Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No Excuses

Because I work from a home office and will use any excuse I can to get away in the middle of the day, I slap on my loosest sweats and head out to a yoga class twice a week at the 24 Hour Fitness Center in the nearby town of Rancho Bernardo. There are two different instructors, one on Tuesday and another on Thursday, for the 11:30 a.m. class slot, but the group of students is pretty much the same for both classes. Because RB is made-up of mostly retired residents, my fellow practitioners tend to be on the older side. I don’t mind this at all; in fact, I find that many of the silver-haired enthusiasts who roll out their mats next to mine are quite limber and can kick my 53-year-old rear end on any given day.

One of the ladies in the classes (they’re made up of mostly women, although there are a few die-hard men who show up every week), is battling breast cancer. We’ve spoken a few times, enough for me to know that she has a grown son in New York and a daughter who is finishing her college degree here in San Diego. This woman has lost all her hair to chemotherapy treatments and sometimes comes to class with a bandana covering her head. On some occasions, she appears with a bandage on her arm; I don’t ask, but I assume it’s from having had a recent chemo treatment.

Even though my yoga friend is battling cancer, she’s a committed regular, who arrives at class every Tuesday and Thursday, chipper and ready to go. She warms up with the rest of us, babbling about kids, weather, cooking, and the latest substitute teacher, and enthusiastically assuming the starting seated position, despite the fact that the hair on her head is growing back in downy tufts and her arm bears evidence of the latest poisonous chemical concoction. She performs each pose fiercely, never taking the easy way out (as I sometimes do) by sinking into Child’s Pose instead of Downward Dog, or stopping in the middle of an asana to take a drink of water (something a few of the others do occasionally). Matter-of-fact and friendly, she doesn’t complain about the rigors of a particular class or the side-effects she endures. She appears centered, focused, and willing to participate, reminding the rest of us that each measured breath we take, in class or out, is a gift too precious to waste.

I couldn’t stop thinking about her today, on my way home from a class that went a little longer than usual because the instructor had arrived late. To make it up to those of us who waited for her, the teacher (a substitute) gave us an extra half-hour of postures. It was one of the best classes we’d ever had, and the group seemed particularly focused and in sync during this session. But it was long and tiring. Even the younger students were quieter than usual afterward, reaching for their towels to wipe the sweat from their brows and blinking at the bright sunlight as they stumbled out into the gym parking lot.

Despite the length of today’s class, my friend with the bandage on her arm and the cloth around her hairless head stretched, posed, and balanced with the rest of us, in tune to the vibes around her, never once complaining or giving in. Not once. Ever.

So, the next time I start to mentally complain about the number of calls I have to make for my clients, or the fact that my house is a mess, or the kids aren’t helping enough, or that I need to sit down and write some pages if I’m ever going to finish my second novel, I’m going to remind myself about my yoga friend.

And the next time I feel the urge to skip a class because I’m feeling too tired or lazy to go, or decide to blow off writing because I’m not mentally in the mood or don’t want to do the work of focusing on it, I’m going to think of her.

Because, heck, if she can show up to class twice a week and give it her all, with no complaining or excuses, then, certainly, so can I.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! And to my fellow yoga practitioners: Namaste.