One of the wonderful gifts that comes with double digit birthdays beginning with a 5 (or sometimes a 4), is the imperceptible onset of creakiness. It is just so unfair, I have spent years going to the gym, skiing, running and trying to stay active and inspite of everything, my joints are starting to protest at what used to be perfectly normal activities. Not so long ago, I would be very happy sitting on the floor crossed legged for hours at a time and could then leap to my feet in an instant to answer the doorbell, or stop the dog from vomiting inside the house. Now sitting on the floor is vaguely uncomfortable and it can take quite a long time for me to stagger to my feet and return to a vaguely upright stance. I recently rang a close school friend who answered on the ninth ring and confessed that it had taken her that long to get up from the floor where she had been wrapping a present.
Other symptoms of general decrepitude are also rearing their ugly heads. Climbing the stairs is now accompanied by a strange clicking in my right knee, completely painless but somewhat disconcerting. Bending over to stack the dishwasher is fraught with danger as it is quite likely that my back will seize up and I will have to hobble around like Quasimodo until I can get to a physio who will manipulate my spine into unnatural contortions and give me an eyewateringly painful massage in order to straighten me up. And I am unable to look over my shoulder in the owl-like way that I always took for granted.
I am glad to say that I am not alone in the creaking and cracking of joints. Husband, who has taken up Ironman triathlons in his fifties, is absurdly fit but after sitting down for more than 10 minutes, springs to his feet but then walks in a strangely neanderthal way for a few seconds until his back loosens up, and one of my best friends was told by an extortionately expensive consultant that the excruciating pain in her big toe was arthritis due to wear and tear and that she had better get used to it! Not what you want to hear when you have shelled out the equivalent of a Prada handbag.
My physio has prescribed some exercises to try and improve things which involve me rolling around on the floor just after getting up in the morning. All well and good in summer but I can’t really see me rolling out of bed to lie on the floor when it is minus 5 outside and the heating is struggling to warm the house. The answer I fear, is to return to the activity that I used to attend before life and excessive travelling got in the way – yoga. But which type?
A few years ago I signed up to a weekly Bikram yoga class with a couple of girlfriends with the intention of improving our flexibility and general well being. The 40 degree heat and high humidity took some getting used to, but over a few months we all became far more bendy and able to contort ourselves quite convincingly enough not to have to hide at the back of the class. The problem with Bikram is the sweat. It is not just that you sweat buckets, but everyone else does too. That may be just about bearable if you are next to a thirty something female who showers twice a day. The problems begin when a shirtless, extremely hirsute, forty something man thwaps his mat down next to yours and starts doing deep breathing exercises before the class starts. You just know that he is going to start pouring perspiration instantly, and not the fragrant type either. The number of classes that I have spent breathing entirely through my mouth to avoid unpleasant whiffs was one of the reasons that I eventually gave up.
Another alternative is Hatha yoga. No sweating is involved, although the worry that I might accidentally break wind when I am attempting one of the more challenging poses has certainly brought a gentle sheen to my forehead. The Hatha classes I have attended have varied from very gentle with long periods of meditation, to what appeared to be a training course for circus contortionists. You never quite know what a class will be like until you have tried it. The problem with Hatha is that I very quickly get fed up. I am so used to exercising in a way that gets me somewhere, with scenery to look at along the way, that staying inside a studio and only having my fellow sufferers to look at makes me wilt with boredom.
However, a quick Google of different types of yoga has given me a list of 20. Some of the more unusual ones such as Kundalini which awakens the energy at the base of the spine, are probably not for me (see earlier Hatha worry) but there are still 15 or so left to try. I will therefore be visiting various yoga studios until I find the class and teacher that can get all my joints moving, keep me interested, not revolted and reach the holy grail of being able to touch my toes again.
Photo. Sourced from the internet for illustration purposes only