To me, exercise has never been exercise unless it ends with my near lifeless body laying in a collapsed lump on the ground in grave danger of drowning in the gallons of sweat pouring off of itself.
So, basically, I’m a long distance runner. But after my first appointment with the Dragon Lady, I knew my running days were behind me, at least while we were trying to get pregnant. Because, as the Dragon Lady says,
“You run, you move hormones up and down up and down all bad!”
So when I asked her what kinds of exercise I should be doing, she said that word. That word I’d been hearing over and over again and automatically vetoing in my brain for the last 10 years.
It’s not that I’m against yoga. In truth, I never really understood what yoga was. I just vaguely knew that it involved bending, bowing and singing. And those are ing words I don’t really partake in. At least not in public.
I also knew that yoga is a quiet, reflective form of exercise. So there would be no unquiet music or unquiet machines to cover the noise of the unquiet things my bowels do when they’re being exercised. I can’t help it, it just happens. Runners, you understand.
But when the Dragon Lady tells me to do something, by god, I freaking do it. So I search online and find a somewhat unintimidating-looking yoga studio near my house. And come Saturday morning, I grab my cheap yoga mat that has previously served as my post-long-run, lay-down-and-try-not-to-die mat, and walk into my first ever yoga class.
I tell the happy, stretchy, incense-enveloped instructor lady at the sign-in desk “I’ve never done this before and I can’t even touch my toes. But look, I have a mat!” I have no idea why I tell her that, or why I am proud of the fact I have my own mat. She happily assures me that I will be just fine and she will help me through class.
I realize then what I have done to myself. I have graduated myself from likely being That Girl Who Farts In Class to That Girl Who Farts In Class And Needs All The Special Help. Reluctantly, I enter the room where my painful humiliation will take place.
As people are entering and settling on their mats, I make a few observations.
- Yoga people hug. A Lot. And there are lots and lots of reasons for the hugging: Not seeing each other for so long. Seeing each other sooner than expected. Someone having given someone else assistance on a backbend last week. Someone looking good in purple, etc. Suddenly, I feel naked from the hug I am not wearing.
- Everyone has smooth under-feet. Everyone, except me. Holy shit, I need to start scrubbing the skin off my under-feet pronto.
- I really should have gotten here earlier. The only places left to lay down my mat and prepare for torture are front and center or a tiny back corner right under a shelf.
I opt for the tiny back corner under the shelf. The happy, stretchy, incense-enveloped instructor enters the room and tells everyone to enter Child’s Pose. I frantically look around the room to see what everyone else is doing, and I try follow suit.
The next hour or so is a lot like that. Happy, Stretchy Incense-Enveloped Instructor Lady says something I don’t understand, people all start bending and moving in different ways, I stare at them and try to mimic their arms, their legs, their toes, their deep breathy nose sounds. And I realize that I must be mildly succeeding, because Happy, Stretchy Incense-Enveloped Instructor Lady is walking around the room to slightly reposition people, and she has not had to come and adjust me once. Add on to that the fact that I haven’t let one single fart squeak out, and I can’t help but think to myself, I AM A YOGA GODDESS!
I contemplate quitting my job to spend my days practicing poses, burning incense, and perfecting my henna tattoo art while eating only granola. I do like granola.
Then the cool down, meditation part begins. My newfound ego is rocked to its core when I realize I am terrible at closing my eyes, laying perfectly still and clearing my mind of all things. I find myself wanting to have one eye partially open, just to make sure that everyone isn’t silently standing around me, laughing at the new girl who fell for this old close-your-eyes-and-lay-still trick.
Despite all my effort, thoughts keep cropping up in my mind. Clear mind. Clear mind. Clear mind. Shit we need paper towels. Clear mind. Clear mind. Granola is crunchy. Clear Mind. Clear mind. Taco Bell. Clear mind. Mustard socks. Why is this so hard?!
Before I know it, we’re all sitting upright singing chants and bowing and class is over. And I am strangely addicted. I want more. More bending. More stretching. More bowing. More singing. More of the ing things I swore I’d never do.
Until the next morning when I step out of bed and it suddenly feels like my muscles all took part in an experimental drug trial and didn’t tell me. But I vow to go back to yoga again.
And, in fact, I have, every week for the last 5 weeks or so. I’m actually making progress, I think. My arms no longer shake when I’m in Downward Dog. And I can now clear my mind for about forty seconds before thoughts of lunch start creeping in. One of the other instructors even knows my name. On second thought, that may be a bad thing.
And it’s made me think that motherhood must be a lot like toes. So easy for most people to reach out and grab hold of. But for me, it’s just going to take a little time and stretching.