Friday Firesmith – Signs of Life

I belonged to a gym for a couple of years, whose name I won’t mention, and superficially, it was a great place. Large, spacious, with brand new equipment, it seemed perfect. I wanted to run more, lift weights, and take Yoga classes. But the classes were sporadic, and the instructors seemed out of synch with what they were supposed to be doing. I realized that at my age, Yoga is the only thing I can count on to slow down the erosion of time. 

The local Y is more expensive, but their fitness classes are more or less set in stone. If an instructor is out a substitute will be there, count on it. Three weeks ago, I returned to the Y, and signed up for my first Yoga class, an adventure at 7:20 in the morning. It was a painful lesson that sloth is expensive and will result in humility. 

The first week I took five Yoga classes. The second week I slowed down, listened more closely to my body, and narrowed down my exertion to three classes. There was no point in wearing my body down to the point of injury, and the instructors recommended I not try to undo years of not exercising with a month of damage. 

One of the instructors, who was filling in for the morning teacher, asked me what I was looking for, and I told her simply, “More.” She recommended I come to the afternoon “Power Yoga” class which provides core exercises, strength training, as well as the traditional stretching and balance of Yoga. 

The class began slowly, but the pace picked up, I began to sweat. Repetitive positions, stretching the legs, opening the hips, pushing endurance, and moving the body more quickly from one position to another, began to wear me out. Push ups, balance, move, hold this pose, breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe, and halfway through the class I realized the water was over my head, the level of skill was beyond my physical ability, and my endurance was not up to this sort of thing. 

But my body remembered. It remembered the positions it once could hold. It remembered the pain of beginning is rewarded with the pleasure of muscles built, and confidence renewed. This is the body that can still wield an axe with proficiency, this is a body that can turn compost in the heat of the day, and this is the only body I have. Breathe, Mike, breathe, keep going, do not quit, do not falter, and every moment of this class, do everything you can do, the best you can do it. 

Suddenly, it was over, and the cool down positions began, slowing to relaxation, and finally, rest. 

As the oldest person in the class, I looked around to see younger people, much younger, sweating, panting, and they looked at me, and wondered how it is I am still smiling. Where they see struggle, I see Signs of Life. I feel it. I breathe it. I embrace the tension between being able to do something and not being able, yet. Each class, each hour, each moment and second are Signs of Life. 

You have only to live. 

Take Care,




Out of the night that covers me,

      Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

      I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

      Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

      How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

 I am the captain of my soul.

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

8 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Signs of Life”

  1. You’ve mentioned before the clearing brush/vines, turning compost, or pushing the mower in the Georgia heat, gave you a warm and fuzzy feeling of satisfaction in your ability and accomplishments.

    Yoga = Masochism

  2. Mike, I feel the same way when I get done working out. The feeling of being alive and having finished exercising. I am few years younger than you but I agree it is like conquering a foe in battle (I used to LARP. Sword fighting was great exercise). I’ve been thinking about doing yoga myself. You’ve made a good case for it. But I’ll probably have to find an online course since I’m still working.

  3. My exercise philosophy is “no pain, no pain.”

    I do some exercising, but I am sure that will increase when I have to start my cardiac rehab.

    And you are right: keep moving as any exercise is helpful.

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