Fitness Magazine

Yoga-Given Agility

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Nina Rook

Yoga-Given Agility

Portage by Marie Lossky (@Marie.Lossky on Instagram)

I balance the battered aluminum can of river water carefully on a tree root, grasp another root higher up the bank, step one foot onto a rock a couple of feet off the river bed, hoist myself up, recover the can and repeat. Then I dodge a fallen sapling, reach a flatter part of the slope, and scramble up the rest of the bank, can in hand and water still in can.
Tent camping came back into my life four years ago after a 35-year hiatus. I had lost access to a beloved weekend retreat, which had been part of my life for most of those years. I had felt a deep connection with that space, that ecosystem, that quiet. Now I felt that my life was more constrained, more domesticated. I would still take routine hikes with friends, but the long, out-and-back drives to the trail head seemed to dominate the experience. Then a good friend mentioned that she had a tent and was up for using it. A trip to the discount website later, I was equipped with tent, sleeping bag, and pad, and we were ready for new adventures.
On overnight or weekend trips, the same drives can lead to two or three separate hikes, and to long evenings of companionship or simple stillness. On recent trips, I have gazed at the Persiads, been mobbed by chipmunks, and watched river otters, ravens, and picas. But there are also cars to load, tents to put up and break down, firewood to secure, and, in the case of this weekend's primitive campsite, water to haul. And then the “comfort” of a 2-inch foam mat to sink down on. Without my confidence in my yoga-given agility, I doubt that I would have even considered such an activity at 67.
I found yoga at an emotional low point at the end of a long marriage when I felt the weight of sadness settling on my shoulders, in the form of a burgeoning dowager’s hump as well as in my psyche. It was a revelation to find that I could straighten out a bit, open up, become stronger, and gradually develop some flexibility and balance. As I continued my practice, I found that mental changes—both improved mental focus and comfort with uncertainty—accompanied the physical. While I realize that my yoga-enabled sense of self is available to me any time or place, I especially appreciate the wonderful range of “activities of daily living” that I still have access to—including tent camping.
I remember always being strong, and having good stamina and endurance, but while I could walk for miles, my shaky balance, inflexibility, and inattentiveness led to more than my share of sprains, strains, and injuries from torqued knees. The physical pastimes I chose before yoga all played to my strengths—hiking, inelegant but persistent swimming, jogging—and then injuries would cause me to step back. It was not until I had started a regular yoga practice that I realized other things were in my reach—literally the furthest plum on the branch I was trying to harvest as well as figuratively. For a while I was occasionally docking a boat singlehandedly against a fast-moving current, a task that requires judging distances and speeds, stilling the boat as much as possible, jumping out at the right second with cleat in one hand and line in the other, and quickly securing everything. For twelve years it included the practice of aikido, a martial art embodying flexibility, deflection and balance—about as far from my original, rigid and unbalanced roots as I could hope to be.
Today, my “activities of daily living” include working on my 1922 home, maintaining a 9-foot laurel hedge in its large, exuberant and challenging yard (if you have ever had an over-active laurel hedge, you know the mano a mano battle this involves), exploring Italy via public transport, growing and preserving a range of fruit and vegetables, and hoping to keep myself open and available to the needs of friends, family and others.
Success. Time to wash the dishes. 
Yoga-Given Agility
Nina Rook was in the first graduating class of Yoga for Healthy Aging certified teachers in 2015. She has practiced yoga in the Iyengar tradition for over 20 years and taught for 15, with teacher training from Felicity Green and Joanne Hill. Nina has completed multiple workshops each with Judith Lasater (restorative), Elise Miller (back care), Donald Moyer (asana), and Doug Keller (yoga therapy), and has taken Julie Gudmestad’s week-long Yoga Anatomy workshop 2 1/2 times. She continues to study with Brooklyn-based Iyengar teacher Lara Warren, and with Karin Montali in Camerino, Italy. In addition to her ongoing classes in Tacoma, Washington she offers intensive workshops at several locations. You can find her on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/nina.rook.yoga/ or email her at [email protected]
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