Every time my yoga instructor starts talking about the mystical yogis that could melt the snow around them while they meditated or who sat for weeks under ancient banyan bushes, I keep thinking about the only yogi I’m familiar with, the one who wears a hat and steals pic-anic baskets.
“Hey Boo-boo, look at me in Balancing Bear.”
He wonders why I smile a lot during class — my instructor, not Yogi. Hopefully he doesn’t think I’m disrespecting an ancient tradition. It took me 44 years to finally embrace yoga even though for about the past 20 years I’ve faked it pretty well. My hip friends at parties talk about the difficult times they’ve had with certain yogic poses and I always make some kind of joke about photo poses, “Yeah, my least favorite pose is distracted super-model.”
But until now I’ve carried the deep, embarrassing secret that I’ve never even looked up yoga on Google, let alone practiced its craft other than my favorite position that I fall into every night, ‘Corpse Pose.’
Now though, now I can write an essay about the benefits and life-altering habits that stem from rigorous adherence to the ancient Hindi art, even though I’ve only had five Thursday night classes so far at our nearby community center. It’s shameful how I embrace something full-throttle only to consider abandoning it when the writer’s strike is over and Must-See-TV returns with all new episodes.
The creaks and pops and snaps emanating from my body remind me of a Rice Krispies commercial and the insane way I sweat during the middle of winter makes me think that melting snow around the aforementioned yogic masters was really just a pool of perspiration.
Still, I love the karmic, cosmic connectedness that comes from practicing a craft which engages my entire mind and body. And it doesn’t hurt that I’m the only consistent male attendee in a sea of women, including my 14-year-old daughter. It makes me stand out. It makes me special. If I don’t hold a balance pose long enough it’s okay, I’m a guy.
Although I must admit, my lack of flexibility makes me stand out a little too much. One woman on the mat ahead and slightly to the right of me is in fine shape, looks great and can hold any position for as long as the instructor asks us to. I found out early on that she’s much older than me, even though outwardly she looks to be in her mid-20s. But she’s a great one to crib notes from and watch to make sure I’m not doing something stupid. I quickly readjusted my right leg when we were down on all fours when I realized the pose shouldn’t at all resemble Stray Dog Peeing.
But the biggest confession I have to make and the one that absolutely nobody likes to talk about is how tough it is stifling farts during class. Fact is, my body all twisted, contorted and stretched, doesn’t like to clench back gas at the same time. No, I haven’t let one rip … yet. But there’s always the very real possibility that a quick release will occur while I’m deeply focused on other bodily stretches. “P.U. Boo-boo.”
I was hoping to lose a little holiday weight that I packed on too. The morning after my first class I stepped onto the scale and was blown away with a resounding two-pound drop. “Keep this up,” I thought, “And by bikini season I’ll …”
Sadly, each successive Friday morning hasn’t shown ANY loss whatsoever. Maybe it’s the bottled micro-brews my buddy Justin sent me illegally in the mail from southern Indiana.
Obviously it’s too early to tell whether or not this practice will become part of my life or whether, like my resolution to get my Masters degree, it will fall by the wayside after only a couple courses.
For now, I can appreciate the new flexibility it’s brought to my otherwise suburbanly static stature. I can knowledgeably converse with my co-worker who extols the virtues of a far more vigorous yogic regime. Yet the biggest revelation, by far, is what I just noticed while writing this. I’m sitting flat on the floor, with my legs pulled up crossed underneath me. My laptop rests easily on my lap and by all accounts I’m amazingly comfortable and got into this position without even realizing it, Downward Dad.
2018 (ten years later)
My personal yoga instructor just applauded my efforts. A jingle-jangle of bells and horns sounded as my banked hours changed colors to a now golden hue. Such is the life of a star yoga student in the virtual world of Wii.
While my dogs bark at the neighbors who have the audacity to shovel their snow, I’m safe and warm during this latest barrage. Don’t they realize (the dogs AND the neighbors) that exercise is much better when you do it in front of a television?
I can consistently nail the Half-Moon pose (which really, is just standing straight and bending left or right). I’m also pretty darn good at the Deep-Breathing pose (which really, is just standing there). The other Wii avatars representing my family are in deep slumber as my Mii shows off in front of them, doing poses I couldn’t possibly do in real life.
The onscreen instructor wants me to brag to the others about how my bank changed colors. She encourages me to explain that I’ve reached the penultimate gold goal. I guess that’s supposed to shame them into joining me for Warrior, Sun Salutation or any other pose that doesn’t require balance. Fortunately, this program doesn’t offer Child’s Pose, because I would probably use it extensively to reach platinum level if there is such a thing. I thought the whole point of yoga was to be non-competitive.
I like doing this alone. I feel serene. Nobody’s behind me snickering at how badly I suck at Chair or Triangle (and don’t even get me started on how silly I look doing Palm Tree). Downward Dog is my jam; thank goodness no one else on the planet has to witness it though.
In my first book, I wrote a chapter entitled Yoga Bear in which I pointed out how embarrassing it was to do this along with a class full of older/better yogis and yoginis. At that point, my body sounded like a Rice Krispies commercial; snap, crackle pop (or poop, when I bent too far the wrong way).
But these days, with the living room substituting for a yoga studio, I can pretend that I’m a master even though I’m sometimes admonished by my instructor’s words saying “that seemed a little rough, you pansy.” In all honesty, she says it much nicer. But I hear what I wanna hear. What kind of person am I when I imbue my pixelated partner with passive-aggressive tendencies?
Speaking of which, the distant sound of snow blowers has aroused my own downward facing dogs and they’re barking at the neighbors once again. I suppose now that I’m all stretched and relaxed, it’s best if I got out there and moved some snow. Hopefully my shovel will change to gold in the process or at least my teen daughter will pitch in before heading off to the community center for a “real” work out.