Monday, October 26, 2009

When Dating Yourself is a Stretch

Granted, the metaphor of dating oneself may wear thin if you start to think, heck, this is all about spending too much time alone! But living for all of us has to be about widening our perceptions and stretching our capacities. There are plenty of instances in life where every one of us finds herself alone. But I discovered a way to be alone together at Pasadena City College.

Now PCC's extended learning program ( offers all manner of non-credit classes. My favorite turns out to be Power Stretch, which meets in a dance studio room on campus every Saturday at 8 a.m. For one hour twenty-five (or so) adults move through a series of flexibility exercises. Equipment is minimal: loose clothing and a yoga mat if you like. Or borrow one of the mats provided. Also on loan to each student is a green stretching strap. If the equipment is minimalist, native ability is even less. Yes, you can do this physical activity! I have very little physical aptitude. I still recall how my fifth grade teacher selected me to stand in the middle of the circle for dodge ball. Fleetingly I gloated over the honor until it dawned on me that she knew I was too slow to participate as a ball thrower and would do better as a target. But power stretch is a different story. I can follow the directions, I can execute the movements, I can calm down, and I can be competent in the class. That is why I enjoy it so much.

Instructor Karen Harris is a personal trainer and kickboxing teacher by trade. She runs Saturday boot camp, stretch class, and air kickboxing. Our class is really about relaxation, but it takes you a while to figure that out when you first join,especially if your balance is wanting. Karen always reminds us, "The goal is to move through class with your eyes closed, getting into a meditative state." But of course it's a challenge to close your eyes that much without turning tottery. Karen leads us from standing willowy movements to stepping ("These are not lunges,") to floor exercises that culminate in leg and hip stretches courtesy of the green strap. You really can connect with your inner Gumby over the weeks, and any competition you'd sense is only within yourself. The class winds down with some yogic stretches and a return to the upright stretch. Karen always congratulates us and exhorts us to go on to a great day. Maybe it is the synovial fluid coursing through your joints that makes you believe it is indeed possible.

A class like this one gives an opportunity for think-time. I've heard that some people actually use physical movement to accelerate their problem-solving process. Maisie Dobbs comes to mind, the English detective in the same-named series by Jacqueline Winspear, who always takes a stroll when she faces an especially puzzling dilemma. Anyway, I like to walk myself down to PCC for Power Stretch and then walk back home to luxuriate in my thinking too.

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