As Winter looms, it dawns on me that the couch where I will spend much of the ensuing months bundled in the cocoon-like security of a five dollar 100% polyester Walmart blanket that has no business being that soft and comforting must also be accompanied by some sort of physical exertion.
The sciatic pain, the lethargy, the extra pounds, all calling to me like an exasperated mother whose child is late for the school bus.
My inner voice has threatened to go to the gym for months, but my body is a stubborn sonofabitch. The red flag of vacation pictures where cut off shorts are more circulation cut-offs than anything signals the final straw. And so I take that straw…out of the milkshake and slap on the only yoga clothes that still don’t make me look like I showed up on Halloween as a Johnsonville Brat.
It’s going to take some time getting back into the groove, building strength, stamina and endurance and re-learning how to lift my legs up off the floor. I’m not sporty. During a hike last week, a friend asked if I walk a lot. My answer was “Yes, I walk a lot. I walk from the car to the store, the car to the house, the couch to the refrigerator.” Come to think of it, I walk a LOT to the refrigerator. That has to count for something.
I realize upon arrival that it’s not going to be so bad after all. The room is darkened, and frankly, any exercise class that ends with five full minutes of lying flat on your back, eyes closed, zoning out is at the top of on my list.
The diminutive, soft spoken Indian woman who teaches the class welcomes me, offering to coach me through my long awaited return to Vinyasa Yoga. Her accent enhances the whole experience. I picture myself in Bombay on a straw mat doing yoga while the scent of cardamom and incense wafts above my well toned imaginary frame. But secretly I’m wondering where I can score some really good Rogan Josh with a side of naan.
Suddenly I realize we’re not in Bombay anymore Dorothy. We’re in some kind of yoga boot camp and this little spitfire yogi is putting us through the paces. You mean this isn’t Gentle Yoga? And why is the seventy year old next to me whipping himself into the tripod position no problem, while I look like a drunk labrador trying to balance against a fire hydrant? But okay, I’m up for the challenge. If seventy year old Sid Hartha over here can hold a warrior pose for five whole minutes, I can certainly fight the good fight no matter how humiliating and uncomfortable this turns out to be.
“Just listen to her instructions even though you have no idea what she’s talking about and for the love of God, do what they do.” my obnoxious inner voice urges me.
Yogi: Lower yourself onto the matt, plank position, deep in hell…downward facing dog…deep in hell…and back up to warrior one…deep in hell…”
Yes! Oh, yes! I love this woman. Such pluck. She’s teaching this self inflicted voodoo, but she gets it. She knows this is hard. She’s not sugar coating it. Her mama didn’t raise no fool. We’re here huffing and puffing our way toward a strengthened core, a more balanced mind and a centered, spiritual sense of well being and the road leading to all that freaking serenity is nothing but a detour through Hell. I like her. She’s got a sense of humor. She’s telling it like it is. Keeping it real. She’s leading me toward intensity through Ganesh at a point when I was doomed to density through ganache.
Head down, determined as ever to contort my body into Vinyasa perfection, I hear heavy breathing in and out all around me, but I don’t make eye contact. Instead, I follow the surrounding blurred forms, as I’ve taken my glasses off in an attempt at better focus. This is intense! Old Sid sounds like he’s either reaching Nirvana or a cardiac arrest, while the woman to my left is either climaxing or about to pass out. Deep in Hell. Indeed.
Several rounds of plank, downward facing dog, warrior one in quick succession follow until the blessed cool down, aka five minute meditative zoid out commences. The Yogi’s soothing voice coaxes us to leave all our thoughts and worries behind, to lose ourselves in the nothingness of the moment. To be part of the ether. And then…deep in hell.
Wait – what? It’s all good now, right? The hard part’s over.
Yogi: Let it out…then…deep in hell…
Everyone breathes in deeply.