Yoga. For some, this word conjures up images of peaceful relaxation: Deep, intentional breaths taken and released into the vastness of the universe, with the grace of a white dove soaring through a crimson sky. For others, the word triggers an image of something more along the lines of hot, synchronized, expensive group exercise for skinny college girls, and lean-muscled men. And for others, like myself, when someone says yoga, I think of yogurt. Frozen yogurt, more specifically, pumped into a paper cup by a machine that always makes it look like a surprisingly appetizing little turd, and covered in six dollars worth of cookie crumbs and chocolate chips,
Yet for some reason, a few weeks ago I decided I needed to jump on the bandwagon, because obviously the best time to start a fitness regimen is when you can’t put on your shoes without hiss-groaning. Around the same time I decided to become a doer of the yoga, an offer for discounted prenatal yoga showed up in my email, which some might call an Ohmmmmmen, so I snatched that puppy up and didn’t think much more about it.
Since then, each week my husband has asked, “Are you going to go to yoga tonight?” to which I would reply, “Nahhhhhh. I think I, uh, feel, ya know, so weird or something…like, in my elbow. And my, um, my, what would you call this? My rib?” All while eating ice cream out of the carton, and gesturing wildly at my entire right side.
Well one random day last week I decided it was time to stop screwing around and just do the damn thing. I donned my yoga pants, for yoga, and nervously made my way to class. Walking in and taking in the clean, open and welcoming expanse of the space, I immediately felt the urge to panic-fart. Candles were lit, and calming music danced out of hidden speakers, while a small fountain tinkled delicately behind a sheer curtain. Seated around the outskirts of the room were a handful of other pregnant women, all with very serious looks on their faces, stretching intently while rubbing their stomachs. Panic quickly turned to terror as two major problems identified themselves:
- I don’t do yoga.
- I don’t do serious.
But not having a problem rubbing my stomach, I started doing that while thinking about the lasagna I had waiting for me at home.
Before too long, class began and a kind, patient woman started talking us through some pretty basic breathing exercises, which went a little something like this:
“I want you to close your eyes. Feel the weight of your limbs. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Think about what you are feeling,” she urged, calmly.
A picture of a hot serving of lasagna pops into my minds eye.
“Think about what has its claws in you.”
Well I wouldn’t say it has its claws in me, per se, but I do really like lasagna.
“Think about it, and when you exhale, picture it in a balloon and let it float away.”
Oh my god, don’t let my lasagna float away! Seriously. I spent way too long making that lasagna to let it float away. Please come back to me, lasagna!
For those of you wondering, this is an actual, serious, and verbatim rendering of what was happening in my head while I was supposed to be focusing on my breathing and the feeling of my body. Me, picturing a plate of lasagna in a balloon, floating away while I pouted helplessly beneath it, begging for it not to leave me.
The rest of the class was no different. Like a deer who has accidentally wandered onto an icy pond, my brain bounced and skittered around, barely able to focus on anything other than how loud the woman next to me was breathing, and the overwhelming, yet pleasant, smell of peppermint (I’m not entirely sure the two weren’t related). The movements felt unnatural, and my weak muscles protested even the most gentle of extended postures. I grimaced and squatted my way through the routine, and said a silent prayer of thanks to anyone who was listening when we returned to a seated position and she turned the lights back off for a moment of reflection.
“I want you to picture something you’re grateful for. Something that brought you joy and pleasure today,” the instructor prompted. And oddly enough, rather than the plate of lasagna that had been haunting me for the last hour, the sound of my baby’s sweet laughter, and a picture of my her and my husband’s smiling faces as they said goodbye to me on my way to yoga shone vividly behind my eyelids. Their eyes were twinkling and the skin glowed. It was a moment both so powerful and unexpected it nearly brought me to tears.
And just like that, yoga stopped being a joke.
My vinyasa may leave something to be desired, and my downward dog is nothing short of depressing, but if struggling through an hour of
torture yoga can help me somehow focus my mind, even for a second, to stop and be grateful in a most sincere and honest way? Well then it’s worth drop of boob sweat dripped onto a borrowed mat, and every penny spent on a discount five class pass. I can’t wait to go back. You know, after this, uh weirdness in my, uh, my pinky toe subsides.