Teaching an Old Student New Tricks

Commentary by Tamsen Todisco, Copy Desk Chief
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I have never been a sporty person. I grew up in a family that emphasized music and the arts over athletic pursuits. In my rural Vermont K-12 school, there was a pre-set division between the jocks and the hippies. Even though I detested the Grateful Dead, my love for theater and chorus sent me right into the hippie category. I did some yoga as a theater warm-up and practiced abs-yoga with Rodney Yee via VHS tape.
I did enjoy skiing (cross-country and downhill), snowshoeing, kayaking, and other activities, as long as there was no competition involved. After moving to Asheville in 2008, I briefly dabbled in jogging and soon gave it up.
This year, I am determined to make the most of my college experience. As a 32-year-old senior who transferred here with an associate’s degree from A-B Tech, I am considered a non-traditional student. My anxiety kept me from participating in the past, but I decided to get involved and make every penny of my tuition work for me.
I followed Campus Recreation on Instagram and Facebook. For the weeks of welcome, I decided to try Stand-up Paddleboard Yoga. I like longboarding and thought I might have the balance needed to stay on a floating board.
After asking for help finding the way to the pool from the women’s locker room, we signed waivers and hung up our towels. Mine was a small scratchy rental towel, for which I had surrendered my OneCard.
Clad in a bathing suit bottom, shorts and a sports bra, I ungracefully pulled myself onto the large floating board in the UNCA pool. We began with child’s pose, breathing and centering.
Our instructor, Page, was friendly and accommodating. She didn’t push us into impossible poses. I knew I would probably fall, but the splash landing didn’t seem too scary. I was surrounded by other women, most of them younger and more traditionally fit, but I have found that as I get older I care less and less what those around me think. In fact, I have realized that those who seemed judgmental are just as insecure as I was.
During the half-hour class, I felt challenged but never forced. I concentrated on my breath and my trembling core. I did fall off the board, but I wasn’t the first to fall. It was during tree pose, which involves standing on one leg, that I took my tumble. Page encouraged us to try to bring one foot up just a bit, even just to ankle height. I had it for a moment, then didn’t. Splash! I had a pang of guilt for making waves in the pool, but the other SUP Yoga participants just smiled at me.
Again, with the grace of a walrus, I got back on the board and completed the session. My stomach was red from the friction of getting back up and my muscles were sore, but I felt a sense of accomplishment. I floated in the pool afterward and reflected on the experience.
Fear was getting me nowhere. Getting onto that board was a symbolic step into joining in, including myself in an activity and forgetting any differences that I had used as an excuse in the past.
Two days later, I tried a “Fit in Five” class, jumping rope and doing bicep curls. I was physically exhausted, but my brain was invigorated. I look forward to visiting the rec center more often this semester and stretching beyond my comfort zone. After all, isn’t that what the college experience is all about?