Two of my gal pals and I have been doing yoga together now for 10 years. Ani, our teacher, insists we’ve only just begun — that it takes years and years — and years — to get good at it.
Be that as it may, we three got our start somewhat earlier, when we indulged ourselves in trips to Rancho La Puerta, the laid-back spa in Mexico, where I distinctly remember Phyllis Pilgrim, a longtime yoga and tai chi instructor there, telling us that as we got older there were just two physical activities we needed to pursue: yoga and walking. What a comfort that thought is now, by hindsight.
Not long after the three of us began Ani’s classes — in a room at the house of a friend who didn’t much go for yoga and quickly dropped out — two more joined us. Husband and wife, they invited us to use a perfect studio at their house. We’ve been together ever since.
For quite some time, the four women in the troupe were able to say we were a decade apart; the youngest was in her 50s, the oldest in her 80s, with the others in-between. (I never did think to ask how old the lone male in the class is.)
Thinking back to my early practice, I remember being sure that I would never be able to do certain poses, even the triangle, for example, which is basic. It’s amazing to contemplate how far we all have come, although I continue to wobble in such balancing positions as the half moon, and my tree still has a crooked limb. No matter. As Ani says, it takes years. And there are many who prove it.
Take Natalie Dessay, the coloratura soprano who was an amazing Cleopatra in the Metropolitan Opera’s recent production of “Giulio Cesare.” Ms. Dessay, who The New York Times, in a review, said was not always at her vocal best, nevertheless was an extraordinarily nimble Cleopatra, dancing with arm thrusts and head swivels that few other sopranos would attempt, let alone execute with aplomb. Between acts, she told Rene Fleming,host for the HD performance, that she does yoga every day. And she rolled up the sleeve covering her right arm to show its muscle.
Well, developing muscles isn’t exactly what our class is about, and we don’t do headstands, which require strong arms, either. It seems to me, although Ani might deny it, that she has softened the class over the years, as we have gotten older. But we have been growing more agile while, at the same time, we seem to have figured out how to let our bodies relax, or, as Ani describes it, melt.
When reminded in class recently that we had begun 10 years ago, I said we deserved gold stars. Ani suggested we wait till we had been at it for 20 years. One of our number is now 88, however, and not so sure about that. Nevertheless, undaunted, she is a role model for us all.