I have never taken a yoga class before for this simple reason. It kind of scares me. I don't much get into "new age" spirituality, nor do I believe in "listening to my body" while I work out. If I "listened to my body" I would let it have cookies n' cream ice cream and sit on the couch while watching E! True Hollywood Stories. Today, however, when I awoke with a pounding migraine (it seriously felt like two sumo wrestlers were boffing in my skull), sore, and stressed beyond all comprehension, I knew something had to give. I pulled Sam aside at work. "Can I have a two-minute bitch session?" I asked her, somewhat aggressively. Then I told her I was at the point where I was so stressed my body literally was collapsing upon itself like a neutron star. "All I do is eat and work and sleep," I whined. "And I do way too much of the first two and not nearly enough of the third." Sam suggested we look into a yoga class that night, "It's a great way to relax and de-stress, and it's also a workout!" I agreed. I started to get really excited and felt very smug and proud I was taking this enlightened step to align my body and soul.
When we walked into the studio we selected that night, however, I started to get a little nervous. First, there were no mirrors. How was I going to criticize my awkward body and poor flexibility if I couldn't obsessively compare myself to everyone else in the mirror? Secondly, it was hot. I mean, uncomfortably so. There were space heaters. This was "hot yoga". Finally, an older man wearing sandals and with an earring was also taking the class. Shit. All bad signs. Sam and I placed our mats in the studios and began to stretch. As Sam and I stretched, a rather portly woman plopped down her mat next to ours. She looked over at Sam and said, "How long have you been practicing?" Practicing? What? My first thought was, "Well I was baptized as a baby..." and then I realized she didn't mean a practicing Catholic or a practicing lawyer...she meant how long have you been practicing yoga. Wow. Sam replied, "Oh I haven't done yoga in a few years. I'm kind of a beginner." The woman looked defiant. "I've been doing it for five years." She arched her back and stuck up her chin as she said it. Obviously quite pleased with herself. I then, cruelly, thought, "well obviously it doesn't have very effective weight-loss benefits." Already I was not as accepting and spiritual as this class was going to require.
The class itself went well, apparently all those years of cheerleading and gymnastics had allowed my muscles to stay flexible and strong, at least enough to avoid embarrassment. Ms. Five Years over there was wheezing like a donkey, while both Sam and I kept up reasonably well. I felt my stress melting and barely noticed the heat. I was surprised several times to find myself covered in sweat, because my mind felt focused and calm, not the usual fatigue and dread that accompanied my ordinary workout. There were a couple odd moments and the Indian words were entirely unnecessary where terms like "abdominals" and "Lunge" would have suited just fine. Also, this term "practice" came up quite a bit. The instructor informed us, "do as your body tells you, this is YOUR practice, not mine." Again, suspiciously my body really wanted to be sleeping, face-down and spread eagled instead of contorting. I listened, politely, but decided to ignore this suggestion.
The weird stuff, didn't really happen until the end of class. The instructor told us to find our, "icbeivbrhlewvfb" or that's what she might as well have said. Sam and I exchanged giggly glances with raised eyebrows. The instructor continued, "That's your place of peace" she said. Ok, fine. I laid on my back with my knees up, however, as I glanced around, to my horror, there were people beginning to huddle in the fetal position. The only time I'm getting into the fetal position in public is if I'm attacked by a bear, and then it will only be so he'll think I'm dead. However, adults, some of them middle-aged, crouched obediently on their little yoga mats. Then we were supposed to meditate. I actually enjoyed the quiet time, but then...there was a gong. I shit you not. A gong. I sat bolt upright (like I assume is normal) and was disturbed to notice no one else shuddered. Everyone else was in their "happy place" content and unaware. I tried to relax again on my back. Then the gong rang again. I waited for instructions. Nothing. Finally, on the third gong, came a human voice speaking english. Needless to say I was relieved. "Return to a seated position," it said, "but in your own time. Move slowly. You may want to take time in the fetal position, to acknowledge the positive feelings of rebirth." I pictured a group of sweaty adults bursting through the uterus. We ended with a "Namaste".