About two months ago my sister Nora convinced me to join a gym. This was just as firewood and gardening season were picking up speed, two facts that didn’t co-register until my muscles began to point out the connection.
“I can’t go to Core Strength class today; I have to pick up and cut and stack firewood.”
Or, to my friend Dawn, co-conspirator in finding and hauling home dead trees of other people, “I can’t go hunt firewood today, I have to go to Zumba.”
It got complicated, and between the classes and the workload and my day job at a desk, I found stiff parts and sore stuff that hadn’t been there before.
That’s how I came to invent Appalachian yoga. A couple of days ago, still in my pjs, I went out to pick the abundant black raspberries growing on our little homestead. Hard rain had fallen last night, and one of the best spots requires walking under a kind of topiary arch, which of course would shower my thin cotton jammies and me with cold water if I touched it.
Sneaking between the bushes to my favorite picking spot, I observed a cluster of ripe berries just out of reach. One leg lift over the low thorny vines, a careful placement, toe up for balance, lean forward, back leg extended for balance….
Thus was Appalachian yoga born. I call that one “the berry picker.” It has two variations: “the berry picker and the mosquito,” which focuses on agility motions with hand slapping, and “the berry picker and the dropped bucket,” which involves core strength because you have to bend down at the waist without losing your back leg extension and scoop up the fallen object.
Discussing this with Nora as we prepared for Low-Impact aerobics, she felt the idea was an instant winner. We quickly invented “Milking recalcitrant cow” and “pulling pokeweed from the root,” both involving simultaneous dexterity and core strength.
Other moves (patent pending) may include “the chop that goes wide,” in which you fling your arms over your head, and then downward, hands joined in a single fist, to try and hit an imaginary target. We also have “the chainsaw,” in which you lock fists, squat so your knees and toes are aligned and your butt is pushed back, and shake for 30 seconds.
“Pulling the ivy” is an upward thrust of one hand, other down for balance, and a shift of weight from one leg to the other, leg up with toe point, leg back with squat. If you’ve ever pulled Virginia creeper from a tree, you don’t need further instruction. There is a variation, “pulling poison ivy,” which repeats the move from the ground up, but adds a sudden swift revolving circle of toe-hopping panic running and a primal scream.
Finally, “chasing the chickens”: you power walk, legs wide, toward a location, shuffle sideways without turning, and then race forward for 10 seconds, all while flapping your arms.
Nora and I plan to introduce this class to the good people at the Wytheville Community Center soon. We are sure it will be popular.