Updated: May 17
I am in my 50’s but I decided that it is time to enjoy life. When I announced my retirement, my colleagues and friends all asked the same question. “What are you going to do all day long?” I enthusiastically told them I would spend my time experimenting low sugar and fat recipes and travelling.
Little did I know travelling was out of the question in a state of global lockdown. And low fat and sugar dessert still meant more calories. The combination of staying home eating could be disastrous.
From 0 to 120 Minutes Of Daily Exercises
For quite some time, Grace, my childhood friend who turned yoga teacher and is now based in Singapore, told me to try out yoga and the importance of exercising the mind and body. I gave her all sorts of excuses including “I am so busy at work”. In fact, I don’t even like to walk, let alone exercise. That’s my starting point - 0 minute of exercise for the last 40 years.
On October 1, 2020, I wanted to mark the start of my retirement. I couldn’t go on an epic trip or celebrate with friends and family. So I started with Grace’s 15 min yoga on YouTube, just to symbolize the start of a new beginning.
In the first 15 minute workout, I couldn’t touch my toes in standing forward bend and my tummy sank on the mat in plank. I was glad my body didn’t ache and was proud of myself for breaking out of 0.
The next day I did another 15 minutes and increased to 30 minutes over the next week. Two weeks later, Grace invited me to join her zoom yoga and barre classes and I accepted as a challenge to increase to one hour of workout. I joined the evening classes and found the experience very different from the YouTube videos. Grace pointed out my mistakes in real time and it’s encouraging to be in a group working towards the same goal. I remembered my legs were shaking in the chair pose. Eagle was out of question. My absolute favorite was the child pose.
I revisited the lesson the next morning for the poses I couldn’t manage the night before. That’s how my morning yoga routine started. I was also afraid that I would give up so I practiced on my own in the evenings when there‘s no classes. So there I was, practicing 2 hours of yoga or barre every day. I even posted my workout pictures on FB at the 3 month mark (see above) to pressure myself to hang onto the routine.
I was able to maintain the 2 hours routine even during Christmas and New Year. However, it was not without a struggle. It’s like 2 persons within me talking over whether I should read a novel, play the piano, watch a movie or just rest after working in the kitchen for 2 hours. When one side lost the argument, I eased up a bit, allowing myself to skip an evening workout when there were no classes.
In April, with the summer hours in Toronto, I was presented with a 7 am class schedule. I remembered the first morning I crawled out of bed in the dark and turned on the TV and Zoom with my eyes closed. The next morning, the 2 voices argued in my head again. “In retirement, you’re supposed to sleep-in, why wake up so early”.
I didn’t expect much from yoga other than burning calories so that I could eat desserts without guilt. Moreover, I began to listen to my body and to feel my core and muscles. I learned to breathe deeply and to release stress using a yoga ring, a tennis ball or simply gravity. The biggest benefit of all was that yoga helped me paced my days and got through the dark winter days.
It’s been almost 6 months since I started yoga. My flexibility, balance and strength have improved, though not significantly. But I can finally touch my toes and hold a decent plank! As what Grace always says, track your own progress and enjoy the journey. When a pose is achieved, I am proud of myself. The daily routine also gave me purpose particularly in lockdown when my travelling dreams were crushed. Now, when people asked me what I was doing in my retirement, I proudly told them I spent my time bettering myself in mind and body.