Yoga And Me
Yoga and Me
By Jill Morley
GROUPON – 20 classes for $20
Might as well try it again.
Yoga Class #1
"Is anyone here new to yoga?" my lovely gluten-free LuLu Lemon yoga instructor asks. I know she’s legit because I can smell a hint of Tofurkey on her breath.
A few hands raise.
"Brand spanking new?"
My hand creeps up. As usual, I am terrified to speak in front of a group of people I don't know, especially one in which I feel like an outsider.
In boxing gyms, I feel right at home. It's a safehouse for ragtags. I know it's strange to feel more comfortable in a place that is predominantly male, where we pound the crap out of bags and each other, but it's familiar. After some years of training and six amateur fights, it has become Home.
I sputter, "I've tried yoga a few times and um,...I keep trying to like it."
Some people in the class laugh, and I am pretty sure I see an eye roll on a corner mat.
The instructor, Lola, brings over two "bricks" and a blanket. At first, I think that just from looking at me, she can tell I am special. That I can do all sorts of amazing things that the others most likely, cannot. After all, I am a boxer. I learn that the brick and blanket are to help extremely tight people get into poses. Shove a brick under a thigh that cannot reach the ground on its own, or a blanket under your ass if you cannot sit up straight. I decide to call them the "brick and blanket of shame."
I have flirted with yoga at different times throughout my life but while I long to love it, it's only resulted in one-night stands. I found it boring, painful, bourgious, and spiritually arrogant. I remember a yoga teacher saying he would never eat an apple that was sitting on a weight machine because it would have absorbed all the aggressive energy of the type of people who lift weights. You know, those people.
Then, there’s the practictioners who take such pride in doing their extreme standing splits while I’m in pain just trying to straighten a leg. This also enrages me. I know from doing other sports that you have to start at a very humble place and be patient. You are not going to be Muhammad Ali after a week or two of boxing... or most likely ever, but you can become a force to be reckoned with if you work at it diligently over time. Ego is a bitch.
Yoga is supposed to be about "the journey." It's not a competition, but my competitive spirit has always gotten in the way of enjoying it. How can that skinny bitch jump her legs straight through her arms like an Olympic gymnast when I would break my fucking toes? As I get older, I’m learning the value of letting myself be where I am and not judging it. “Stay on your own mat,” a wise yoga practitioner once told me. There is no trophy. No medal. No purse. It's just “practice.”
I'm probably trying too hard to do the poses right because I know how important technique is and my mind has a tendency to think random thoughts. What do these people do in their real lives? Are they in some kind of cult? Why can’t I concentrate on the pose instead of wondering if they have orgies here where they wear animal masks? It doesn't help that the girl in front of me has on see through tights and is wearing no underwear. I’m too jealous of her body to get any kind of thrill out of it. Damn me for being straight, but my eyes keep drifting over as she downward dogs.
In boxing, when you get a combination wrong on the mitts, it's not completely out of place to utter, "Fuck! Mother Fucker. It's not a big deal. But, in this candlelit room reeking of lavendar oil, a few whispery MFers escape my lips. I catch a dirty look from the woman on the left.
I mouth, “Fuck you.” In my world, when I get super frustrated motherfucker happens. Yogi wrong.
"Everyone step forward, or if you want to challenge yourself, jump your legs through your arms," says Lola as she effortlessly hops through, her wavy hair bouncing like a Tresseme commercial. I slowly step through. But the girls in front of me, next to me, and one of the guys up front, jumps right through. I take comfort knowing I could beat the crap out of every one of them. Practice, I think to myself, and continue on.
"Plank position," Lola gently commands. Oh, it's like a push up.
"Into Chaturanga," Lola says as she lowers herself to the ground, but doesn't touch it. Having done twenty million pushups over the last few years, I do this with her. She sees how easily I execute, gets up and stands next to me.
"Plank," she says. I effortlessly push back up, pleased that she can see I don't totally suck.
"Chaturanga," she says, watching. I lower myself back down slowly, almost in defiance. We do this a few times. The last time she says "Plank" I burst up, arms trembling, with the loud grunt of a power lifter. Yogi wrong and for that matter, not very feminine. I look around to see if other people are planking. Some are in "child's pose" (resting) and others have their knees to the ground. I become embarrassed that to them, I am like the skinny bitches jumping through their yoga arms.
At the end of class, I am sweating and even though I haven't been pounding on bags, jumping rope or sparring, I feel invigorated. It's a different kind of invigoration. Perhaps because it's selectively strenuous, focusing on breath. That, and I’m not getting punched in the face.
At the end, there’s always some sort of silent meditation and when you leave the room, you feel more centered, focused and charitable. After class, Lola tells me I am super strong and asks what kind of athlete I am, which makes me like her even more. I tell her I am a boxer. She hugs me like she knows my soul.
I help myself to some tea and watch an older dorky guy get shot down by a very pretty blond 21 year old.
"These chairs are really comfortable right?" he says.
“Your jeans?” She asks.
“No,” he says, “The chairs.”
She nods and goes back to texting.
I realize the older guy is probably my age. Fuck.
Peacefully, I float to the parking garage, take a breath and start my car. How long will this contentment last? The cars are backed up in a line and I can feel my impatience awakening, cracking her knuckles and asking what the hell? Why is it taking so long to get out of here? Are these people in the booths mentally challenged or retardedly old? I want to smash them! I remind myself, that I am not in a rush and marvel at what a different culture this yoga thing is. I want to come back, even though yoga people seem to think that rancid broccoli farts are “natural.”
Yoga Class #2
Inspired by the girl from my first class, to avoid unsightly panty lines, I go commando. Unlike that girl, my tights are opaque. I am open to new things and experiences, but this felt a little too "Free Wilma." Next time, thong. Another bad wandering thought. Yogi wrong.
I’m wearing my favorite T-Shirt that says, "I Eat Lightning and Crap Thunder." Not sure if I'm doing it to be rebellious or ironic.
The classes are primarily women, which, makes me uncomfortable. I know at the boxing gym the guys aren’t looking at what labels I’m wearing or if my nails are properly manicured. I prefer hearing conversations about the chick they banged the night before instead of which is the master cleanse.
I worry that things that go unnoticed in a boxing gym, might not fly here. For example, I might smell. Bad.
“Everyone sit up straight,” Lola purrs. “If you can’t sit up straight, put a blanket under your sitz bones. My what? I sit up straight sans blanket and see her staring at me. She walks over. What’s the problem? She places a blanket under my ass.
“I’m fucking sitting up straight!” I want to yell at her. Perhaps my years of being hunched forward in a fighting stance has forced my body out of whack. I have to be open to that. I notice the girl next to me is wearing a Stella Artois T-Shirt and also cannot sit up straight without a blanket. I immediately know my people when I see them.
Even though it’s my second class, it’s already easier to downward dog. I try to straighten my calves.
Stella Artois girl smiles at me and nods. An alliance has been formed.
I only drop the F-Bomb once throughout the entire class. I must be getting better.