So, I tried yoga for the first time last weekend. The night before, I’d been at my favorite bar with my friend and girlfriend, and they were extolling to me the virtues of this ancient physical/spiritual/mental practice. You see, I’m very impressionable, especially when I’ve been drinking, and it sounded like a great idea.
I haven’t been feeling all that well lately. Nothing bad, mind you, just sore and stiff and out of shape. I have a very stressful job that takes up way too much of my time and energy. Really, I thought yoga would be the easiest way to go: I could exercise AND relax at the same time, get my mind right while I worked out my body. That’s multi-tasking, dude.
My girlfriend had been trying to get me to do yoga with her for weeks. We’d tried a few times, but were never able to coordinate our vastly different schedules with that of the yoga studio we wanted to check out. In truth, I wasn’t too upset about this. I’d rather spend what free time I have going to restaurants or bars or just lounging around the house playing video games. I mean, I like to be active or whatever, I guess, but honestly I was scared shitless to try yoga. I’ve seen how bendy you have to get, and I have a hard enough time bending down to tie my shoes. If I’m going to humiliate myself in public, I’d rather do it wailing out “Teenage Dirtbag” at karaoke. It’s a real crowd-pleaser, and I’m usually so sauced when I sing it, I barely notice that people are laughing at me and not with me.
But there I was at my favorite bar, two Guinnesses and a couple of Jameson on the rocks in, and as we were getting ready to leave, the bartender, whom we’d been chatting with all night, said to the three of us, “Hey, do you want me to buy you a shot before you go?” And of course we said yes, and as I slapped my empty shot glass down on the bar top, I said to my girlfriend, “Yeah, let’s do yoga tomorrow.”
When I woke up the next morning, I remembered my promise. Unfortunately, so did she. We opted to go to the “gentle” yoga class offered at a studio near our house. It was gentle, right? What could go wrong?
I’d been warned that I’d hate it my first time. That didn’t really get me excited to give it a go, but I figured, like any kind of exercise, it was going to suck starting out, especially since I’ve been more or less inert the past year or so. Still, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but scoff. I mean, like, it’s just posing and stretching or whatever. It’s not like I’d be trying to bench press a pachyderm. When we got there, a kindly woman quite a bit older than me greeted us. She had a very relaxed demeanor and a calming voice. As it turned out, she was our instructor. My scoffing seemed justified. After all, if she could do it…
So there I was. On a mat. Barefoot in public, which always weirds me out, and sitting cross-legged as that yoga-y music played softly in the background. The studio smelled nice. I started to feel at peace. You know, I didn’t even mind being barefoot…in public.
Then we started posing and whatever sense of peace I was feeling was quickly shattered.
If I had the money to hire a lawyer, I probably could have sued the studio for false advertising. “Gentle” seemed to be a total misnomer. The instructor urged the class to focus on “the breath,” but I had a difficult time focusing on anything as I huffed and strained and did my best to contort my flab into the positions our matronly looking instructor was able to fold herself into with ease. At one point, we sat with the soles of our (bare) feet touching and were instructed to stretch our arms straight out, clasp our hands together, entwine our fingers and extend our index fingers. We were then told to focus on the point our index fingers had made and bend forward and hold and focus some more and breathe. The last bit was the most difficult part.
“Feel the electricity flow through your fingers,” the instructor said. If by electricity she meant “searing pain,” then I definitely felt it, but it wasn’t just flowing through my fingers.
When we got to the part where you rest and reflect or whatever, the teacher said to take stock of how our bodies felt. Admittedly, I felt awful, but I was kind of stoked that I made it through, and I didn’t even complain. I mean, not audibly. The good thing about having a column is you can complain all you want without making a bunch of noise. That’s a much more holistic way to go about things. Give it a try sometime. Namaste.