BY VICTORIA MORAN
I wandered into Om Factory in Union Square last April, scheduled for an aerial class. I’d recently had a big birthday. Not 30 or 40 or even 50: it was 65, the age at which the U.S. government itself says, “You’re falling apart. Here: have a Medicare card.”
I certainly didn’t feel that kind of sixty-five – I’m a longtime vegan and take decent care of myself — but when the instructor, Kristina, greeted me with “Is this your first time?” I said, “Yes, and I have lots of injuries, and I may be too old for this.” She said, “You’ll be fine,” as if she really believed it. And she was right.
The yoga swing wasn’t new to me. Before moving to New York fifteen years ago, one hung in a spare bedroom in my house in Kansas City, a therapeutic tool to help with one of the injuries I’d mentioned, cervical discs rather dramatically herniated from a car accident. Consequently, going upside down in that first class was familiar and fabulous, but afterwards my fingers felt as if they’d been run over by farm machinery. Still, I knew I’d be back: I had to get to go upside down again.
I told my daughter, Adair, who’s an aerial performer, about my fingers. “I probably have arthritis.” She said she didn’t think so, that everybody’s fingers kill them for the first few weeks. She advised me to work with squeezy ball and massage in arnica oil. Two days later I was back at class. And again two days after that. By then I was hooked.
Now, I’ve been around yoga some time, having discovered it when I was seventeen. It was so unusual in the West back then that people confused it with yogurt and both were suspect. In those days, yoga was hatha: 88 poses, mostly named for animals, done slowly and held static. We’d never heard of Ashtanga or Vinyasa, Jivamukti or Iyengar, and the concept of baking at Bikram would have seemed very odd indeed. Yoga was yoga. Pure and simple. As different varieties made their way to America, often spawning offshoots of their own, I was pretty judgmental. After all, I did “real” yoga.
That bit of ego had to go in short order when I started aerial classes. Of all the expanded versions of the ancient Indian discipline, doing postures suspended is quite a leap. And yet, it’s still yoga – exquisitely so when you consider that in doing aerial, your concentration, one of yoga’s very limbs, has to be impeccable. Your mind can’t wander or you could fall on your head! I love it when the teachers give us a deliciously yogic concept to contemplate at the beginning of class, and when we chant, even one profoundly perfect Om. And when the instructor says: “Okay, this is a circus trick. It’s not yoga but it’s fun,” I get a surge of childlike glee. I wanna do circus tricks! They make me happy and content and connected. And yoga is about connection, after all.
Victoria Moran http://www.mainstreetvegan.net is the author of twelve books including Creating a Charmed Life, Fit from Within, Main Street Vegan, and The Good Karma Diet. She hosts the Main Street Vegan podcast and directs Main Street Vegan Academy, an in-person program in New York City to train and certify Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators.