Todd and I have a hard time paying for things that we can do ourselves. We are probably two of the only people you know who have never exercised in a gym. Todd used to remark while we were peeling logs and hoisting them onto our log home, growing amazingly strong with every day that passed, “You know our forefathers would think it ridiculous that today’s people work hard to make life so easy on themselves, so they can sit, but then need to go inside to a gym and push metal around for no good reason, trying to get strong. It makes no sense. If they pushed a mower, they wouldn’t have to walk on a treadmill, they’d get a lot more accomplished, have more time and be healthier.” Hard to argue with that.
Todd never quite appreciated my need to walk/hike and ride my bike for exercise when he thought I could be pushing a wheelbarrow, but I LOVE to hike and bike and so I gift myself that time. Besides these two wonderful sports, I discovered yoga some years ago. I’ve attended classes here and there but am pretty happy sliding in a DVD’s or even old VHS tapes and doing a session in the privacy of my home. I can even do it in my underwear. Rodney Yee seems to be my favorite yogi who moves at my pace. Until I met Brenda Schoeneman.
I tried a class at the “Yoga B Yoga” Studio in downtown Orwigsburg just to see what it would be like. Brenda is the director of the studio and on my very first class with her, I loved it immediately. Her class was the perfect combination of challenging but not too hard, relaxing but not too slow. After that first class, I felt as though I had just filled up on a very satisfying, healthy meal after being hungry for a very long time. I went home and signed up for a block of classes. It was easy to commit. I wanted more.
At first, I was amazed that Brenda was able to design classes that were completely different from one another, week after week, and that she selected so many new poses that I had never tried (and I do a lot of different tapes.) But it was who Brenda is as a human being that had me coming back for more, for I began to realize that yoga is really secondary to what else she feeds her students.
Brenda truly is one of the kindest, caring human beings that I have ever met. After her yoga class, you don’t just feel better in your body- more flexible, supple and strong, but you also feel better in your soul. Brenda has a gorgeous way of making us all feel like we are all very special human beings and that we matter. Not too many people have the ability to make you feel that way and class after class, month after month, it keeps happening. It feels nothing short of miraculous. I suppose we, the students, feed Brenda too. We would have to or she would drain dry.
I must admit that I wasn’t feeling all warm and fuzzy with my fellow yogis in class, however, for a very long time. Be it that we live in a strong Pennsylvania German area whose people are slow to warm up and trust, or that I simply am not in the circle of Orwigsburg peeps since my children taught themselves and did not attend Blue Mtn. school district for very long. It appears as if a lot of the women in class know one another or maybe they are just happy to quietly stretch alone on their own mats in the minutes before class begins. I initially signed up for yoga class with a very good, long-time friend who promptly grew too busy to attend class so I was on my own. I recently decided that I was going to deliver hello and good-bye hugs to Brenda before and after class and she really seemed to not just appreciate them but enjoy them too, so that satisfied my Italian need to share affection. And then I said to myself, “What is wrong with you? You stretch yourself and reach out to the ladies whose mats are next to you.” Now I try to introduce myself and shake their hands and try real hard to remember one name a class so I can address them by their first name next time I see them. Some look at me as if I have two heads. Slowly, very slowly, some have been warming up but it still felt a bit chilly to me UNTIL TODAY. All that changed, once again, thanks to the incredibly loving warmth and care of Brenda.
Todd and I are about to head out for a 400-mile backpack onNew Mexico’s Continental Divide Trail and so, at a somewhat feeble attempt to get beastily, I have been trying to do two exercises a day and attend two yoga classes a week, (instead of just one). In Brenda’s amazingly generous nature, she designed a class around my departure, my last yoga class before our hike.
It was obvious how much thought and work Brenda put into creating today’s class’s structure. After announcing to everyone what I was about to embark on, she selected her words (that she speaks to us in-between poses), to serve as metaphors related to my journey. For instance, she spoke of us all carrying around backpacks of thoughts and words, not just an actual one like mine, and that we can chose to carry it well and how much it has to do with our attitude. She selected poses that would help me stretch my hips and shoulders, so I could learn them and do them on the trail. And then at the end of class, she did something truly amazing. She asked us to form a big circle and put our hands up and press into our neighbor’s palms. We balanced, using one another to hold each other up. Then we did another pose where we leaned on one another’s shoulders in the circle and put our arms around one another. She told us to press into each other, spread that energy and love around the room, for me. She said these poses were to let me know that they were all there for me and that they were holding me up and supporting me. And I looked around the room at all the women who suddenly felt like my friends and I had to fight back tears. I was so incredible touched.
I don’t know how I could possible fail on the trail after that yoga class. I don’t know how any of us that attend Brenda’s class could ever actually “fail” in life, for besides teaching us yoga, she is teaching us that she cares for us and how to care and feed one another. That’s’ really all that we need. The yoga is just a sidedish.