Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Spunky Senior Author Joanne Guidoccio Shares Her Yoga Trials and Her Mermaid Book

MY YOGA TRIALS by Joanne Guidoccio

 The blonde willow was out of her comfort zone.
She sighed deeply and tossed her Farrah Fawcett curls as she removed a borrowed parka, three sizes too big for her perfectly toned body. She was not impressed by winter in March and seven less-than-enthusiastic students in Sudbury, Ontario. She spoke at length about her personal journey as a California yogini, and then demonstrated her pretzel-like ability to contort her body in a variety of poses.

Impressed and intimidated, we did not look forward to the short lesson that would follow.

She did not consider our neophyte status. Instead, she continued with her favourite poses, and we all struggled to follow.

At one point, I developed a tickle in my throat and started coughing uncontrollably. I quickly left the room and closed the door behind me. I had a drink of water, but my cough persisted. I decided to remain outside until the end of the lesson.

I assumed the walls were soundproof, but I was wrong. I found out later that my loud and persistent cough was heard throughout the rest of the short yoga session. When I re-entered the room, I received a few looks of concern and pity. As for the blonde willow...she had become a blonde oak. She ignored me and left abruptly.

Fast forward twenty years.

My oncologist is talking about maintaining a healthy lifestyle after treatments. In addition to the usual advice about portion control, exercise and stress management, she strongly urged me to take up yoga. I smiled and tried not to show my frustration. While memories of the blonde willow/oak had faded, I still balked at the thought of forcing my body into difficult poses, especially after ten months of gruelling treatments. She persisted and I grudgingly agreed to give yoga another try.

I bought the clothes—sleek, black yoga pants from Roots and a few Life is Good t-shirts—and signed up for a weekly yoga class. The instructor was very charming and highly recommended. He gave each of us individual attention during the first class. At the beginning of the second class, the business cards came out and he started to talk about his many sideline businesses. I noticed that more time was spent promoting and selling his products and less time on the yoga mats. By the third class, women were taking out their cheque books and purchasing his wonder products. I was not impressed and did not return.

A few months later, I heard about a new yoga instructor who was offering classes in her own home. I decided to call first. She assured me there would be, at most, two other students in the class and that the course was geared for beginners with no previous experience. She sounded surprised when I asked if she had a sideline business and stressed that yoga was her main focus.

Reassured, I showed up and was pleased to see only two other students in the room. Within a few minutes, however, a third participant arrived. An active and poorly trained Boston terrier joined the class. She eyed me with interest. I was the new girl in class, fresh meat. The dog spent a lot of time circling and sniffing me throughout the hour-long class. As for what happened during Downward Dog...

Three yoga trials. Three strikes. Yoga was out.

All that changed during the second summer after retirement.

I had just picked up Wayne Dyer’s latest book, Excuses Begone! I read the entire book in two sittings and spent time reflecting on his message. I was drawn to his suggestion for practicing yoga. I kept returning to that section of the book and imagined myself having a conversation with the motivational guru.

“You must give it another try, Joanne. I’ve been practicing ninety minutes every day for the past four years and I’ve noticed a lot of positive changes. I got rid of all those aches and pains I inherited from three decades of daily running and tennis.”

“That’s wonderful, but I can’t see myself doing yoga every day. For one thing, I would have to take lessons. I don’t like following DVDs or books. I’m not a natural athlete.”

“So, take a few lessons. What’s the big deal?”

“I’ve tried that route before.” I gave him a brief summary of my three yoga trials.

He shook his head. “It sounds like you lasted only a few sessions. You have to give yoga an honest thirty-day trial.”

“Thirty days!” I exploded. I couldn’t imagine lasting that long. “Do you know how expensive that will be?”

He repeated, “Give yoga an honest thirty-day trial.” He added, with twinkle in his eye, “You’ll feel better and you may just stop making so many excuses.”He pointed to the cover of his book.

I was skeptical, but I had to admit he was right. I had not given yoga a fair trial, and I had a tendency to make excuses. I decided to wait until the fall and then investigate the different yoga studios in town.

A few days later, the following ad appeared in a local paper:

Unlimited Yoga during the months of July and August for $160

I shook my head and imagined Wayne Dyer laughing. The universe has spoken. No more excuses, Joanne.

I planned to attend three classes a week and see how I felt by the end of the summer.

I was hooked after the first week.

The classes were small and the instructors were able to work with me on an individual basis. I test-drove all the instructors and then zeroed in on my favourites: Amy, the social worker from Newfoundland who had completed her training in India; Claudia, the young mother who offered a structured class that appealed to my left brain tendencies; and Lisa, the quintessential willow.

I found myself looking forward to each session. There was something immensely comforting in the precision of the instructions: Inhale and raise both arms straight out from the shoulders parallel to the floor with the palms facing down…Exhale slowly while turning the torso to the left...One more long, luxurious inhalation, one more complete exhalation.

I found it easy to focus on the smallest of movements, regardless of the group size or time of day. I also liked listening to the soft, soothing Sanskrit names—balasana, garudasana, tadasana, savasana—that described the different poses. Much more interesting than simply hearing child pose, eagle pose, mountain pose or corpse pose.

When Lisa talked about controlling our monkey minds, I felt she was talking directly to me. I could also imagine Wayne Dyer whispering, “Control your mind, and everything will fall in place.”

It was reassuring to discover that all my body parts were working and reporting faithfully for yoga duty. I felt myself growing healthier and stronger with each stretch, breath and positive thought. And I didn’t feel pressured or frustrated if I didn’t get the pose right the first time or at all. I kept repeating the following mantra to myself: A yoga pose is a journey, not a destination.

I still have my personal challenges, but I am less reactive and more inclined to let things go. I like that strange, beautiful place where I can step out of time and leave all my concerns behind.


About Joanne Guidoccio:

In high school, I dabbled in poetry, but decided to wait until I had more life experiences before writing a novel. The original plan was to get a general arts degree and take a few years off to travel and write. Instead, I gave in to my practical Italian side and obtained degrees in mathematics and education.

While I experienced many satisfying moments during my teaching career, I never found the time and energy to write. In 2008, I took advantage of early retirement. Slowly, a writing practice emerged and my articles and book reviews started appearing in newspapers, magazines and online.

My debut novel, Between Land and Sea, a paranormal romance about a middle-aged mermaid, was released by Soul Mate Publishing on September 18, 2013.

I live and write in Guelph, Ontario.

About Between Land and Sea by Joanne Guidoccio
 After giving up her tail for an international banker, Isabella of the Mediterranean kingdom is aged beyond recognition. The horrified banker abandons her on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England, leaving her to face a difficult human journey as a plain and practically destitute fifty-three-year-old woman.
With the help of a magic tablet and online mermaid support, Isabella evolves into the persona of Barbara Davies. Along the way, she encounters a cast of unforgettable characters, among them former mermaids, supportive and not-so-supportive women, deserving and undeserving men, and several New Agers.

Where to find Joanne…
YouTube (Trailer #1):
YouTube (Trailer #2):

Please leave a comment to welcome Joanne Guidoccio to Spunky Senior Authors and Talents.


  1. Welcome to Spunky Senior Authors and Talents, Joanne. I've never tried yoga. It sounds like it could be relaxing. I love the cover art f or Between Land and Sea!

    Morgan Mandel

    1. Hi Morgan,

      Thank you for featuring me on Spunky Seniors. When I discovered the site in August, I was inspired by all the amazing women.

      Regarding yoga...

      The key is persevering and finding the right instructor.

      Joanne :)

  2. Hi, Joanne! I'm glad you found yoga (or it found you). I have tried yoga several times, but unlike you I never found it satisfying, even after several months. Not only do I have monkey mind, but I have monkey body! I need action. So I've been going to the gym for many years, and in the past few months have started doing a rigorous TRX training system. I love it. I think the important thing is that we keep exercising, whatever method we decide is right for us. It's not about trying to stay young forever--for me, it's about getting that wonderful feeling of being strong and focused.

    P.S. Loved the description of the first yoga teacher!

    1. Hi Terry,

      I agree...there is nothing like that wonderful feeling of being strong and focused.

      TRX sounds interesting. I'll look into it. I could use a rigorous supplement right now.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Joanne :)

  3. Hello Joanne, what a fun and informative post. I don't do yoga, but enjoy hiking and weight training. Keep up the good wok.

  4. Thanks for dropping by, Violetta. I also try to squeeze in one or two weight training sessions each week. Need to watch that bone health!

  5. I tried yoga. Didn't last long. I'll look for your book. Considering I used to be a mermaid, it's hard to pass up a book featuring a mermaid!

  6. An ex-mermaid in our midst...I'm intrigued! Happy reading, Helen :)

  7. Loved reading your post. Yoga and a mermaid -- sometimes swimming seems like water-yoga.

  8. Hi Gemma,
    Interesting connection between yoga and mermaids. Thanks for dropping by, Gemma :)


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