Staying in shape during the pandemic has been, shall we say, a challenge.
The nearby college gym, where I walked an indoor track and rode a stationary bike, shut down to non-students for months in 2020. Even when it reopened for members like me the following year, I didn’t want to risk Covid exposure. Same story for the studio where I took Pilates classes.
I tried some online classes, but that didn’t work. So, I fell back on my favorite form of free exercise, walking my half-hour route around our neighborhood. But, of course, cold weather and rain and ice presented plenty of excuses to cocoon inside.
Other than my daily morning and evening stretches, which have spared me from becoming totally inflexible, I have definitely lost muscle tone and strength. I’ve been somewhat better about taking my walks in good weather, but now that we’re entering winter here in New England, I’m having a harder time pushing myself out the door before it gets dark.
Given my recent diagnosis of Type II stress-induced pulmonary hypertension, however, something had to change. And so, after procrastinating and feeling more creaky as a result, I finally decided to sign up for an easy yoga class to build strength, flexibility, and stress-management skills.
The studio is 15 minutes from home in a lovely, historic carriage house near downtown. As soon as I walked into the space, with its soft lighting and lavender scent, I felt calmer. I introduced myself to the instructor and explained my limitations (can’t flex my wrists, limited range of motion, balance issues, stiff ankles and toes). She was welcoming and immediately helpful, setting me up with a thick yoga mat, knee pad, blanket, and blocks for support, and gave suggestions for how to modify some of the poses. Then, to my surprise, a friend showed up, so I had a buddy.
The hour passed quickly, and the pace was slow enough for my skill level. I’m pretty good at figuring out how to modify poses, although my muscles were definitely trembling with some of the balancing and downward-facing positions. But I made it through. And the most amazing thing—my back felt great afterward, a major bonus.
I returned last week with my younger daughter, who was visiting for the holiday weekend. She has more yoga experience than I do, and she really enjoyed the class, validating my assessment that the instructor is excellent and it’s the right level for me. And, it was great to be able to go together.
So, I’m going to do my best to continue. It feels good to be back in a studio setting with an expert instructor who really cares to help me succeed. It’s also great to realize that I’m not as out of shape as I thought. And finding a much-needed weekly oasis of calm? All the better.
Image: Zoltan Tasi