Learning to Stretch


Last fall, I wrote about how I thought I was ready to start tackling my weight. I spent a lot of time after that mostly thinking—imagining myself feeling stronger, wondering what it would be like to not hate exercise, and remembering how much I loved doing things with my body when I was a child.

Throughout the winter and early spring, however, I didn’t actually do anything other than try to make sure I was getting all my vegetables. Life got in the way, as they say, but I did a good job of at least keeping it on my mind. Now, eight months later, I’m finally doing something to try to lose some of the weight.

I had a trainer friend ask me some good questions about what I wanted to accomplish with weight loss, what kinds of activity I enjoyed, and what activity I hated. Based on my answers, she recommended walking and yoga.

There is controversy over whether Christians can do yoga. (If you’re interested in reading about it, you can find opposing viewpoints here and here.) I’ve thought about this off and on for the past several years. I land on the “it’s okay” side of things, although I did make sure I found an instructional video that focused on the physical rather than mental or spiritual aspects of yoga. I approached this with a solid sense of what I thought the Bible said and how that applied to me.

First Actual Steps

A few months ago, I started taking one walk a week, just to help me remember that I like walking. About a month ago, I started with two or three walks a week. They aren’t long walks, but at this point, it’s more about trying to get myself into the habit. At the same time, I started to clear out a space where I could do yoga. We have a small house with small rooms, and the place where it will be easiest had some boxes and bags I’ve been trying to sort through related to my former career (which I may need to pick up again, so I can’t just pitch it all). I finally cleared out a good spot.

So, the other day, I decided it was time. I started the instructional video I’d found, and I followed along. I was actually excited, because I’d spent hours as a kid stretched out and bent into odd positions that I would hold for a long time. I thought about how nice it would be to be bendy again.

The instructor began with warm-up breathing and stretching. I can actually do that, I thought. I lifted my arms above my head, breathing in. I pressed them back down, breathing out. We did that a few times, and I discovered that when you’ve done hardly any exercise for so many years, even the warm-up can hurt a little. I felt muscles that I didn’t know I had. Yes, just from the warm-up.

And then we did the first pose. It was a kind of lunge thing. I had been so focused on finding a video for beginners that wasn’t infused with spiritual aspects of yoga that it hadn’t even occurred to me that my arthritic knees might be a problem. I tried to do this lunge thing, and then it happened.

I toppled over.

My arthritic knees simply weren’t strong enough for me to assume this position even for an instant. I fell over. No one else was home, yet I felt embarrassed. Sore muscles during the warm-up, and then I can’t even do the very first pose? I’ll never be able to do this.


Oh, how I’d love to be able to say that I got up and tried again. Or that I resumed warm-up stretches while waiting for the next pose that wouldn’t be so hard on my knees. Or that I at least went out for a good walk.

But no, I didn’t not do a single one of these things.

I sat on my floor and cried for half an hour.

During this entire time, a lot went through my head. I chastised myself for all the years I hadn’t exercised and figured it was too late to really do anything about it. I thought about how stupid I was not to think to look for something that would be easy on my knees. I thought about how much I hated the fact that I have arthritis in my knees and how much I hated my body. I realized that I didn’t have a yoga mat and still needed to clear out a little more floor space and thought that maybe that would make a difference. I wondered what on earth ever possessed me to think I could actually exercise. I mentally reviewed all the reasons I could remember for Christians not to do yoga, and found myself using that as an explanation for why I’d failed.

Let’s review that, shall we?

  • I thought it was too late for me to change.
  • I felt stupid.
  • I hated my body.
  • I didn’t have the conditions set up right.
  • I felt incapable.
  • I used other Christians’ views to justify not trying what I was afraid I’d fail at.

In other words, I looked at all the reasons I shouldn’t even try, just to avoid falling over again.

This is exactly what happened, time and time again, when I began to make changes in our sex life.

For months, most of the time when I would stretch myself and take a risk, I would fall down in some way. I’d roll my eyes without thinking. I’d try to touch my husband sexually and would find that I just couldn’t make my hand do it. Time and time again, I stretched myself—and fell. It was a long time before I succeeded more often than I failed.

I cried a lot, thinking about how after so many years I’d never be able to change. I thought about how stupid I was to try things that I wasn’t physically capable of doing (like experiencing sexual desire for my husband). I hated my body. I felt incapable. I conveniently used other Christians’ views about what I should and shouldn’t do to convince myself that I shouldn’t have been doing what I was trying in the first place.

  • I thought it was too late for me to change.
  • I felt stupid.
  • I hated my body.
  • I didn’t have the conditions set up right.
  • I felt incapable.
  • I used other Christians’ views to justify not trying what I was afraid I’d fail at.

As I made the connection between my yoga failure and the sexual changes I’d made, it occurred to me that I just needed to slow down. The successes I’d experienced in making sexual changes provided a useful lesson. Slow down, and take it one baby step at a time.

Back on My Feet

I’ve been walking, and I can certainly increase that. I do want the flexibility and strength that I know I can get from yoga, I’m excited about enjoying my body again, and I’m looking forward to not having to wonder, What if I really tried instead of just talking and thinking about it all the time?

I’ve broken it down into baby steps. For now, I’ve decided I’m just going to do the warm-up exercises every day for a week or so. As pathetic as it sounds, even the warm-ups are more than what I’d been doing before. And I’ve been doing them every day since my first attempt at yoga.

It’s slow progress, but it’s still progress, and I can feel like I’m succeeding instead of failing. In other words, I completely lowered the bar for myself. It’s just a touch higher than where it was a few weeks ago (not so far out of reach that it feels unrealistic), but far enough away that I can feel myself stretching.

After my yoga incident and bout of crying the other day, my sense of humor allowed me to laugh at myself. I fell over, and even though I cried about it a lot, what matters most is that I got back up on my feet.

If you’re just getting started trying to make changes in your sex life (or are at the “I’m thinking a lot about it” stage), stretching yourself in this way can seem daunting. And when you make your first efforts, falling down can be enough to make you cry.

It’s tempting to look at all the reasons not to try. It’s easy to think you’ve waited too long, you hate your body, you lack the right conditions, and you might even think of what you think other Christians think or do rather than seek out God and His Word on your own—all to justify not trying.

Stretch yourself, and if you fall, know that it’s okay to cry for a while—as long as you get back up on your feet.

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shared with Calm.Healthy.Sexy. and To Love, Honor, and Vacuum

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11 Comments on “Learning to Stretch”

  1. You have to be one of the bravest and most inspiring people I’ve ever known. Your transparency and willingness to be vulnerable with the whole cyber world amazes me. I hope some day to become brave like you!

    1. Thank you, but true bravery would have involved video. I was so, so glad I had decided I wasn’t ready to take a class. In the midst of my tears, I thought about how much worse it would have been if there were true witnesses to my complete lack of grace.

      I’m not brave, just weak and very klutzy.

      1. You are brave!!!! and possibly klutzy, but my family always said my middle name should have been Grace (while they laughed at me failing at another sport, lol) so I won’t judge. 🙂

  2. Ironic … you’ve been so encouraging to me the past couple of days, and here I can attempt to encourage you. I teach a yoga class, that is I did until my 3rd child was born a few months ago. My knees hurt me, and occasionally give out. Yes, I have toppled over doing both lunges and Warrior poses. Sometimes in front of the class I’m teaching. Using more than one yoga mat stacked together helps. I’ve also had students who came wearing those volleyball style knee pads, I haven’t tried it myself but some folks swear by them. Also, I sometimes get sore from just doing warm up stuff. Even the warm up is pushing your body outside what it normally does on a day to day basis, so honestly, getting sore is not unusual. I hope you can find yoga to be enjoyable. After a little practice, doing yoga became one of the few things that make me feel pretty 🙂

      1. Totally normal 🙂 To continue your metaphor, the ballerina – perfect yoga video is no more realistic than love scenes in movies haha. And the more you practice and gain confidence, the more you can laugh it off when something awkward happens.

  3. Good for you to start on things that are new! I have been doing yoga for years and know you can find a very gentle yoga dvd out there. Keep taking tjose baby steps because yoga started the correct way is very beneficial for people of all fitness levels. Also, I practice Holy Yoga (holyyoga.net) and you may even find an instructor in your area! Your advice to start with baby steps is so wise and practical and can be applied to so many aspects of life… it’s definitely a strategy that works for you. And I know it inspires your readers, like me. Thanks for your transparency and sharing your journey with us!

  4. Your metaphors are always so wonderful! And this – What if I really tried instead of just talking and thinking about it all the time? Yes, thanks so much for the encouragement. I really need to deal with that in myself, not about yoga or sex but something entirely different. But that word of encouragement really helps me.

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