How Álvaro Perez Miranda Became the First Latino Goodwill Ambassador for Japanese Cuisine

Blame it on Jennifer Aniston. Ever since she lit up the screen as Rachel in the ’90s, she’s been a beacon of wellness inspiration for me. Jen and I are about the same age, although unlike me, she has remained sculpted with an enviable aura of serenity. Her secret, echoed repeatedly in interviews, includes the practice of yoga.

For many years, my idea of wellness meant going to the gym’s spin class and getting my heart rate dangerously high while someone barked at me to “tackle the mountain” with ACDC blasting at unhealthy decibels. The music, the dark room, and the manic exercise delivered an incredible workout while drowning out whatever troubles I carried, at least for the duration of the class.

As I pedaled furiously, I’d watch the yoga students saunter by, mats in hand, with a quiet calm that piqued my interest. They seemed to operate on a different wavelength.

Then four years ago, a fellow spinner and spry woman in her 60s coaxed me into attending my first yoga class. With no darkness or blaring tunes to hide behind, the room felt painfully quiet. We sat cross-legged in Sukhasana, focused on our breathing, and then brought our palms together in anjali mudra. I thought, “This is easy enough.”

Then we were instructed to come into a Low Lunge. Everyone around me appeared to effortlessly manifest their foot forward whereas I needed to take several lurches. From there, the seemingly simple act of lifting my hands, leaning back slightly, and taking a deep breath caused me to fall into a wobbly panic. My grounded knee ached from its tête-à-tête with the mat and a serious bout of imposter syndrome kicked in.

Although I felt clumsy and stiff in yoga, I am a competitor at heart. (That alone shows you why I need yoga.) So I made it a point to come to class twice a week. Each time it was hard. The poses I awkwardly practiced began shifting my body—conditioned to move fast and hard—to spaces that were quiet and slow.

At the end of one of those early Savasanas, I found myself engulfed in loud, uncontrollable sobs. The instructor approached and placed a hand on my shoulder while my body heaved and snot splattered on my mat. “It happens more often than you’d think,” she whispered. My embarrassment gave way to a lighter sense of calm.

Six months later, when the world shut down, I no longer had access to a bike and wasn’t willing to use my rainy day fund to buy a Peloton. My exercise regimen disappeared.

Remembering the surprising spiritual weightlessness those earlier sessions had provided, I had several transient flings with yoga. I’d follow the encouraging instructions from a YouTube yoga instructor, knowing my movements looked nothing like hers. I’d attempt Tree Pose, congratulating myself when I didn’t knock over the living room lamp while my golden retriever watched with grave concern. A Child’s Pose-induced peacefulness would sometimes make a cameo appearance, confirming that Jen and all other yoga enthusiasts had gotten something right.

But with life moving at full throttle again, I’ve largely returned to my pre-yoga ways. That post-yoga serenity is still tempting, although I’m more inclined to go to a hard spin class than roll out my yoga mat.

As an active participant in our rush-through-life culture, I find it easier to think wistfully about the positive effects of a regular yoga practice than to fully commit to being present with it. Yoga demands an alignment of mind and body whereas spinning lets me zone out and sweat it out. I can pedal through pain like a maniac, without a thought in the world. Spinning is less about accepting and more about escaping.

Still, I never stash my mat out of sight. Even if it’s just gathering dust, it’s present and available, a simple reminder that even amid the hectic pace of life, my 53-year-old self sometimes needs a dose of balance, and the ability to channel Jen’s seeming serenity, one pose at a time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *