I went to a Birkam yoga class once–you know, the kind of “hot yoga” that takes place in a 104 degree room with 40% humidity. It was part of the requirement for my college yoga course (yes, I went to art school) and it was possibly the hardest physical experience of my life (because even though I’m the editor of Kveller, I’ve never given birth). I didn’t drink nearly enough water beforehand or during the class, felt incredibly weak and light-headed pretty much immediately, and I spent the bulk of the hour quietly “sitting out” the strenuous poses while everybody else yoga-ed on in all their sweaty, toned glory. I felt like a failure AND I thought I actually might die. Yay, college!
So I’m even more impressed by the fact that my father, who turns 60 later this year, has become somewhat of a hardcore yogi. He started taking exercising seriously when he turned 40, and in these past 20 years, he’s become, well, incredibly fit. He started going to the gym before work every morning. When he was still living in the suburbs of Chicago but working downtown, he’d often bike the 40 miles to his office (only stopping that one time he got hit by a car. Yeah…). He even started creating his own mini-triathlons, running along the lakefront, biking along the lakefront, and then actually swimming in Lake Michigan.
And then five years ago, at age 55, he took up yoga–specifically, Bikram yoga. He’s been going to a 6 a.m. class at least twice a week since, and he’s gotten really good at it. And he genuinely enjoys it.
To be honest, I haven’t always felt so amazed by my dad’s attitude toward exercise–all for selfish reasons, of course. There was the time our family went on a cruise and he entered the pool-side “Sexy Legs Contest.” And won. Did I mention the boy who I was completely obsessed with in high school also happened to be on the same cruise with his family? And that he happened to be pool-side that day? And that when you’re 16 years old, it’s hard to imagine a worser fate than your dad being declared the owner of sexy legs?!
And then there’s my own relationship with exercise and healthy living, which of course is non-existent. I do get some walking in on my way to and from work each day, but I haven’t entered an actual gym since high school, and the bulk of my exercise routine involves pacing the aisles of the grocery store trying to decide whether I want sea salt caramel gelato or a king-sized Kit Kat bar (and ultimately getting both). So to see my dad become more and more active, more and more fit, while my clothes get a bit snugger every year has been a bit of a sore spot.
But yesterday, my dad’s yoga studio decided to feature him in a Facebook post, sharing his newly-mastered toe pose and the story of how he came to yoga. And for the first time, I realized how truly amazing it is that my dad has not only taken up a new hobby, but has been consistently working toward getting better every week, all the while being the oldest member in the class in a type of exercise that is generally considered a young person’s game.
I don’t know if I’ll ever try Bikram yoga again (I really, really hated it, you guys) but I can’t help but kvell over my dad and feel inspired by his willingness to continually try new things and push himself to be a healthier, better person at any age. Maybe when I turn 40–and he’s 72–I’ll join him for a run along the lakefront, though I’m sure I’ll have some trouble keeping up.