The first time I saw my son Samuel do yoga on the back deck, I was both surprised and highly impressed. That was yoga? It did not look like glorified stretching. It did not look like deep thinking. He was doing moves requiring strength, flexibility and balance. I was nuts about gymnastics back in the day, so I appreciated both the time he had clearly invested to reach this stage of proficiency and the level of difficulty he had achieved.
Subsequently he mostly went to the gym or a class, so I didn’t see him in action much more. And come to find out, I had seen him doing a sub-category of yoga called acro-yoga. Half a year ago, I convinced him to show me how his handstands were coming along. It was winter, so the living room had to do.
Now I’m not saying he’s ready for Cirque du Soleil, but that’s a darn good handstand (which he held for about 30 seconds, by the way). Straight body, strong wrists, weight balanced over his shoulders – not at all bad. My first gymnastics teacher, when I was 12, would have approved. He was a former Chinese acrobat who made us do handstands for the first ten minutes of a one-hour class, so central, so important were they in the sport.
My second gymnastics teacher was a man named Leo who had a gym in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts, on the third floor of an old building with no air conditioning. There, during high school, after a lot of ill-timed flailing and splatting, I finally perfected a side aerial (a cartwheel without hands) – the pinnacle of my gymnastics career. It felt like flying and I will never forget it.
Though I was not destined for greatness in gymnastics, I know a thing or two about pointed toes and body positioning and timing. Some of it is like riding a bike – you don’t forget it. The muscle memory is amazing. Also amazing is the difference between what your mind wants to do and what your body allows you to do, but anyone over 30 knows this.
So I sorta, kinda know something about gymnastics, and I had a spattering of ballet training as well, but yoga (aside from Samuel’s example) was always rather a mystery. Frankly it looked boring. (And you know how I feel about boring.) Don’t those people want to move more? I always want to move. (Therefore everyone does, right?) Over time I watched people doing yoga here and there, and am older and hopefully wiser now, and I see its virtues. And yoga mats are cool.
Rise and Eppie, my darling granddaughters, are here. August is warm, and there is space outdoors. August by 10am is almost too warm and the space beckons. So why not make first thing in the morning Yoga Time?
I know: These girls would do better with a real yoga teacher. I know: I should set up the laptop and play an online yoga session for kids for them. I tried, really I did. I know how to open a YouTube video. I just couldn’t get one to open. I took it as a sign: Get out there and do something with them, amateurish as it is.
That’s when Yoga Time became Clueless Yoga Time!
Do I have a clue what I am doing? Uh…
You keep your weight balanced in the center, shoulders back.
You stretch until your body says that’s far enough. You will notice in the next photo that the girls can touch their toes. They can easily touch their toes. I used to be able to do that.
You keep straight arms and straight legs except when you mean to bend them.
You lift up your butt and wiggle for fun!
You point your toes whenever you remember.
You tolerate your mat buddy.
What do you mean? she says. It’s the only soft place out here!
Once in a while, you lie back and enjoy the view above you.
You say “Ta-Da!” at the end!
I realize that all of this is glorified stretching with some giggles thrown in. But when I ask Wanna do some yoga? the girls get excited and put on their leotards. They unroll those mats and head outside. They move and stretch and balance those little bodies right along with me. We do the pencil and the whoosh and the wiggle and the up and the down. I will get some more info and we will do the dog and the cat and the table and the tree next time maybe. In the meantime, we’re having a blast even if we are clueless.