At age 50, I am happily reinventing myself. When my first child was born I left computer programming to be a full time mom. For the last 24 years I filled my life raising three kids, managing our home and with fulfilling volunteer work and writing. I have no regrets but was worrying a lot about what to do next, about finding work.
About 15 years ago I began to take yoga.
I loved ballet as a kid and tried it again after having my third child. My balance was off and I felt clumsy with my motherly shape. I had never joined a gym; my exercise consisted of shlepping groceries and laundry and pushing a stroller. I practiced balance when I rode the subway and it was proved to be lacking by my falls. I broke my ankle tripping over a toy, namely Frog Soccer. My breath was shallow and I needed some time for myself. I noticed a yoga class was given at the Hewlett district adult-ed. I had enjoyed yoga in the early 1980s at Brooklyn College, so I figured why not?
I was hooked from the start! I loved my down to earth teacher and enjoyed stretching my body and holding poses while breathing deeply. As a mom of three kids, I craved calm and relief from the hectic pace at home, if only for the duration of the 75 minute class. I had a series of unique teachers, and gleaned what I needed from each. When the classes ended, I followed my teacher to a gym but really disliked that environment. Doing yoga in a room that was recently filled with sweaty spinners and hearing the thumping music from another class wasn’t ideal. I played Yoga videos at home when I needed a fix but I missed a real class.
When a new yoga studio popped up in Cedarhurst about six years ago, I became a regular again. I loved the warmth of the teachers and the calm oasis of the studio. I convinced some of my friends to join. When teacher training was offered a couple of years ago I wanted to do it, but the time wasn’t right. I could have made it right, but I wasn’t ready. I reminded myself that I shun public speaking. I always accomplished my work in the background. I programmed from a cubicle, ran PTA book fairs in the quiet library, planned fundraising events via email, led without orating and left the talking to the eloquent.
As my passion for yoga developed, I yearned to complete the 200-hour teacher training to increase my knowledge, deepen my practice and learn to explain the incredible benefits. I didn’t know if I could do it - this would require speaking up. I was nervous but needed to face this challenge. My milestone birthday and youngest child soon leaving the nest made me want to take a deep breath and try. Yoga is all about the breath. Breathing consciously helps clear the mind, providing calm and focus. At my age or any age this is life affirming and vital. My teachers were supportive, sincere and kind. It was the right time!
I have enjoyed the training immensely, studying anatomy (another challenge since I’m totally squeamish), breaking down poses and memorizing some yogic terms. I am getting comfortable sitting in front of a few students at a time (it helps that I can dim the light and tell them to close their eyes!). I love that yoga is a “practice” and not “perfection” and understand that we each come to it with unique personalities and issues. I love that yoga isn’t a goal but a continuing journey like life itself. It is literally a breath of fresh air, in and out of the nostrils!
I believe that yoga practice is democratic, open and free to all, with no need for equipment or a membership, (though a good teacher is a very worthwhile investment to help one get started!) It is both eye-opening and heart-opening, teaching me to explore being gentle, non-judgmental, accepting and honest with myself and others. Yoga is a way to learn both control and letting go. You can begin to quiet your mind from dwelling in the past or future, and avoid getting stuck in a chaotic swirl of thoughts, so that you can be fully in the present moment, which is only here and now. You can learn to let go of what you can’t control, which is most of what goes on around you. I have begun speaking yoga out loud (to a small group!)
Yoga reminds me that 50 is fabulous and you can learn new tricks at any age! It’s wonderful that our beautiful neighborhood filled with shuls and kosher shopping also makes space for a yoga studio. Many of us rush around from activity to activity from morning to night. I have lately noticed more car-honking and bad driving, more rudeness and impatience. Other than on Shabbat we are always connected to our cell phones and have technological overload. It’s obvious that we need to fit in more time to recharge our minds and bodies in a healthy way. We can begin by simply taking a break to notice our breath for a few moments. By closing our eyes and relaxing our shoulders and neck while slowing down our breathing we can get back on track and feel ready to deal with the next thing. It’s easy and worth a try!
I am grateful for my teachers and co-trainees, my family and friends who are so encouraging and let me practice on them. I’m happy to finally have an excuse for living in comfortable cotton sweats all the time.
Miriam Bradman Abrahams is Cuban-born, Brooklyn-bred and lives in Woodmere. She organizes author events for Hadassah, reviews books for Jewish Book World and is very slowly writing her father’s immigrant memoirs. She is teaching yoga at the local orthodox-friendly yoga studio.