environment I’d only briefly experienced in past years.  I like that before or after yoga classes I could hop on the treadmill or stair-stepper or stationary bike and get a decent workout on days too cold for outside exercise.  I also feel more comfortable in the gym’s yoga classes, they’re not so female-centric; men just feel more welcome in the darkened room at the gym.  At our old yoga studio I felt like an outsider with the women only accepting me their male mascot….made me feel so cheap (haha).

What I really like about the gym, outside of yoga classes, is the sociological research I’ve been conducting while also getting a workout…it has been fascinating.  Well, it’s not really research, just great people watching. Most of the treadmills, stair-steppers, stationary bikes and ellipticals are on the second story balcony which looks down on the open weight room, exercise machines and other assorted torture devices.  The balcony affords great views of all of this. While anyone downstairs can look up to see who’s looking down upon them, they don’t.  I’ve observed some of the most interesting human behavior.  The men and women working out on assorted equipment appear to me as animals in the wild, mostly the big cats.  They quietly saunter out of the locker rooms, look left and right to take in the landscape. Their prey the perfect machine or weight bench.  They walk quietly and stealthily so as not to be noticed.  Once the perfect gym apparatus is in sight they walk up to it, circling several times (probably deciding if they know how to use it so they don’t look the fool). Sometimes they fetch one of the scented moist disinfecting towelettes to wipe off stray germs from the last lioness who used the machine.  Once cleaned to their liking they circle the machine one more time before they strap themselves in, making weight and position adjustments.  By this time they’ve spent ten, maybe fifteen minutes, just getting ready to do something.  And then it happens, they exercise!  The machine or weight is put into action….and then it’s over, the exercise is complete, all ten seconds of it.  At this point they catapult off the machine or weight bench as if an electrical shock has been administered.  And once again the walk around the machine begins, they eye it like a lioness eyes a recent kill.  The dance continues until another ten seconds of exercise happens and again up they spring!  Cracks me up every time.

There are also those who just have to watch themselves exercise.  Sorry, but it’s usually young women in great shape.  They stand in front of these huge floor to ceiling mirrors eyeing themselves as if watching an erotic movie.  They look left and then right and if no one is looking they flex a bicep or do a bend.  They lift some light weights and then stop to see if they look any more toned than ten seconds ago.  Some like stretching in front of the mirror; it’s uncanny how they can contort their bodies while keeping their gaze forward so they see every move (brings to mind Linda Blair in the Exorcist as her head spins around on her torso….without the green pea soup).  One young woman, who I admit has an awesome figure, actually executed perfect handstands against the mirror while looking at herself…she seemed fascinated by viewing herself upside down!

So next time you go to the gym to work out on the machines or free weights look around, and be especially sure to look up; there may be someone spying on your behavior, not that you’d look at yourself in the mirror, right?

Yogi The Bear Ain’t No ‘Yogi’ (neither is boo boo)

Yogi, from the Urban Dictionary; “One who practices yoga and has achieved a high level of Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.37.21 PMspiritual insight” or this; “to have sex with a girl using no condom” (never heard that definition!), or this; “One who is of yogi bear resemblance, got a yogi swagger to him. Stealing piknik baskets is a metaphor For he gets what he wants. Sleek style” (I like that one).  For our purposes the first definition is the one we want.Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 3.54.14 PM

One activity I wanted to take up upon retirement was yoga, and that’s what Margaret and I have done.  The principle reason was to strengthen my core, work on flexibility and relieve some of my lower back pain I experience mostly when getting out of bed in the morning.  (As an aside, even though I still have lower back pain getting out of bed, since retiring it is much better, ie. less stress).  So we asked advice from some friends who practice yoga and found that everyone had different opinions.  Some like (love, actually) hot, or Bikram yoga while others were fond of more traditional yoga such as Hatha, Vinyasa or Restorative.  After some research we chose a Vinings yoga studio that offered a class simply titled Yoga For Beginners….perfect!

We’ve taken 4 or 5 of the beginning classes taught by a very patient young woman.  We do some ‘positions’ that are fairly easy, and we do some that test our balance, strength and flexibility.  Margaret has an easier time with some positions while I have an easier time with others.  We also took a partners yoga class on Valentine’s Day that was great.  There were about 15 couples in the class with the studio owner as instructor.  All the positions and Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.06.48 PMposes were done as a couple…many were quite difficult requiring more strengthScreen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.10.23 PM and balance than if attempted  individually.  The class was light hearted and fun with lots of laughter throughout, although we both had a good physical workout.  As an example of the poses there was a double plank (we took turns being on top) and the double chair pose (much more difficult than one would think).

So while still in the infant stage as practitioners of yoga I must say we’re hooked.  I was somewhat intimidated by the prospect of going to a studio because I’d be so new at it.  Taking a beginners class was definitely good, although we have not experienced ‘judging’ by others in the class.  Instructors seem to be very supportive of their students whether one is new or experienced, as this is one of the tenets of yoga; to create a stress-free environment for the hour to hour and a half one is in class.  The added benefit I wasn’t expecting is the meditative benefits for both mind and body.  Now I don’t want to get all metaphysical or spiritual, but there are definite benefits to practicing yoga in terms of helping to calm the mind (and thus the body), that is similar to meditating (which I do on a daily basis).  I feel Margaret has gotten a great benefit not only from the physical but from the meditative benefit, as in every class there’s some form of meditating whether coming at the beginning and/or end of each session.

We’ll keep taking a class or two a week and see where this takes us.  As new as we are to this, at present I feel we’ll stick to it.  We’ve already experienced the physical and mental benefits, plus we like the people who teach and take classes.  The instructors truly believe in what they’re teaching and students are there because they want to be, each for their own reasons.  At the end of each class there’s a group bliss as we float out of the studio, and I for one like it!   Comments?  Would love to hear about your experiences with yoga.

As that famous quote from Yogi Bear goes; “Boo Boo, you’ve tried to stop my brilliant ideas with common sense a thousand times. Has it ever worked?”