Asheville under glass: Yoga from the lens of a senior

Yoga: Not bringing me to a Zen place

It’s my fault. I’d threatened it for years: I told everyone I was going to enroll in yoga classes.

I’ve always regarded yoga folk (are there such?) as reflecting a certain peace I want. They’re the ones I see along green places, communing in nature, as they contort their bodies in pretzel-like fashion. The need to perform physically fluid movement should have been a giveaway as to why yoga might not work for me. To think I could fashion my body in modes that only work for children, Cirque de Soleil gymnasts, or those who’ve been following the lifestyle for years was my undoing.

This past Christmas, my daughter gave me a 30-day pass to a yoga studio in Asheville. And because she wanted me to be prepared for the occasion, she got me the floor mat to go along with it.

All I needed to do was show up. Yesterday, I went to my first-ever class. I was directed to put my things (jacket, purse) in a cubby along the wall. Having done that, I proceeded to the big room where some 30 people were already convened, their mats strategically spread out … water bottles nearby. As I walked across the floor, a woman closest to the door (self-appointed monitor, perhaps?) shouted out, “Whoa … your shoes!”  I thought she meant I had toilet paper stuck to one (I’d gone to the ladies’ room) and glanced down.

Seeing nothing wrong, I said “Please?”

She answered: “No shoes in this room.” Just that. A short … swift, nonwelcome to one who’d broken a cardinal rule of yoga. I wondered to myself, “I thought these were gentle folk … What gives with the attitude?”

From that point on, it was pure awful.

The instructor seemed nice enough. He told us how much he admired the person for whom he was yoga-substituting that day and how we students had to build a stable base before we added to the heights of yoga we’d achieve. His voice was soothingly hypnotic.

I took my place in the last row. When we did warm-up moves, our guru directed us to finger the wall (to unlock our shoulders), and since I was at the only unoccupied area in a crowded room, I had little wall space. I’d only learn my “stuck status” when he called out the directive to turn, and repeat our movement in the other direction.

I couldn’t — my bit of wall space ended and a glass door presented. In Lucille Ball fashion, I stood clueless, hoping no one noticed. Actually, no one did notice. My neighbors were all in some kind of Zen state.

Then we got into the postures. On command, all around me, men and women got down on the mats and stretched out, holding positions akin to push-ups without movement. They held themselves up, defying gravity, with their hands and feet planted firmly on the floor. I marveled at their athleticism.

But I wondered: “Why the hell did the girl at the desk suggest this class to me?” I knew, too: “If this is beginners’ yoga, I’m no candidate!”

For most of thirty minutes, I just stood. I’d given up all pretense of trying to follow his directive, as he kept calling out, “Maintain your dog position.” Whenever they hit the mats (often) I became the one solitary vertical in the room, besides the teacher.

At one point, he quietly sidled up to me and asked:  “Are you all right?” (He was probably trying to find out if I were having one of those silent heart attacks we hear about.)

I said, “Oh, yes, I’m just a beginner.”

What I wanted to say was:  “No, I’m not OK. I’ve got MS, and I can’t even begin to do these poses. In fact, I question whether any body should.”

Instead, after another few minutes, I simply rolled up my mat and tip-toed out, stopping by the desk to ask:  “Is this really beginners’ yoga?”

The girl at the desk appeared stunned. She apologized for whoever suggested this class might work for me. She’s now telling me about “gentle yoga,” (as opposed to “tough yoga”).

So I ask you readers, what yoga do you recommend for a 67-year-old, moderately-in-shape woman who happens to have minimal MS? I want to achieve that Zen state, but now, I just don’t know.

Colleen Kelly Mellor came to Asheville seven years ago for a quieter lifestyle, but that didn’t happen. On a mountain road, three years ago, her husband was hit head-on by a 12-year-old girl in a truck. He “died” following surgery (staff shocked him back to life), and they’ve been crawling back ever since. In this column, Mellor opines on life in Western North Carolina as only the “born again” can do. Published in the Wall St. Journal, among others, Mellor adds her senior view of a region often touted as one of America’s “Best Retirement Towns.”


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

3 thoughts on “Asheville under glass: Yoga from the lens of a senior

  1. Puma for Life

    Colleen, try yin yoga at Asheville Community Yoga. Also, they have several gentle and beginner yoga classes. I took yoga for the first time at 65 and plunged right in; I like the challenge. But, for a gentler intro, try the above.

  2. tricialea

    Hi Colleen, thanks for sharing your yoga adventure…
    I teach a class called “Yoga for Older Bodies” at West Asheville Yoga on Wednesday’s at 12:30pm. I have taught yoga to seniors for several years and would be happy to have you in my class. Feel free to contact me at
    Jacci Lea

  3. Colleen Kelly Mellor

    Thank you all for your generous offerings to help this novice. By the way, a future post of mine to run in Mtn Xpress will be “The F—Heard ‘Round the (Yoga) World”…All my observations are tongue-in-cheek, of course…and that is often the only body part that moves effortlessly these days. Stay tuned…please.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.