yesterday was the 1st time i met with the residents of a jewish senior citizen housing complex on 61st street just off 1st avenue. i have volunteered to teach a weekly exercise class there on tuesdays at 1:30. since it was the first class, i had no idea what to expect and put together a relatively simple exercise program to start with – breathwork simple stretches, resistance exercises using lightweight dyna-bands and just a few yoga poses to keep it interesting. i assumed that the people who were interested in an exercise class were probably somewhat fit already. after all, my parents are around that age and my mom could play 18 holes 7 days a week and my father could ride his bike to maine and back if he wanted to. they would have been beyond bored with this class but i had to be sure to make the class comfortable for all levels.
i arrived a bit early to set up the community room where the class would be held. i rolled out 12 yoga mats, set up the ipod docking station with some relaxing background music and waited. ruth was the 1st to arrive. she was fifteen minutes early and 91 years old. she was very excited about the class and told me all about the exercise she had done in the past. rather than choosing a good spot in the front of the room, ruth headed directly to the couch, which was pushed up against the wall in the back of the room, and told me she would be doing her exercises on the couch. soon her peers began to arrive. the remaining two spots on the couch were immediately occupied by beatrice and marianna (who could have been ruth’s mother). the others stood to the side looking at the mats on the floor, not quite sure what to do. i noticed a bunch of folding chairs in the corner and promptly placed a chair next to each mat, scrappped the routine i had planned on teaching and realized i would just have to wing it. 3 brave souls sat on the floor, 3 sat in the metal folding chairs and then there was ruth, beatrice and mariana on the couch all the way in the back of the room – all staring at me.
i began the class by asking if anyone had any injuries or medical conditions that may be affected in any way by exercise. everyone assured me they did not. in spite of the unanimous “no”, i found this hard to believe, so i asked another question.
“does anyone have high blood pressure?” every hand in the room went up. i decided not to ask any more questions and just focus on doing breathwork and stretches. about 20 minutes into the class as i was walking around the room adjusting peoples posture when i noticed beatrice, who was now standing for the exercise we were engaged in.
“everything, ok, beatrice?” I asked
“well, my eyes are funny” she said.
me: “what do you mean?”
beatrice: “i don’t know, my eyes feel funny”
me: “why don’t you have a seat?”
beatrice: “no, i’m fine – it’s just my eyes. . .”
me: “please sit down”
beatrice: “no, i’m ok, i just have this funny feeling in my eyes”
me: “SIT DOWN!”
beatrice sat down in the chair, looked up at me and said “i think it’s all this breathing. . . i just had a heart attack and i’m not used to all this breathing.”
“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”
– Henry David Thoreau