We go around the room, introducing ourselves and sharing how long we have “practiced.”
And that is one of the reasons I am not good at yoga. Also, I am not flexible (does this make me less sexy? I’m pretty sure it does). Also, I have scoliosis. Not in a serious way. Just in a “Your spine is a little too curved” way. It makes my lower back look especially cute, the doctor said I looked like a dancer (a dancer! I must be pretty!). It makes my upper back and shoulders look not cute at all– more like a turtle (a dancing turtle!). It’s hard for me to put my shoulders back. Which means it’s hard for me to look like a queen. Which is a major disappointment.
So the hardest pose for me is the one where you sit with your legs straight in front of you and then bend over them, from the waist. My back won’t let me bend. I’m sitting straight up, and everyone is touching their toes. Even the pregnant woman in the back. How is that even possible? Even the seventy-year-old dude in the very tight pants.
I am also bad at downward facing dog, which feels shameful. Downward facing dog is clearly the most important pose. They keep coming back to it. Everything ends in it. No matter what you do, you end up in downward facing dog, contemplating the fickle, meandering course of your life.
(have you noticed that the mats are always in soothing colors? source)
“You know what’s the most relaxing pose?” my mom said.
I waited, dreading it.
“Downward facing dog. You’ll see.”
Damn it. What if I never see?
The thing is, my hands fill with blood. I can feel it happening. All of the blood from my arms is draining into them. It’s disgusting. They are swelling. They are blood balloons. They might pop.
Oh god, what if my hands actually burst? Has that ever happen to anyone before? What if I have some weird condition that no one would’ve known about if I’d never done yoga? This was a terrible idea!
“Four more breaths…Look at your hands. Are the fingers spread? Are they embracing the mat?”
Don’t look at your hands. Don’t you dare look! They might be purple. The veins might all be standing out. Wait, are those little pink specks burst blood vessels? Shit– I’m probably having a hand aneurysm.
“And one more….that’s right…Let your hips float up to the ceiling. You’re all doing beautifully.”
Not me. I’m a freak.
(I’m tellin’ ya… source)
I have to keep shaking out my right hand, so it doesn’t explode– so blood doesn’t end up spattering the sleek blond ponytail of the slender, stunning girl in the Columbia tank top next to me. I am like a three-legged dog. I’m also panting a little. I feel people’s eyes on me. It’s possible they’re wondering if I have rabies.
It goes on and on. I think I’ve got the balancing stuff– where you’re a tree. But then I overthink it and the tree topples. I can’t do anything that involves rocking.
“Rock gently back and forth on your sitz bones.”
Ow. Ow. Hell no.
An hour and fifteen minutes of sweat and failure and twisting into strange positions, with the soothing, reassuring voice of the instructor drifting over everything.
And then we are finally resting, in shavasana, which is the one where you’re supposed to be like a dead person, I think. I love it. I know I’m supposed to close my eyes, but I can’t, for some reason. I’m lying there, flat on my back, staring up at the skylight, which has a tarp over it, and the hanging ferns, which someone thought should be there, for some reason. No, I understand why– they’re lovely. So green and alive against the blankness of the ceiling and the white tarp, through which a little light from the faraway sky seeps in. My eyes are so relaxed, I can’t close them. I need to stare into nothingness.
We lie there for ages.
And then my mind does what it always does. It goes to my work. It goes to my problems.
“You’re falling behind. You should be doing something productive. Make something of yourself!” (This is how my mind is always talking to me. It has a slight Yiddish accent).
The bad egg darkness tries to squirm inside.
But a funny thing happens.
It’s like there’s a wall. A clean, white wall. The darkness is coming up against it, pounding on it, but I’m on the other side, and the pounding is muted. It sounds like a drum in the distance. It’s kind of nice. I am so utterly relaxed that I don’t care about what I’m supposed to be doing. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be doing exactly this.
(this is basically how my mind looked. source)
I can’t remember what I’ve ever worried about. I try. It’s weird. Why can’t I? I try to think of someone I really hate. Is there anyone? Maybe not. No one comes to mind (not even this guy).
So weird. So nice. Damn it, where’s my cynicism? What the hell?
I don’t want it to stop.
But it does, eventually, and then my friend and I go get huge sandwiches, and eat them. Which is really nice, too.
* * *
Did you guys know that could happen from yoga? Does physical exercise ever change the way you think? I feel like I got spiritually ambushed or something.
Unroast: Today I love the way my nails look, with mismatching nail polish, chipping off.
P.S. Thank you everyone who told me I should do yoga, even though I thought it was lame and that I was a rebel because I didn’t do it. I still feel like a rebel, I guess. In other ways.
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