YOGA FOR KNUCKLEHEADS #9: "IN OVER MY HEAD"
Since Ethan, my Saturday morning tennis partner, is up in the mountains with Contessa, hiking, performing yoga and sharing super healthy semi-vegan meals together, I am attending 9 o’clock “flow yoga” as a substitute. I have no idea what flow yoga is, but as I prepare to leave my car and enter the studio, I observe a much younger group of people filing in, all very erect with packs holding yoga mats slung over shoulders, a sure sign they are on a par with yoga mavens like Ethan and Contessa, who can twist themselves into elastic and stand on their heads. Some of these people drive Priuses, a sure sign they are superior to me in almost all ways.
In the office, my stomach flip-flops as I am instantly intimidated. I ask a fellow at the desk, working the computer, if “flow yoga” is more difficult than yin and therapeutic yoga, and he says yes, it is, much more so, and I croak that I am a beginner, but he smiles and insists I’ll be fine, and to “modify and do what you can.”
I immediately stake out my usual area beside a partition behind which I can partially hide, for I feel exposed out in the middle when grappling with certain poses that have me tilting to the side or rocking backward and falling on my ass. I am not intimidated at my 10:30 classes and have adjusted to being a sorry spectacle and am thankful with my physical results and sort of pleased at my tenuous place in local yoga society.
A few of the ladies at 10:30 classes have smiled and greeted me, and one, Riva, asked about my left arm, and I explained my dead shoulder and she seemed compassionate and mentioned the best doctor to rebuild shoulders, but I explained how my orthopedic surgeon who operated on my knee told me my shoulder was beyond repair and needed replacement, and Riva appeared quite concerned when I explained how I could not do “down dog” with such a brutalized wing. Riva is around 50 and attractive and one can see she might have been pursued by swains in her prime. I wonder is she divorced and secretive and leery of the male tribe and like my lady, Miranda, whom I would describe most of the time as a negative isolationist. This lady has intelligent eyes. She is assertive while not pushy, which could rattle most insecure men.
I do not recognize any of these people this morning. Off to my left, a slender young woman in a tantalizing diaphanous leotard warms up by balancing on her hands and wrapping a foot around her neck! A muscular man around 40 who drives a Lexus SUV squats hugging himself while stretching this way and that, obviously a participant in faraway ashram retreats, like Ethan and Contessa, who is taking a trip to Bhutan and Nepal to attain further spiritualism from meditation and isolation from the bad air and contamination of rampant insanity of America’s political systems and social strata.
The room is quickly packed. People sit, legs crossed, backs arched, eyes closed, hands balanced palms-up on knees, as a lithe girl who can’t be over 25 treads light-footed as a puma out to the front of the room and smiles at us, and says, very ardently, “Good morning!”
“Good morning!” comes the rousing response, lacking one.
“I’m Keena,” She has a delightful smile. “I’m so happy to be here and see you all here. And this morning we are going to get hot.”
Get hot? Well, she starts out slowly, but soon we are doing ”down dog,” “cobra,” the “fish,” the “horse,” some sort of “crab;” the “crow,” and I am laboring to keep up. It seems flow yoga, once it gets going, is a kind of yoga speed work out, where at first we go through a series of poses that are new to me and much more difficult, and then transitions suddenly into repeating these poses nonstop, jumping up and then down, on the stomach, on the side, my fellow yoga participants snapping to it like a platoon of marines showing off for a drill instructor, some of the younger men and women literally falling on one hand, balancing on that hand and extending one leg up, arms up, like windmills, then quickly on their feet, doing the same pose while balanced on one foot, then to the belly…and I fall behind, very far behind, floundering, indeed growing hot, sweating, face flushed and red-hot from embarrassment.
But I keep plugging away. I am starting to pant and again drool and need to take a piss. I have a condition from “prostate” removal and could leak on myself. As Keena leads the way and her charges respond in unison, I feel like a lone motley troop in a crack platoon, a fuckup about to be castigated and threatened viciously by my DI, reminding me of army basic training back in 1964 when certain worthless rejects were crucified and humiliated into blubbering blobs before their fellow troops. I was never that troop.
Now I am. And Keena knows it, but since yoga is merciful, she continues to ignore my ineptitude. I fall so far behind that I pretty much indulge in a weak imitation of my peers, a sorry spectacle of copy-cat, sweat pouring out of me more from embarrassment than physical exertion. I have no idea what I am doing at one point, and finally just lay on my back during a particularly excruciating rendition of “pigeon” and resort to my security blanket and substitute for pigeon, “eye-of-the-needle.” I remain thus until she begins another rapid-paced series of going in and out of one pose after another, finally rising and finishing off my half-assed copy-cat until at last we are invited to lay back and relax.
I lay back, gassed, peering up to see Keena, the torturer, smiling. Finally we are instructed to sit up and partake in the squatting finale, Keena asking us to give thanks and take a deep breath and begin an ommmm. I sputter a very weak ommm as ommms resound on all sides of me.
I quickly collect my mat and as Keena strolls past me, I tell her that what I just experienced reminded me of army basic training. She halts and smiles at me.
“Aren’t you Dell?”
I am flummoxed. How does she know who I am? I’ve never seen her before. “Yes, I’m Dell,” I retort warily.
“You did great, Dell. You modified really well.”
What a beautiful young woman. “I was lost most of the time, behind…”
“No, you kept right up. You’re fine, Dell.”
She breezed away, talking with other upright yoga people, members of a select club. Was she pulling my leg? No, I cannot suspect yoga instructors as liars. Perhaps she appraised my performance in relation to my being a beginner. But how did she know who I am? As I enter the office after peeing and putting away my mat and blocks and bolster, Samantha sits at the desk, working the computer screen. She looks up, smiles at me.
“I just returned to army basic training, Samantha.” I nod toward Keena. “Keena’s quite the drill instructor, quite the task-master. I’m thrashed.”
They all have a chuckle. As I walk out to my car, I’m thinking, “What do they know about me? What are they saying?” I feel especially loose, and light, the sweat quickly drying, endorphins invading my body for the first time.
No more flow yoga.