Mary and I were dare-devils – a trait that some folks thought unbecoming of girls. Thank goodness Mama recognized our need for physical activity and encouraged it. Although the concept of training for gymnastics was unheard of in our neck of the woods, Mary and I spent countless hours tumbling, standing on our heads, and turning cartwheels across the yard. We even won a talent show with our performance, thanks to background music played by cousin Janice Duncan. She let Mary and me split the $5 prize money.
Coach Ann Anders, the famed basketball coach at Villa Rica High, choreographed a tumbling show with her girls’ physical education students each year. Mary and I got to be mascots in the show and added double stunts to our repertoire.
In high school, I never took physical education. Activities like band and office assistant exempted most of the girls I knew from the gym. Sports for girls was limited to basketball and, trust me, even after coaching a championship team, I still can’t shoot a basket worth a doodle!
When I went to college, physical education was mandatory. After the first class, I knew I would major in physical education. The motto of our profession was “Our work is play!” I loved that from the very beginning and have been playing ever since.
The summer after my freshman year in college, I returned home for a long, uneventful summer. While looking for the comics in the local newspaper, I saw an announcement that yoga classes were being offered in town. I had a little inkling about what yoga was so signed up. Donning a black leotard and fishnet tights I learned the Sun Salutation, Downward Facing Dog, and how to sit quietly to let my mind settle. As you might imagine, that was the hardest part of the class!
Returning to Samford University in the fall, I continued the pursuit of a P.E. degree. One of the requirements was Speech 101 and when the instructor assigned us to present an informative speech, I had a brilliant idea. I sent for my leotard and tights and prepared a speech to WOW the class. Looking back, I can see that perhaps this idea was a little out-of-the-ordinary at a Southern Baptist school. Girls were required to wear dresses to class and in all public places except for the gym. The very idea that I did not think twice about wearing a rather skimpy costume in front of my peers stills makes me laugh at my innocence.
Just before I stood in front of the class, I took off my raincoat and silently performed the Sun Salutation. I followed that up with a speech about the benefits of yoga. The grand finale was a perfect headstand with toes pointed toward the ceiling. I got an A and realized then that public speaking was rather fun. It would be years before I made another speech, but when I did, it led to another career.
These days, I go to Sportsplex as often as possible to exercise and socialize. When I noticed they offered yoga classes, I recalled the classes of my youth and decided to give it a go.
Boy! Was I in for a surprise! I discovered muscles I never knew I had. I fold and bend into positions that I didn’t think possible. And I find myself off balance a bunch. Each time I do, I realize it is just a temporary bobble and focus on my center to regain balance. At the end of the class we practice Savasana where we lie completely relaxed and release all mental and physical tension.
Life is a whole lot like yoga. In the quiet and still of the morning, I discover my center through meditation, prayer and journaling. My day begins in a very balanced state, but before I know it, something comes along that throws it into helter-skelter. I find myself stumbling and bumbling as my mind goes into over-drive with the “what ifs,” “shoulds,” and “if onlys.” I feel my pulse racing and clarity dimming.
An upside-down kind of life can begin to feel like normal. But, somewhere in the midst of my own chaos, I remember to breathe — to still my mind, to find my center. When that happens, a sense of peace and possibility calms my soul. I like that.
And when I go to yoga class today, I’m going to stand on my head and recall with affection the joys of the journey of a naive girl in the black leotard and fishnet tights. Namaste.
Garrett, a Carroll County resident and an author, writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian.