When I was seven, my family rented a cottage on a small lake, with a rowboat the kids could use. As the youngest, I had to fight to sit in it, much less row it. Then one late afternoon, I found the boat abandoned. I climbed in, gripped the oars, and rowed out onto the lake. I still remember how good it felt to be alone, gliding over the deep mystery of water, with no one telling me what to do.
I think that’s why I’ve always felt a little stab of envy when I walked the Stanley Park seawall and saw the single scull rowers in Coal Harbour. I kept telling myself that I would learn to row, “someday.” Now that I live within walking distance of the Vancouver Rowing Club, it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate “someday” than now.
I’ve had two lessons, and the third is coming soon. So far it’s, wildly technical, deeply satisfying, and a neural-pathway-building exercise on a massive scale.
I’m always grateful for the role that yoga has played in my life. But here’s what makes me especially grateful to my practice right now: so far at least, learning to row isn’t physically challenging.
I swim a little, walk more than I swim, and ride my bike around the seawall when the weather’s good. Apart from my practice, that’s it for working out.
But I can lift my end of the boat from the rack, carry it overhead to the water, and lower it in. I can get in and out of the boat – I’m awkward, but never out of balance. I can reach over and release the water-side oarlock, a precarious stretch with one foot in the boat, one hand stabilizing the oars, and the other arm reaching out to the latch. The stroke practice we’ve done so far is never physically demanding, just a mind-bending task of learning new skills.
Best of all, I have no fear that my body will fail me. Learning to row is an adventure, not a struggle.
I don’t know if I’ll still be rowing a year from now, or if I’ll try it out and let it go. But I do know that without my yoga practice, it would be a completely different and much less happy experience. And that makes me even more determined to preserve and deepen my practice as years go by.
Next week I’ll be going back to class, with my teacher, Ingelise Nherlan.
Going to Ingelise’s classes immerses me in a flow of creativity and inspiration for my home practice. It keeps me in touch with the poses I’d rather avoid, and it deepens my understanding of the poses that are better than chocolate.
More than that, it gives my practice week a focus.
I hope that if you’re reading this from anywhere yoga is taught that you’ll be headed back to class too.
If you live in Vancouver, and would like to take classes with me, you can find my schedule at http://www.yogaon7th.com/eve.
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Photo by Anne Sproull, my excellent and very patient teacher at the Vancouver Rowing Club