Not So Hot Yoga

Uninterested dog

I am in the midst of a crisis of faith. When you are in crisis it’s common to feel the need to blame someone. Some people blame family. Some people blame circumstances. Some people blame themselves. I blame Groupon.

If you are unfamiliar with Groupon, it is a cleverly run coupon site designed to separate you from your money by giving you ridiculous discounts on things you would not normally buy, like:

Professional Horseback Riding Lessons
(In Detroit. Over July 4th weekend.)

Or

600 Eyebrow Waxes for $12.50
(All waxes must be used within one week of purchase.)

In my case this Groupon was for a month of Unlimited Hot Yoga Classes. The picture showed a very Zen lady stretching gracefully wearing pastels. How relaxing? I bought it. Immediately, I felt like such a fancy pants and ran out to Target to buy a yoga mat. It was green and slightly sticky/squishy with a minimal design and made of out recycled something or other. It was darling. Of course it was. It is from Target.

Target is how I picture Heaven. It has things I need in my everyday life, but it’s all cute. All of it. My thought process in Target is usually as follows:

“Look at this cute scrub brush to wash dishes! Surely, if I buy this I will wash more dishes. And it’s recycled so I’m saving the planet! Darryl is going to be so proud of me when I get home. This deserves a chai latte.”

In reality, I will just place it atop the pile of unwashed dishes in the sink, not unlike the star on a Christmas tree. When people come over I’ll say “Oh, I wash just washing dishes. Want to see what I got at Target?”

On the way home from my mat purchase, I called one of my only yoga-practicing friends and told her I’d be doing hot venison yoga. Said friend politely informed me I meant vinyasa. Also that venison is deer meat.* She explained it was flow yoga and more of a workout. I would flow through poses and focus on my breathing. What she described didn’t sound like the pastel woman by the mini waterfall, stretching. In fact, she made it sound somewhat difficult. Naturally, I judged her to be a lesser athlete than myself and the pastel woman. Which, if you think about it, really speaks to my character, considering five minutes prior to this I’d just informed her I’d be eating deer meat in a hot room on what was effectively an oversized placemat. Those in glass houses…

Uninterested dog
“Uninterested Dog”.

The class was held in a two room building. There was the storefront and then a single door to a large room in the back where classes are held. I showed up early and walked inside. There were already a few girls there. They were all tiny, petite, little spandex-ed things. They gracefully slide off their shoes into cubby holes, and glided into the room with their designer mats. I looked down at my oversized T-shirt and running shoes. Suddenly, 30 seemed old.

The classroom was full of heaters pumping on full blast. With the snow on the ground outside, it was initially a welcomed heat. I unrolled my mat near the back of the class. Women stretched quietly around me. Their mats looked soft and pillowy, like a mattress toppers, but worn from years of “practice”. My mat lay thinly on the floor, rolled up on one end. Green. Like me.

In yoga, the poses and styles are named using the Indian language of Sanskrit. Sanskrit is the language of Jainism, Buddism and Hinduism. The literal translation of the word Vinyasa is “connection”.**

Downward Dog breath
“Downward Dog-Breath”.

I sat down and started stretching. In front of me, a girl put her legs behind her head. Now, biologically I understand why men find this so appealing, but it seems to me a women’s form can take many other shapes far more appealing than squashed bug pretzel.*** I started to fear this wasn’t a beginner’s class and that I may have accidentally joined the circus.

The teacher entered the classroom and invited everyone to stand. She was tiny and positive and she knew all of the yoga bunnies by name. She lit some incense and ran through some quick announcements. She mentioned the spring equinox and that the entire class was invited to come do yoga by candlelight. The whole room would be filled with candles and they would complete a certain number of poses to honor the balance of dark and light. So, I didn’t join the circus, I joined a coven. Jesus is gonna be pissed.

The teacher then asked that we begin by mindfully dedicating our practice. She had us place our hands in prayer and focus our energy. This is what I was worried about. I’m not a quiet person. Not internally at least. I am a talker. If I’m not talking out loud, there is an internal dialogue going on to be sure. As soon as she said dedicate our practice, my mind jumped from witchcraft to award show speeches and finally settled on song dedications. I started thinking about songs to describe this practice. Tom Petty’s “Freefalling.” Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”. Nelly’s “Hot in Herre”. Truly, I’m a connoisseur of music.

scared bunny
“Scared Bunny”.

The teacher stopped in front of me.

“Did you find a word?”

I nodded.

She smiled up at me.****

“Don’t worry. You don’t have to say it out loud.”

Thank God. It was “chumbawumba”.

I need a better word. I changed it to Heal.

She took to the front of the room and started naming poses. She would say the Sanskrit name and then the common name. I tried to watch people around me and imitate. At one point, while trying to clasp my hands through my legs and behind my back, it became a real possibility I was going to emerge from this pose having taken my bra off a-la Jennifer Beals in Flashdance. It would have actually been easier to hold the hand of the girl next to me, as I seemed to keep migrating across my mat toward other people. I was like a sweaty, precariously-stacked library cart, but less knowledgable and more dangerous.

I could feel people inching their mats further away from me. This was likely for their own protection but was also somewhat rude, because in the event I actually began to fall, I planned on landing on one of their plush mats.

fruit roll-up
“Fruit Roll-Up”.

We “flowed” (I staggered) between poses.

Dekasana (Airplane).
Vrksasana (Tree).
Chandrasana (Crescent Lunge). Now with “cactus arms”.

I didn’t bring any water. I needed cactus arms.

Utkatasana (Chair).
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog).
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog).

I began to get the hang of the names and create word associations. Cactus arms – pain. Airplane – Leg cramps. But sometime during my transition between Boeing 747 and succulent I had started to relax. To focus on my breathing.

As we neared the end of our practice, we were told to lay on our backs. They dimmed the lights and soft, exotic music began to play. Chanting filled the room. Was I supposed to chant? I turned and took a quick peek at my yoga bunny neighbor. She was laying silently. This was a recording. The teacher spoke over the chanting reminding us to be grateful to our bodies. At present, I was grateful I didn’t start chanting with the recording like some sort of Bikram Yoga Sing-Along.****

As I lay on my back, listening to the ancient chant, I stared up at the painted, possibly-asbestos, ceiling tiles. I did feel different. Not healed, because my brain won’t let me feel that until I’ve seen some scans – but better.

They say you make plans and God laughs. When I make plans God seems to send down a plague of wrenches. I’m thirty. I have a less than two-year-old. A tiny spot I’ve had for ten years turned out to be cancer. I quit a good job, took a huge risk to follow a dream and this is what the universe gives me back? Maybe this whole thing was me hedging my bets. Making sure I picked a god with enough arms. But, honestly, I did feel different. Something inside me had stirred. I know I read somewhere, either the Bible or the DaVinci Code (see why I need to hedge my bets), that our bodies are temples. Mine had recently passed a bond issue and expanded, but it was still mine. My temple.

It dawned on me that I was in control of my actions. Of my feelings. Of how I handled the upcoming weeks. I wasn’t angry at God, but I was angry. I didn’t feel abandoned, but I did feel a little lost. Maybe this experience was valuable just because it made me think about me for awhile. It let me take a few breaths to think about what my body can do right now. What my mind is still capable of. Maybe this was just what I needed.

Maybe God is working for Groupon.

Flailing Snail
“Flailing Snail”.

*Good to know

**I read that on wikipedia in the car before class. In case there was a test.

***Fun Fact: This is actually the literal translation from Sanskrit

****Why is everyone in here so tiny? Are they elves?

*****Is that a thing? If not consider this my first instance of use when I file for a trademark.

Read more about Liza Dora here. Or here. (<-This one’s funnier.)

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