Friday, June 22, 2012

My Brain on Yoga

So I have written a couple of stories over the past few months regarding my newest obsession – yoga. What I have found out is there are a number of misconceptions about it, the first of which is that it’s some kind of incense-burning, chanting, group meditation communal get in touch with your inner child lovefest.

Uh, no.

It’s exercise. Somewhat strenuous exercise at that. No, it doesn’t involve bench-pressing compact vehicles or swimming across large bodies of water, but make no mistake. It is exercise. You will discover muscles and tendons you did not know you had. And once you discover them, you will rue their very existence as they are contorted in ways you thought were only the purview of ladies who make their living spinning on vertical poles with dollar bills jammed in their G-strings.

Then again, I bet they do yoga.

Anyway. I now do yoga twice a week, Monday and Thursday nights, the 5:30pm ‘Hatha All Levels’ class led by my Yoga Hero, Lee. She’s beautiful…

ANYway, for those that have not experienced what a typical yoga class is like, I am going to walk you through one from the point of view of my mind:

5:15pm: I arrive at the yoga studio with my mat, towel and bottled water. I am excited for the upcoming hour, as the stress of work has manifested itself usually in my neck and shoulders. I walk into the studio, shuck my shoes, roll out the mat, silence the phone, and get into some semblance of a lotus position on the mat.

5:20pm: Others arrive, mostly women. I am usually the only guy in the class. And I’m good with that.

5:25pm: In comes Lee. She’s beautiful…ANYway, she greets everyone with her empathic, warm, gentle soul greeting. It’s all a mirage. She’s about to go Drill Sergeant on our asses.

5:30pm: Class starts. Lee takes us through a few minutes of breathing in order to attune our mind and body. We are usually in Child’s pose or some other restful position. I call this my last respite before hell.

5:35pm: Into our first Downward Dog of the night. DD is a staple yoga move, where you basically shape yourself like an upside-down letter V. I’ve gotten better at DD & can hold it for upwards of ten seconds now.

5:40pm: First Vinyasa. A Vinyasa is a movement through various yoga poses, usually from a low lunge position, to a plank (think push-ups) position, to body on floor to raise your front torso up (Cobra), to plank to Downward Dog. “Meditatively move” is Lee’s entreat to us. “Don’t pass out” is how I translate this instruction.

5:45pm: Time for twists! With one knee on the mat & the other bent (picture Tebowing), Lee instructs us to place our hands in Namaste (picture praying hands), and then to take the left elbow and place it on the outside of the right knee. It hurts to even type this, let alone to do it. I get there, and my spine is now wondering what it did to get punished. This gets repeated for the other side (right arm over left knee), but not before another…you guessed it…Downward Dog.

5:50pm: I am now cursing myself for showing up. The thought enters my mind to ditch class early, feigning some kind of lame injury. All it takes to snap me out of this is to look around the room & see all the women gracefully moving through the poses. The Alpha Male in me kicks in. I stay.

5:55pm: I am hyperventilating

6:00pm: I am hyperventilating.

6:05pm. Still hyperventilating.

6:10pm: Time for inversions! When I was a kid we called this standing on your head. And when I was a kid I could do it instinctively. At 53, it requires an act of Congress. I place my head on the mat with my hands, palms down, on either side for support. Every brain cell is screaming ‘Do this and you will be in traction the rest of your life’. Alpha Male says ‘Don’t be a wuss, you…wuss.’ I inch my feet towards my hands, raising my torso in the process. Body weight shifts from my hands to the crown of my head. I am picturing my neck snapping like a dried out twig. Lee is imploring, “Keep the weight balanced between the head and the hands, lift up!” For a nanosecond my feet actually leave the floor. Two seconds later my brain realizes this and defense mechanisms kick in, which means I fall over like a Jenga tower.

6:20pm: More Downward Dogs.

6:25pm: More hyperventilating. But the end is now in sight, as the best part of the practice is only five minutes away. It’s called Savasina, and I probably misspelled that. What it means is, rest.

6:30pm: Rest begins. I am prostrate on my mat, arms and legs splayed out like someone who just landed on the pavement after dropping from the twentieth floor. Just draw a chalk line around me.

6:35pm: Lee comes by and places a peppermint-scented cold washcloth over my eyes. It is at this point I want to marry her.

6:40pm: Rest ends by Lee slowly bringing us out of our reclined positions and up into a seated position. A couple of light stretches of the arms, and then we put our hands together at our chest, turn to one another, bow, and say Namaste. We are done.

6:45pm: I leave, but on the way out I tell Lee I cannot wait until the next session and to keep up the peppermint-scented cold washcloths.

I love yoga. But not before I go through hating it each time I am there.

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