I got married for the second time just after turning 50. My new husband, Bob, wanting to learn more about me, his new wife, innocently asked my mother, Florence, “What was AnnMerle like as a child?”
Florence, at that time 70 years old, sighed deeply, paused, and replied, “Oy vay, she was one big headache.”
From the look on his face, I could see that that was not the answer Bob expected. Surprised and more than a bit confused, he looked at me, hoping, I think, that I wasn’t going to be one big headache for him.
I laughed out loud, a big guffaw, and proceeded to explain to Bob what my mom meant. All throughout my childhood, almost daily, I suffered from tension headaches. Now I’m sure that to some extent I was “one big headache,” like all kids are, but my mother’s first thought, her first memory of me as a child, was with a headache.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I look back and see myself, for whatever reason, as a tremendously stressed out little girl. I held my self very tightly and I breathed poorly, mostly through my neck. My shoulders, always hunched up around my ears, contributed greatly to those constant headaches. My bookworm self was always hunched forward over a book and my near-constant reading habit kept my behind firmly parked in a chair most of the time.
Enter Yoga and the Beginning of My Breathing Journey
I started practicing yoga very late, at age 50, just after marrying Bob. I realized that my career as an English professor with its emphasis on reading and writing had taken a tremendous toll on my body and I now wanted, more than before, to enjoy our life together with a total of four children – his two and my two. And, my super smart Australian Shepard, Mazel. Something had to change.
And it did. My first yoga classes were with Ana Forrest and other Forrest yoga teachers. I then studied the newly-minted Turbodog Yoga with Steve Emmerman and Talya Ring. I remember one moment at a large workshop. Ana Forrest picked me out of the crowd, intuitively noting that I was a chronic worry-meister. Her extraordinary, hour-long guided meditations before her teacher-training master classes helped me begin to unwind a life-long disconnect between my body and my breath.
Almost immediately, those early days of yoga helped to unwind the tightness with which I held my body and the pain that I carried began to dissipate. I almost wept with joy, congratulating myself at how quickly I had solved this problem and how lovely it was to be pain free most of the time. (I did still have episodes of a very painful and chronic neurological condition called Tri-Geminal Neuralgia, which I will write about in another blog.)
At age 50, I was well into my career as an English professor smarty-pants and only a few years later I had become a Yogini smarty-pants. I had began to get comfortable doing inversions and what we called “gravity surfing” – challenging poses that often involved balancing on both arms with the legs in the air. I had been working on handstand at the wall and attempted, at many classes, to forcefully kick my leg up with a great big exhale and plunk myself against the wall. Congratulations, I felt, were definitely in order. I was proud. I told myself, “Here I am, over 50, and I am holding my own with all these 30 somethings.”
I talked to myself as though my body was a bicycle. If I just kept it in good working order, it would follow my instructions and take me wherever I wanted. The ego-driven English professor had transformed herself into an ego-driven yoga student. And the yoga that I was doing seemed to keep my bicycle-body in working order. However, as I explain below, I soon realized that I was more than a finely-tuned bicycle.
But things were still not where I wanted them to be. I had lingering low back pain, and my shoulder that had been frozen and had healed, threatened a repeat of that painful immobility.
Come back next week as I delve into my training and experience with breathing and the Yoga Tune Up Breath® and Bliss Immersion.