Article by Jody Schreiber
Yoga at the library? In the libraries of my youth, the only stretching was to reach the highest shelf and the only strength-building was to lift a stack of books.
Times have changed, so why not yoga at the library?
Those were my thoughts when I set out on a July evening to attend a “Yoga for Stress” class at Kirk-Bear Canyon Library. This would be my first yoga class and I was a little nervous. If all the other participants were experienced, would I look silly?
It was a monsoon evening, which I found to be comforting. Maybe fewer people would venture out into the rain…fewer people to see me embarrass myself. As it turned out, nine people arrived, which they told me was fewer than the previous weeks but still a decent turnout considering the weather.
The participants were mostly middle-aged and beyond, with the obvious exception of one young granddaughter, who was already a seasoned yoga veteran. Both men and women. Varying degrees of yoga experience – I was not the only newbie. Our motivations ranged from stress reduction, to assuaging muscle pain after an earlier workout, to improving mobility after surgery. As we unrolled our mats, the other attendees assured me that Kathy Covington, the instructor, was “the best.” I should not be nervous, they advised me.
They were right. Kathy’s calm voice and gentle manner put everyone at ease. She gave easy-to-follow instructions, sometimes adding options for more or less experienced practitioners. You could practice at your own level without feeling judged.
At the beginning of class I could not help myself. I kept sneaking peeks at my classmates to make sure I was “doing it right.” When I soon realized they were concentrating on their own experience, not watching me, I felt liberated. The rest of the class period was entirely relaxed without self-consciousness. (The dimmed lights helped.)
At the end of class, the participants chatted congenially as they collected their gear. It occurred to me that the libraries of my youth were dedicated to solitary pursuits of leisure, study and learning. Nowadays many libraries also offer opportunities to pursue leisure, study and learning in the company of others. In this sense, modern libraries are performing a valuable community-building role.
I drove home feeling relaxed but not tired, which is how I had always heard you should feel after yoga. I resolved I would look for another yoga class, at the library or elsewhere. Libraries expand personal horizons, and mine had been expanded.