I had just tucked my two young grandchildren into bed and walked outside in the darkening evening to get a suitcase out of the back seat of my car to prepare for a business trip the next day. Suddenly and without any notice, I’m spinning around and my legs have gone out from under me. I’m landing on the driveway with my legs curled under and around me, and am a bit disoriented. What just happened? Spoiler alert: I tripped on a driveway lip.
My initial reaction was to look around; did anyone see this ridiculous and probably embarrassing fall? My legs gently eased out and I slowly brought myself up to stand — relief. My relief though is short-term. As I use my hands to come up and fully extend myself, I now see in horror that this fall has resulted in my right hand looking (there are no other words) totally messed up. Several fingers are frozen in a position that normally can’t even be intentionally done; the whole hand itself is bent and stuck in one position with significant swelling and is a new color of blue with its bruising.
Yes, it was serious — confirmed by the orthopedic surgeon the next day. There was no longer going to be a business trip. Surgery followed, which included pins placed in several fingers, and those necessitated a second surgery, followed by physical therapy. As someone who prided myself on overall acceptable health (hey, I ride a bike!), this was very challenging.
It was this fall though, with extensive medical and healing steps, that initiated my yoga journey. When someone saw my cast and kindly expressed concern, my reply of “the driveway trip” invariably led to a look of both surprise and puzzlement. It now started to really bother me that I had lost my balance and fallen so severely on just a driveway lip, one I’ve walked on many times. At the age of 59, I knew that outcomes from falling are one of the biggest concerns with aging, leading me to the realization that I needed to improve my balance. While yoga was a mystery to me at that time, I learned that yoga could improve balance and potentially, even more serious, a flukey fall.
Two weeks after that second surgery, with my husband out of town for the week (one less person to explain this to), a small studio near my home had a sign that advertised “free yoga for one week.” I thought, why not give this a try? The instructor in the entry way (I later learned she was also the owner, which surprised me) frowned when she saw me walk in — not a good, or very welcoming, sign. Her frown was directed at my baggy t-shirt and sweatpants. Remember, I knew nothing about yoga, including what to wear. She then said to me, with a slight shake of her head, “Those clothes, you can’t do yoga in those, so you can’t do much tonight, just watch.” It was discouraging, but I was already there, so I stayed. Turns out most people who do yoga (calling themselves “yogis,” I learned) started a lot younger than me, and with some level of exposure to what yoga really is and looks like, even before their own yoga practice.
The next day, I went out to get a pair of leggings and a fitted tank. The journey for me began that week. At the end of my trial week, I knew I was slowly starting to feel better in several ways, including sleeping better (a significant upside in so many ways), and I continued with a monthly membership, practicing several times a week. And yes, over time, I built a relationship with the owner (also a teacher) as she too learned my story.
Six years have now passed; I’ve continued with my regular yoga practice through different studios, teachers and yoga styles, including both virtual and in-person, and then a relocation. I now practice in Montrose, Colorado, and am grateful for what yoga continues to offer me — beyond the physical benefits of strength, mobility and flexibility, yoga also improves mood, reduces stress, teaches mindfulness and supports better digestion and sleep. Yoga also includes basic, and important, concepts for life — awareness of breathing, being intentional, connecting. Yoga is a structured routine — even in our world of chaos — and is a practice that can be individually managed and owned.
At the age of 65, and with only a six-year yoga journey so far, there are yoga postures and challenges that I still can’t do — and I’m just fine with that. In my yoga classes, I am often the oldest person in attendance (more on that another time), and I’m fine with that as well.
Aging well might be the hardest thing we ever do, and it’s more and more a reality that health and wellness, from many aspects, will drive and shape our enjoyment, or lack thereof, of our aging years. My goal is to continue to decline the invitation that life gives to each of us while we are aging — I’m respectfully turning down life’s invitation to decline. Continuing my yoga practice is a significant piece in solving my own puzzle for successful aging.
Photo by Amauri Mejía.
Cathy Lussiana is a freelance writer residing in Montrose, Colorado, now retired from a career in HR Leadership. Writing topics are typically first-person experiences and observations on life as we all experience it, often including biking, travel, gratitude and successfully aging.