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When The Pose Goes

There was a time when I could do back flips around a room. Now? My urdhva dhanurasana comes with an edge, looking more like a rectangle than a wheel.

After doing yoga for a couple decades, I stopped for several years and spent way too many hours hunched over a laptop. When I got back on the mat in my 50s, my spine seemed to belong to someone else, sheathed in a straight jacket and determined to maintain its rigidity. Any attempt at teasing it loose—how about we try a little bend to this side?—alerted every nerve-ending in the vicinity to shriek in resistance.

The reduced real estate on my candle-crowded birthday cakes was undeniable evidence that I was getting older; but after all those years of ashtanga, Iyengar and hybrid vinyasa sequences, was this really where I’d landed? With down dog feeling profound and child’s pose a supreme stretch?

Well, ummm, yes, and after an attitude adjustment, it was kind of a delicious place to be. Forced to recalibrate my relationship to poses, I began to appreciate the layering and intricacies of those that seem the simplest. Beginner classes were luxurious—no expectations, and the chance to dive as deeply as I wanted into whatever shapes were on the menu. If I’m consistent with my practice these days, I can, at least temporarily, reclaim some of the postures I’d kissed good-bye. No question, that’s gratifying. But the restrictions placed on my physical practice finally convinced me that less can truly be more, that yoga’s resonant magic is available even in tadasana. All I have to do is to get on my mat and pay attention.

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