I often think I’m the luckiest girl in the world to live in the shadow of Red Rocks Amphitheater. There’s nothing quite like like a bike ride through the majestic stone carved peaks, so close you can see the textured surface or even catch a glimpse of the hidden haunts of birds, lizards, and the occasional rattler. That last one will put a pump in your step!
If exercise isn’t your idea of fun consider this, every summer my husband and I get a buzz of excitement as we head off for our first concert at Red Rocks. Full of vim, vigor and youthful memories we strike out, beers in hand to climb that mountain. A couple of nights ago was our maiden voyage of the season: Brit Floyd, classic British cover band for the Pink Floyd of my youth. The concert demographic was no secret: aging hippies and lots of gray pony tails. We we’re pumped as we left the tailgated comfort of the Lower South lot and headed up to the concert like Moses to Mount Sinai.
At an elevation of just over 6,000 feet you expect to work up a lather as you climb and this remains a challenge year after year. Can I do it again? Will I still feel good? Will I be able to breathe? Will I have the energy to dance or even just stand and watch… and on and on, the samsara of age. We climbed at a good clip and I felt strong and alive at 58 years even as I was aware of the weak spots in my persnickety body. We found a spot down front and settled in among our peers to be rocked and rolled into the night.
As dusk settled I looked back at the sold-out crowd in amazement and pride. Here we all were in the second half of life fit enough to make the interminable trek to the stage despite age and sometimes infirmity. It was a moment of joy, or maybe just good home-grown, but it made me think of how grateful I am to have yoga in my life. Yoga practice builds so many positive qualities that sustain the body, mind and spirit. By its very nature practice creates habit. You do it once, and maybe some of it felt good, so you do it again and try to recapture that good feeling. Then you start to like it and one day you see how it benefits your whole life and it becomes a joy.
Yoga is not always an easy practice. Last week I taught a class of difficult revolved standing poses. All of us were invigorated at the end of class and we discussed the paradox of yoga and pain. Each of us had to work in the poses with care, determination and focus to deal with physical or emotional issues, but it is precisely this focus and effort that left us so satisfied. It may be human nature to shrink from pain and protect vulnerable areas, but in my experience the wisdom of yoga is to carefully lean into the painful spots, breathe through them, and gracefully exit the poses and stand straight. I am reminded of something Mr. Iyengar once said to the effect of- We suffer in yoga so we don’t have to suffer so much in our lives. My students and I agreed that the benefits of yoga are exponential and the pain calculus from practice (how much it may hurt to do some effective poses) is well worth the alternative- stiffness, pain, dissatisfaction with life.
As I walked briskly through the parking lot to my car with the faint echo of Roger Waters still clinging to the walls, I smiled to myself and a little whisper of gratitude escaped into the red rocks.