Yoga and Barth

I want to tell you something about yoga, a gimpy knee, Karl Barth and a darn amazing yoga instructor.
For over a year, I’ve had recurring knee issues that have interrupted my running. A dozen or so years ago, I had trouble with my right knee, and for some reason that I can only attribute to middle age, the whole flame-up went for a full-blown 2nd round. My physical therapist has me doing knee stabilization exercises out the wazzoo. You should see me balancing and squatting on the Bosu Ball. I started as a wobbler, looked like a one-man demon-possessed seesaw; but now I can mostly keep it steady. Not graceful, mind you, but steady. I’ve got a nifty velcro-it-on icepack I use 2-3 times a day. I’ve got turmeric pills for inflammation and an organic blue-hot cream to ease the pain. I even hook up a stretchy strap to the kitchen table for a whole other round of therapy. It’s something else.
The thing I have working in my favor, though, far above the exercises and ice and all the homeopathic remedies is a yoga instructor named Miska Collier. She’s truly fantastic. Is there anything about me that says “Yoga”? Nope. And though Miska swears by it, I still say that the hot stuff where they heat the room to within a few degrees of Hades is absolutely insane…but she and I will just have to let our marital vows hold us and agree to disagree.
However, among the other forms of yoga she teaches, Miska teaches Yin Yoga. It’s a slow yoga that, as I’m told, helps your connective tissue and your joints, not to mention flexibility. Well, you know what I need help with? Bingo – connective tissue, joints and flexibility (as well as a writing shed, but I don’t think yoga has an answer for me there). Yin also has a contemplative, restful vibe. In other words, it helps people like me whose mind revs at breakneck RPMs to chill the heck out.
On our sabbaths, then (Fridays), Miska’s been doing Yin Yoga with me. And for newbies like me (people who are not easily given to twisting their body into the shape of a pretzel), you need blocks so you can rest your arms and ease into the posture. We didn’t have blocks at the house, so you know what she grabbed? My five volumes of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. There I was, literally resting on Barth as I was doing my yoga. In case you haven’t read Barth, the most distinguished Protestant theologian of the last century, I’ll just say that I’m certain his bushy eyebrows would have gone haywire as he uttered a string of “Neins!!” Perhaps you don’t get the humor here. That’s fine. I think it’s a hoot.
What I’m learning is that my body has definitely run headlong into the rickety mid-range of life. I’ve also learned how to balance like a champ on the Bosu Ball. And I’ve learned that yoga, even for guys like me, can be remarkably restorative for body, soul and mind. The knees are getting stronger. I’ll be out on the trail again before you know it.

13 Replies to “Yoga and Barth”

  1. Winn, My orthopedist says why put your knee joints through such pounding as jogging or running! I have two replaced knee joints! I was a bedside nurse for 45 years and wore out my knees to the point of wearing the bones down where the joints were!! I had them replaced and have no problems except you can’t get down on your knees without a lot of pain from bone on metal. So continue to take care of your knees and just do some great fast walking!!!!

    1. I hear you. But running (really, mine is more plodding, probably little different from walking) is the one thing that really makes my heart happy. I’m inspired by stories like the one I read last week where the 103 year old woman won a “run” in her age class (couldn’t have been tons of competition). My issue, I believe is meniscus. I hear your good advice. I’ll do the best I can : )

  2. Winn Collier,I love you. Thank you for the chuckles this morning. And I keep tripping over the name Karl Barth but I gotta tell you – I am disinclined to read 10 volumes of anything. Is the a short essay that summs it all up in, I don’t know, 140 characters or fewer? Have a glorious day, sir. And warm air is good for you – these days I am swearing by acupuncture and the child’s pose.

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