My grandmother, Carrie, considered laziness to be the worst of all sins. She had the strength of Samson and the energy of a Philistine army, and she could not abide anyone who didn’t share those attributes.
She used the word, cautiously in my mother’s presence, to describe me in the same breath where she berated some of my cousins and a few shiftless relatives who wouldn’t stay in school and/or couldn’t hold down a job of any kind.
Mama didn’t consider me lazy. In fact, she encouraged me in my favorite pastime — reading. I learned early on that I wouldn’t have to wash dishes if I was reading or doing homework.
Playing with the kids in the neighborhood was fun, but if the games included running and using a few muscles, I would find some excuse to go home. In other words, I was lazy when it came to physical activity.
My take on a bumper sticker would have been “I’d rather be reading.” But later, marriage and three babies changed all that.
The years were filled with much — very much — physical exertion, none of which was organized exercise. Until, that is, my mother joined our household. She had become interested in yoga. She, like her mother, had always been active. She loved the outdoors. She fished, she went hunting with her brothers, she and Grandma “farmed” a huge garden, kept cows and chickens and hogs, did all the work around the house.
Later, she worked in a cotton mill, and, later, in a stove factory. Manual (or wo-manual) work was a way of life. Changes in her lifestyle as she eased away from mid-life left her with fewer chores, and just before she made Woodstock her home, someone introduced her to yoga.
She was already proficient in many of the exercises and stretches, and the MOTH and I soon mastered a few of them ourselves.
I have to laugh when I hear people say there’s no such thing as a yoga Christian. That may be true when folks have made yoga the center of their lives, but with us, it was just a fun, but healthy, way of strengthening our muscles, learning and practicing better posture, and having fun together.
We didn’t stay home from church to do yoga meditation. We didn’t play strange music on audio tapes. We didn’t even investigate the history of yoga. But we were healthier and we felt better, and we laughed a lot. We never considered it to be our “faith” and it never threatened or encroached on our religion.
My friend Polly has become quite interested in Tai Chi. Unlike yoga, which originated in India, it’s from China. It is not a religion either, and is described as an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits.
Movements are slow and graceful, relaxing and strengthening the body and mind, helping to relieve stress, and developing flexibility and coordination. It sounds like the perfect program for someone (like me) who is physically lazy. I try to make up for my laziness by working out with the stationary bike, lifting a few weights, and walking on the treadmill, all Bull-in-a-China-Shop activities, the opposite of Tai Chi.
Perhaps a combination of the two would be best. The Tai Chi movement has become universal, and is now celebrated annually as Tai Chi and Qigong Day worldwide.
Purposes of the celebration are education about Tai Chi benefits, gratitude to the Chinese culture, bringing people together across cultural divides, and showing the advantage of modern communication about fostering global health and healing.
The Woodstock celebration will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at Rope Mill Park. It seems the perfect setting for participants to combine the art with nature, and for onlookers to learn more about it.
Back to yoga for a few words. We became lax in our routine, and Mama’s yoga book ended up out of sight, out of mind.
Mama lived to the ripe old age of 88. Who knows, a couple of years of yoga and extra vigor may have been her longevity secret.
But I would venture to say that her well-worn Bible, underlined, highlighted, and tattered, made the difference.
She didn’t know about Tai Chi, but I think she would have liked this quote from Lao Tzu whose words give the essence of the movement: “The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and strong.”
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.