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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Still embroiled in the yoga changes here, but am trying to breathe and stay in the moment. As a woman—named Sunshine appropriately enough—said in Saturday’s makeshift class in the park, this abrupt change is just the Universe saying that now is the time to make way for something better to happen.

The community recreation center has served me well in so many ways over the last twenty-some years. While pregnant, I took water exercise classes—an exercise itself since my twin-pregnancy-bladder could not even make it through a one hour class. A year later my husband and I were bringing our twins to infant swimming classes, learning games such as “motor boat, motor boat go so slow” and helping them chase down rubber ducks.

T-ball and baseball, tumbling, dance, and swim lessons—our kids learned in the local community. The fellow townspeople we did not first meet at school, we met at the rec center and in the parks.

And as the kids grew, I found more time to return for my own classes. Step aerobics, fitness classes, (outside) water exercise, Pilates, ZUMBA, and yoga. My community circle kept growing as I met people—older and younger—who did not have kids the same age as mine were.

But of all the classes I’ve joined, my yoga classes have been the best community-builders. Yoga is more than a fitness class—it is a way of life. Because of that most people who start taking classes just keep coming session after session, even if they have to miss a few classes from time to time.

The more you place your mat next to someone else’s mat, month after month, year after year, the more you start to realize that you are becoming kindred spirits. Your backgrounds, lifestyles, whatever may be different, but when you give in to doing individual poses, partner poses, or group circle poses in the same space, the more you realize that you have to trust these people—at bare minimum—not to ridicule you, but also to cheer you on when you’re close to achieving a pose that has eluded you for years or to spot you when you try something really difficult. You start to know who is always looking for stress relief or who is experiencing grief or whose hip is in trouble or who is starting to become comfortable and fit in his or her own body. These people see you in very vulnerable—and not very attractive—positions. And every class ends with each of you resting in savasana, eyes closed, trusting that no one else will harm you.

You become a close community, as together you work to remain open. Though a few people float in and out of that community, many remain constant, dedicated to a way of life, led by a particular teacher.

This sense of belonging with these kindred spirits is what I most want to keep from our community. As we transition from a group that meets together in one particular place with one particular teacher to those who stay with the place and those who go with the teacher, may we never forget that what we have shared together cannot be taken from us. My community has grown from a particular place, but is not limited to that place.

Om shanti, my friends. Peace . . .

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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert (Trina: after working out at the Englewood Recreation Center)

You know, the term recreation center doesn’t work that well for me. Maybe that’s because I consider recreation more of an optional thing, but I don’t consider exercise optional at all. I don’t know, when I’m skiing or hiking, that’s recreation, but yoga or Pilates are work—although work I choose to do. Though the term recreation center doesn’t work for me, however, the recreation center itself does work for me.

I remember when my hometown built a recreation center when I was in junior high. Suddenly there was some place to go and do physical things, even if it was too cold and/or icy to run outside—you know like when the temperature dropped below ten degrees and the wind chill below zero—I could at least run around the gym. Oh, the center didn’t have all the bells and whistles today’s centers have, but I could lift weights, play racquetball, or meet friends in the swimming pool (did I mention I’m not enough of a swimmer to swim for fitness?)

Truth is, even in metro Denver, I’ve mostly stuck with recreation centers. I just feel more comfortable there—something about the term “club” just seems a little too high-brow for all the sweating I do when I exercise. These days I think of myself as a gym rat, even though I don’t go to the local recreation center to lift weights or use the equipment. Instead I attend classes there at least four times a week.

Signing up for scheduled classes means I will exercise because I am too cheap to pay for classes and not go. We all have to have our motivators, right? I’m just sure that if paid by the month or year or whatever that I wouldn’t stay as committed as I do by taking specific classes at a specific time. Because, like I said, exercise isn’t always recreation for me.

Still, I don’t want you to think I don’t enjoy exercise—it’s just I don’t always enjoy all of the activities in my classes. I mean, I am never going to be a fan of the Pilates “100s” or that one particular yoga position that resembles being a prisoner chained to the wall in a castle dungeon (sorry, I don’t know the technical term for that one!) or even dancing to any country song routines in ZUMBA.

Yet if you look in my gratitude journal, my trips to the rec center are among my top entries. No, my local recreation center does not have a catchy (or annoying!) song such as the YMCA does, but I still think it’s fun to work out there anyway. After all, once I split the word “recreate” into re-create, I start to understand the term recreation center after all. There’s no denying that all those Downward Dogs and planks have re-created me into a much, much better version of me.

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