"Yoga. Because punching people is frowned upon."
- A quote I found on Pinterest.
...not allowed to visit friends over there.
...not allowed to invite friends over here.
...kitchen table becomes an office for me...and a school desk for him, and her.
...less than zero degrees outside. (Imagine, there are fewer than no degrees outside. People actually fought to colonize this place, and then stayed through January and February. Good job, Europe.)
I've been told I should try Yoga. It will, "Do me some good." And, "Relax my mind and body." And, "Bring me peace." And, "It's free on YouTube."
Yoga mat, check.
"If you're new to Yoga, you may want a block and a strap to help you through some of today's positions."
(I acquired the block and strap two years ago on the advice of my physiotherapist, who remarked on how inflexible I am. I said, "Funny, my psychologist says the same thing.")
"Okay, sit tall. Really feel your sits bones pressing into the mat. Find a comfortable position."
What is a 'sits' bone? Does she mean my ass? Gluteus Medius or Maximus? Is 'sits' bone even a word? Wouldn't that mean that my feet are 'stands' bones?
My YouTube YogiTeacher is sitting with her back perfectly straight; her legs are crossed. My back is nicely rounded; my legs are flopped in front of me, each bent at a 90° angle. I used to be so flexible. What happened?
If I try to straighten my back, or fold my legs into each other, I feel a searing pain near my coccyx, and a slightly lesser one at the outer edge of each patella. Is this the advanced class? The title of the video is, "Beginner's Yoga."
"Take a deep breath. In through your nose...2, 3, 4, and hold it there for a moment."
A couple of stars appear in my vision. Maybe I should lie down?
"Now, out through your mouth...3, 4, 5. Good." She continues, "Focus on whatever is troubling you..."
I focus on how it took me eleven full minutes to log onto YouTube with the tiny, cheap remote that was included with my discount Smart TV:
‘K’...left-left-left-left-up, 'E’...down-down-right-right-right, 'N-N'…up-up, 'U'…SHIT! Where's the backspace??
"Let's warm up by doing some Sun Salutations. Come to the end of your mat, and we'll begin in Mountain Pose."
YogiTeacher stands tall at the end of her mat; I do the same. I await my instructions for Mountain Pose.
"Next," she continues.
Next? Next?! THAT was Mountain Pose?! Standing still is a pose?!! Little did I know I've been Mountain Posing at bus stops, subway stations, and in kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms and showers for nearly fifty years. Go, Kenny!
"Uttanasana," she says as she bends over. "Exhale, and let your fingers fall to the floor. If your flexibility permits, bring your palms flat against the mat. Otherwise, just relax as far forward as you can."
I try to comply. I cannot fold any more forward and also look at the TV; a slight panic sets in. I am Yoga blind. I await further audio instructions as blood pools around my temples.
"Now, inhale and come up halfway to Flat Back, your chest parallel with the floor. Hold it there for a moment."
I was initially only able to lean forward 7 degrees due to incompatible tightness in my hamstrings. If I come halfway up from my U-Tan-In-The-Sun-A position, I am back in Mountain Pose. I cover my webcam with a piece of tape; I'm worried someone will notice my cheating incompetence.
My legs are shivering with a bizarre combination of hyperextension and fatigue when, mercifully, YogiTeacher provides a reprieve, "Ok, good. Now bring your legs to the foot of the mat, and slowly lower yourself down..."
Yes! This must be the relaxing part.
"...to plank position."
Plank?! As in, "Walk the...?" As in, "Serious core workout?" As, in "Perfect exercise for challenging every muscle in you body?" Yes, that plank.
"Hold it here for a moment."
The uncontrolled shivering and shimmying I felt a moment ago in my legs has now travelled along a horizontal plane to my arms. A first drop of sweat rolls off my eyebrow and onto my mat. Is this machine washable? I can't find a label from this position. Also, my field of vision is narrowing as the blood now pools to my entire face. Please don’t pass out. I am home alone.
"Take the time to really feel your breath. A niiice loooong inhale."
I try to slow my breaths from the current rate of 3 per second as my lungs desperately try to expel the buildup of lactic acid in my muscles. How old am I?
"Now, exhale and lower yourself all the way to your mat."
I collapse violently, and see stars as my nose collides with the mat. Thank God it's over.
"And inhale as you push yourself up into Cobra."
CAN I HAVE A MINUTE?!
I push on my hands and lift my head so I can see the television screen in front of me. I have no idea what "Cobra" is. As luck would have it, this lazy push up I am managing is Cobra. Maybe my natural, mindful, meditative Yoga instincts are kicking in?
My lower back is beginning to hurt. In retrospect, maybe my vasectomy wasn’t that uncomfortable.
"And push up into Downward Facing Dog."
Her rear end lifts dramatically skyward, forming the peak of a human triangle anchored by her hands and toes. Her knees are straight, as are her elbows. She is not quaking or quivering or sweating or breathing heavily. I'm not sure why this position is called Downward Facing Dog. Aren't dogs always facing downward?
There is a beautiful Australian Shephard asleep next to her Yoga mat. His body is curled into a perfect circle, his breathing is steady, his muzzle is tucked between his upper thighs. His flexibility is unsurpassed - he must be in the advanced class.
"Really lean into this pose."
I feel like I am applying 200lbs of pressure to my wrists - more than my entire body weight.
"Be mindful of your breath."
My arms and legs start to shake uncontrollably.
"Bend your knees if you need to. Remember, Yoga should never hurt."
My knees have been at a 90-degree angle almost since the beginning of this "practice." Also, fuck you.
"Lift your left leg up behind you, feeling the stretch in your thigh. And then, swing it forward between your wrists."
That's when the fall happened.
I lifted my left leg off the mat and swung it forward, as instructed. Halfway along its route to my wrists, my toe snagged on the mat, destabilizing me. I lifted my right hand, quickly trying to displace it outwards to widen my base and steady my pose, but I wasn't fast enough.
I knew I should have moved the coffee table out of the room completely.
Bruised rib, scraped temple, broken remote control...general humiliation.
By the time I recover, YogiTeacher is back in Mountain Pose; I scramble to catch up; I stand at attention in front of the television. I...am not...a quitter!
"Ok, great. Just a few more of those to warm up, and then we'll begin this week's practice."
Warm up? I cry just a little.
I have read that it’s normal to feel strong emotions during a meditative exercise.
I start my second round of these goddamned Sun Salutations by again bending at the waist.
I fart. I cry a little more.
Discouraged, I collapse into a seated position, which I can't hold due to my weak core, my muscle fatigue, and my (physical and emotional) inflexibility.
Inspired by the Aussie Shephard, I curl up in a fetal position on my mat.
"Be mindful," she continues. "Make of this practice what you need it to be. This is the time to be kind to yourself."
From my position on my den floor, I reach for the broken remote control. Thankfully, it's only the door to the battery compartment that's irreparable. While trying to replace it, I accidentally trigger the on-screen guide.
"Return of the Jedi" is on Movietime. I push select with only a small amount of hesitation and guilt.
"Do or do not," Yoda is telling Luke. "There is no try."
That is a philosophy I can live by.
For today, I give up trying.
I roll my mat and stand it in the corner (where it had been obediently waiting for me since its first appearance as a Christmas gift). I fetch a bag of All Dressed Ruffles from the pantry, and treat myself with kindness by turning up the volume on a classic work of science fantasy.
Gently, I lower my sore self to lie flat on my back on the den sofa, which, I learn is the Corpse Pose.
Mountain and Corpse. Mountain and Corpse. Mountain and Corpse. See? On my first day I have memorized and perfected two poses. Not bad for my first "practice." I've also developed an affinity for "being kind to myself," which may have to include a beer chaser after these chips.
Tomorrow, I will search YouTube for “Jedi for beginners.” It seems easier that Yoga.