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A reporter's first attempt at yoga

Remembering to breathe properly, reporter Philip Morgan does a kneeling lunge during a session led by Marisa Santino at Fowler White Boggs law firm.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Remembering to breathe properly, reporter Philip Morgan does a kneeling lunge during a session led by Marisa Santino at Fowler White Boggs law firm.

I'm a tense guy, a world-class worrier, and I fear I'll be this way until the day I become past-tense.

Could yoga be the answer?

At 63, I've decided to find out. I'm trying the ancient discipline for the first time, and so far my search for inner peace has left me soaked in sweat. I'm having trouble keeping up with the yoga workout at the Fowler White Boggs law firm downtown, where 15 to 30 lawyers and other staffers gather at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays to stretch, re-energize and eliminate stress.

It starts serenely enough, with soft light, New Age music and uplifting words read by instructor Marisa Santino.

"Whatever you choose to do today, be great at it. Be great in your own, personally meaningful, worthwhile, fulfilling way,'' she says.

We're all sitting in the prayer position, legs folded, hands pressed together in front of us.

Then she starts the workout, demonstrating basic yoga poses that look like a breeze — until I try them.

In the "chair'' pose, for example, it's simply a matter of bending my knees, keeping them together, and holding my hands directly above my head. But after a few moments of that, my thigh muscles burn like fire.

In another position, we bend our legs, press torso to our thighs, reach our arms behind our legs and touch each hand to the opposite elbow.

"Whatever weight or stress you had on your back today, just let it roll right off,'' says Santino.

But what about the stress on the hamstrings?

In the effort to be great in my own, personally meaningful way at the "runner's lunge''— one knee bent at a 90-degree angle and the other leg stretched far behind — I teeter like a drunk. Any minute I could tumble over sideways.

Often, Santino reminds us to breathe properly, taking in slow deep breaths through the nose and releasing them. I'm straining too much to breathe gracefully; I'll have to try that another time.

Finally, we come to an exercise I'm great at — lying still. We all move into the "corpse'' pose, stretched out on our backs. It's reminiscent of nap time in kindergarten.

There, amid the muted light and lulling music, Santino quietly tells us to imagine a wave of relaxation washing over us, from foot to head. I begin to drift — and have to apply the brakes. Snoring, I'm sure, isn't part of the workout.

Despite all the awkwardness, in the end, I feel a slight yoga afterglow. A sense of calm envelopes me for close to an hour.

I leave the session believing that with more work, enhanced grace and less panting, I may become a much more placid worrier. Someday.

A reporter's first attempt at yoga 10/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 21, 2011 3:27pm]
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