Help, the boomers are invading life everywhere.

I used to go to a yoga studio for years. The teachers were all properly trained and the owners adherents of the Yogi preacher whom provided the background for the yoga philosophy. It was all very proper and ethical, and the was studio decorated with great esthetics as well.

I took in the mildly religious aspects together with the health aspects as part of the whole yoga environment without it bothering me. The folding of the hands into the palms touching while seated cross legged, singing the word “aum” for a few seconds, at the end or the start of the class, lent a sweet aspect to the whole event for me.
After the peaceful Svassanah minutes at the end of the class, (integrating the physical exertion with stillness of the mind) the instructor wishes her class with a deep bow “namaste” acknowledging a spirit in us: the spark (of the soul) in me reflects the spark (of the soul) in you. Students then bow their heads in the direction of other students, making eye contact and repeating the gesture to each other. Most seasoned yoga students take time to go through this respectful greeting, although some are otherwise occupied already.

It so happened that I attend Sunday class. Raised in a strict religious family with church attendance twice on Sundays, this all felt strangely familiar to me. Getting up on Sunday morning, dress, and quickly eat something, and while most people are still sleeping or having leisurely brunches, I left home and drove through empty streets to class. What a nice replacement of rituals. After class I felt great, relaxed, aware — a bit of a difference with church, as I back then I was always thinking of ways to get out of church.

Over the last ten years, the class composition has changed, as well as the instructors. I used to be one of the few “older” students, and felt OK being there, but glanced occasionally at my fellow classmates who were much more agile, and lean and well, more beautiful. Now I am one of the crowd, since most there now seem over 50, have discovered yoga, and taken over the class. My Sunday class is now much larger with only members of the “silver wave”…and the number of men have increased too.

Not that men are the majority: they represent about 25% of students, but oh boy, are they ever the presence! They claim the public stage, as men always seem to do. They have an urge to make jokes, ask attention from the teacher, make unnecessary comments, etc. all perhaps in an attempt to breach the silence that might be uncomfortable to them. Before men, the brief time before class usually was spent by people relaxing, lying down, or holding some poses to loosen certain muscles or joints, without much talking, or only whispering. Not anymore since the men arrived. The six men count for about twenty women in noise and presence!

The dynamics of mixed company in this generation is always the same wherever you go. Men claim the public stage as their own, while women defer to them and play a supportive role, generally speaking.
The first time that more than the one (or two) token male attended class, the men all sat in a row, side by side to each other in the back of the classroom. How odd…. the last vestiges of their school memories made them repeat that childhood pattern. They were very vocal and obviously sought strength in numbers. I guess that most of these men are dragged to class by their partner, but separated from her, claiming independence, and sat in the back row all together. After the teacher pointed out their “bad boys on the back” behaviour to them, that pattern was broken. Good for her: young and assertive!

The teachers also have changed: from the more mature forty-somethings they became younger; they could be the grandchildren of the current crew of students. My current teacher is maybe at the most thirty, if that, although she looks 12 to me. You need to know that the type of class is “gentle”, and ability of any level is suitable for this class. In any case, instructors always encourage to adjust the poses to a level one is able to comfortably do without pain. If it hurts, don’t do it. Always good advice.

The teacher presents a bit as if she were teaching a Kindergarten class, tone of voice gentle, patient and simple, ensuring the class repeatedly that we were doing “beautiful work”. It seemed that the younger the instructor, the more they talk down to us, seniors, although not intentionally. My teacher does not have kids, and when she shares some of her life, it is uncomplicated – yet.

At grade school I was a chatterbox distracting others in class, so teachers always put me on the first row, so I have gotten used to being in the front of any public event. Automatically I seek the front position, now having ulterior motives: one ear is deaf, so I position myself strategically. So also in yoga class, which is the reason that I seldom see others perform their poses. Today I ended up in the back of the class, due to lack of spaces in the front. I had the view of the class, and very interesting it was!

There were new students that brought in her coat and handbag; one of them was fiddling before class with her cell phone, until the last moment possible. Actually, there were two students who brought in all her belongings into the classroom, handbag, coat, except shoes that we must take off in the lobby. All others leave their stuff usually hanging in the reception room, which is then supervised by the receptionist: no need to think of theft. Bringing a cell phone in this room of serenity is,close to blasphemy. I have never seen one or heard one ringing during class.

Another person was taking the most floor space she could, by positioning her mat so generously in the middle of the space that no third row was possible. Obviously, she is asserting herself, or possibly, is really afraid of getting too close to others. Then a few others spaced themselves within their row of mats, but far away from the next person beside them, by taking a space-and-half, to prevent others from positioning in between ending up too close beside them. Same message: “please don’t touch me.” When in the pose, with the mind focused inside, eyes closed, and if you suddenly touch a life person when you stretch out a limb, yes, that can be distracting, but for only a second.

The teacher often reshuffles the class to move those “spreading” students, forcing them back within their allocated spaces by insisting that we make space for three rows and move closer to each other. The class easily can accommodate 25 students. Good for her, I say. Most Sundays there a that many; our church is full!

I could not help noticing the student that quickly moved through the poses, as if she had done it many times before, sloppy and half-assed, not deliberately moving her muscles, but in a lets-get-through-this-quickly-since-I-am-here-anyway kind of way. She was maybe in over her head; I noticed when a longer held pose was too much and she had to come out of it; she stopped participating for a while. Had she saved her energy and been slower with less movement and more deliberate, she might have gotten more more out of the class. She was oblivious to the greetings and the namaste closing rituals; she was already preparing to leave. I hope she will come back and slow down next time to experience the benefits of focus, deep breathing, and intentional body moves. I love my yoga class. I will go early next time, so I can be in the front row of my church again.

Do you have any experiences in yoga to share? Please write a comment, rate this piece at the top of the page and pass it on to whom you think might like it, and please, Like me on Facebook.


About BABYBOOMER johanna van zanten

My name is Johanna van Zanten. I am a baby boomer, interested in writing and connecting with other writers and readers to engage in discussions and information sharing, to share a point of view about current global issues, writing, and publishing, diversity, immigration, travel, music, life, specific baby boomer issues, and dating/relationship issues. I have written a novella, ON THIN ICE about baby-boomer Adrienne and will link this blog with the information website for this novella. Right now, I am trying out the blog.
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  1. Pat Skene says:

    Loved your yoga post. As an aging boomer, I’m addicted to my yoga routine for so many reasons, both physical and overall well being. Yes, I have met many of the same students in the classes you have attended. You might want to check out a post I wrote about my yoga advice to those wanting or afraid to try it. Go to my blog and read Dem Bones, Dem Bones, in the Health category. Loved your iPad post as well…another passion of mine. Anything with an i in front of it.

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