The 'full bind' story

Those who don’t know yoga may have been puzzled by my recent Facebook status update: “A full bind!” Those who know yoga and also know me may not have believed it. That’s OK – I didn’t either! I’m amazed at how far I have come in the last few years, fitness-wise.

This story goes back almost six years now. In my last few months at BNA I worked part-time, and I joined a health club not far from home. I got into a two-day-a-week routine and signed up with a personal trainer, Jen Young, and in short order I was back in physical therapy after stretching too far in the wrong direction trying to do a yoga pose she had showed me. It’s a twisting thing that gave me an incredible release, and I wanted to feel that again – so I tried on my own. Mistake. Not only was I a weakling and an idiot when it came to muscles and coordination, but I had no balance or flexibility. I could do aerobic exercise comfortably on a recumbent bike or a treadmill – that was about it.

After a few months of physical therapy, I was ready to train again, and Jen got me started with exercises the PT thought would be helpful. I also had a habit of rolling my foot to the outside and, sometimes, falling because of that. As a remedy, the therapist assigned exercises designed to strengthen my lower abdominal muscles and the quadriceps right above the knee cap. Jen took it from there, and within a few months I understood how various muscles worked and how to isolate them. Eventually I reached a plateau and decided to work out on my own until I was ready for more challenge.

I made progress on the weight machines and eventually switched to the ellipticals for aerobic exercise. These machines sat just outside the group fitness studio, where I saw a few friends – mostly younger than I was but including one woman my age. The first day I joined them, I fell off the resistance ball and bruised my tailbone! And, standing on one foot? No way that could happen.

My first class was Abs and Stretch, and I went to it twice a week. I learned that “core” didn’t mean the center of an apple. Eventually I was able to hold a plank for 45 seconds. And I never fell off the ball again.

The instructor, Judy Martini Abshire, taught an earlier class that included movement and weight-lifting. I started going into the studio in the middle of that class and found that I was getting a great aerobics work-out in there. Not being a particularly good dancer, I didn’t know what a “mamba” was, and being directionally challenged made things difficult for everyone around me when I went to the left while they went to the right. But after a time I extended my workouts to include all of both classes – an intensive two-hour session that I generally attended twice a week.

Somehow, Judy can teach a class of 45 people ranging in age from 12 to 80 and keep everyone working at his/her own level. The modifications she suggests for people with this weakness/injury or that present options that have helped me work on every part of my body. Over time I gained strength. I have increased my weights from 1s and 3s to 5s and 8s. I became a little more flexible. I stopped telling myself I couldn’t or shouldn’t try some of the exercises. And, I found that I could reach things more easily at home, pick up and carry heavy things, and generally take care of more things on my own. Needless to say, that feels good – and I don’t remember the last time I fell without tripping over something in the way.

After changing gyms in mid-2011, I also started working out almost every morning. My twice-a-week two-hour workout was no longer available, so I started trying other classes. The one that made a difference for me is called Yoga for Jocks. It’s not really what it says – I don’t think very many of the people in the class are athletes. But it is a very athletic class, without the spiritual focus that some yoga classes have. Instead, the focus is on breathing, strength, and flexibility. I have learned to stretch my muscles and, recently, have begun to improve my balance.

Now, about the full bind. I was, indeed, doing a side angle pose, and I was stretched beyond my imagination. My balance was good that day, and when Kelli said some of us should reach around and try it, I did. And, I did it!

Today it would not have happened – no balance at all. But I’ve promised myself I’ll try again. And someday, who knows? It might even happen again.