One Small Change
Experimenting with Yoga
It’s 7:45 a.m. in the Starry Night Lounge. The daily yoga class is held here because the ship’s gym doesn’t have enough open floor space. Indeed, unless these people are confused and think this is bingo, the turnout is impressive. I unroll my mat next to a frail-looking gentleman in his late 80s and a woman who’s wearing a weight vest (or is it life support?). Although I’m one of the youngest in the group, I can see my destiny in their hobbled steps and hear it when they groan through some warm-up calisthenics. Sadly, these are the aging poster children for a stretch-free life.
Our yoga teacher is named Alice, and she is the antithesis of all this inflexibility. Despite being in her 70s, she moves nimbly and smiles upon us from the lotus position. Her posture is perfect. She pleasantly reminds us that yoga is not about competition, to proceed at our own pace, and to never go beyond “sweet discomfort”—although some women in the room have already violated this rule by wearing way too much perfume.
Doing yoga on a ship is like walking on an I-beam 30 stories in the air during a high wind. You continually have to monitor and adjust your balance, and at particularly precarious times you wish you were wearing a hardhat. Classic yoga postures such as warrior and sun salutation become extra challenging and, on some rough-sea days, all but impossible.
So Alice is understandably cautious. She starts us out on our backs with gentle spinal twists, then sits us up for a series of leg stretches and hip openers. It all feels good, like some long-hibernating, grizzly part of me is waking up. But at the same time, it’s also deeply relaxing.
Perhaps too relaxing.
Someone near me farts loudly. Alice giggles and says that’s perfectly acceptable and that we’re all safe to be ourselves here—which is easy for her to say because she’s over there.
We continue stretching for another half hour, then sink back into savasana or “corpse pose.” Alice expertly guides us through a progressive and restful relaxation (“…relax your feet…relax your shoulders…relax your scalp….”). I nearly doze off; someone behind me starts snoring, but by the time we’re all rousted and sitting up again, everyone is smiling and has a peaceful glow about them.
Alice ends with a thought for the day: “Hold onto nothing,” which, come to think of it, is the very definition of flexibility.
About The Author
Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.