Three-and-a-half years ago, Flora made the decision to try yoga. “I noticed a pattern among older people of my acquaintance. Some died of dread diseases, but more often it seemed that they died after experiencing a fall, then another fall, and then a life of incapacity and decline,” she said. “The best weapons against falls are balance and flexibility, and those weren’t things I could start working on at age 70.”
Flora admits she didn’t do much research on yoga studios in the area, but there was one she passed regularly on Old Shell Road. “It was the only studio I knew about when I decided to give yoga a try,” she said.
In the three-and-a-half years she’s been at Sterling, Flora has been a faithful member of “The Breakfast Club,” the affectionate term for the 6:15 a.m. yoga crowd, because it’s the only one that fits with her work schedule.
“I am one of the least athletic people you will ever meet, and my joints seem to be unusually stiff and inflexible, so it was extremely humbling to suddenly find myself in a class with people 30+ years my junior who can move their bodies in ways that make you wonder if they’ve had bones surgically removed,” she said.
But with a consistent practice, Flora has experienced improved balance, flexibility and posture, and she said she continues to see results, especially now that “The Breakfast Club” meets four times a week. In particular, improving the flexibility of her hip flexors has been beneficial for RLS, a neurological problem she has.
Flora readily admits that she is not a morning person. In fact, she has been most surprised by the fact that she has been faithful to an early morning exercise regimen after failing so many times before.
“I have said many times that the fact that I’ve stuck with a 6:15 yoga class for almost four years is clearly the work of the Holy Spirit because the two things I hate most in life are getting out of bed and exercising,” she said. “I’m not sure why this is the one that finally clicked for me after all these years, but I am grateful.”
The results keep Flora coming back to practice, but it’s also the “kindness, encouragement and support of the instructors and others in ‘The Breakfast Club,’ especially Sheri and Chad,” she said.
“When I first started, my instructors, especially Anna and Michelle, would make a point of saying something encouraging to me during class. I confess that my initial thought was, ‘They’re just glad I haven’t died on their watch,’” she said. “Then one day a few months in I was doing Bow and finally managed to grab both of my ankles at the same time. It never occurred to me that anyone would notice, but Anna started applauding; I think she was more excited than I was.
“It really drove home how deep the connection and commitment is among those of us who are taking this journey together,” Flora continued. “Our class is a place where we are able to celebrate each other without comparison or competition. That’s a rare gift.”
When Flora first started yoga, she was hoping to improve her balance and flexibility. Along that journey, she made a special friendship with Sheri Granberry—a faithful member at Sterling since the first week the studio opened!
“One of the great blessings I’ve gotten from Sterling is becoming friends with my Yoga Buddy and Official Conscience, Sheri Granberry,” Flora said. “Sheri has been doing yoga since she was in her 20s, and is a poster child for correct posture and perseverance.”
Sheri is also a dedicated member of “The Breakfast Club,” and she and her tea cup are fixtures in the front right-hand corner of the hot room.
Sheri’s practice has included everything from Iyengar and Ashtanga to Baptiste and Anusara. When she began her Bikram practice, there was no studio in town, but she bought a Bikram book and “practiced at home for years,” she said.
Soon after Flora began practicing, she realized she’d need the help of the ballet barre, which runs along the back right-hand side of the hot room.
“We don’t have assigned places in class, of course, but most of us have preferred spots and I took up residence behind Sheri in the back right-hand corner by the barre,” Flora said. “We had a speaking acquaintance after class, but didn’t really know each other.”
Sheri did take notice of how being by the ballet barre helped support Flora’s practice, especially when someone would set up near it before Flora could get there.
“Sheri is usually the first one to arrive each morning, and after watching me struggle without access to the barre a few times, she started placing her towel in “my” spot to save it for me,” Flora said. “I was incredibly touched by her kindness, and made a point of texting her if I knew I wasn’t going to make it to class so she wouldn’t have to save my place.”
Then, as Flora said, a funny thing happened.
“What began as an act of kindness on Sheri’s part morphed into accountability for us both. On mornings when rolling over seemed an irresistible temptation, I’d think, ‘No—gotta go. Sheri saved my spot,’” she said. “When she was tempted, she would come just to help me out by saving my place.
“I had enjoyed the class and was committed to it up to that point, but felt fairly anonymous,” Flora said. “Once we made that connection, however, the practice became more enjoyable and my commitment deepened knowing that I was sharing the experience and was accountable to someone else—my wonderful Yoga Buddy.”
Sheri said she is just as inspired by Flora to show up on those early mornings to practice. “Let’s face it, some mornings it would be easier to roll over and go back to sleep instead of getting up for early yoga,” she said. “But I know my peeps, especially Flora, will all have made the effort to get up, so I roll out and make it there.”
Sheri referenced the unspoken pact that they have to show up for each other as a way to stay accountable to themselves. “I’m always glad once I get to the studio,” she said. “Flora inspires me to keep up my steady practice because we are official Yoga Buddies!”
In addition to the balance and flexibility she wanted, Flora found inspiration and motivation in the hot room that she needed. That’s a far cry from her thoughts after her first class—“hoping that I had listed the correct contact information for my next of kin,” she said.
Now she encourages others to try yoga too. “Give it a try,” Flora said. “You haven’t sweated until you’ve sweated in Sanskrit.”
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