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Stephanie Lessing Headshot

How to Get out of Yoga

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Ed Hidden via Getty Images
Ed Hidden via Getty Images

This past summer my daughter asked me to try her advanced meditation/yoga class.

"I'd love to!!" I lied.

I don't have a problem with meditation. All you have to do is close your eyes and overthink everything that ever happened to you while inhaling and exhaling a little louder than a normal person would ever breathe in public.

For the yoga portion my plan was to either fake an injury or a diarrhea attack.

I got a spot by the door and tried to look like I was anxious for a healthy dose of inspiration and positive thinking by stretching wildly. If I ended up leaving a little early it would seem like it had to have been an emergency for someone with my enthusiasm to suddenly be forced to high tail it out of there.

I breathed in deeply, circling my arms several times and smiled broadly at my daughter, who was likely already growing suspicious.

When instructor Tammy walked in I was surprised to see that she couldn't have weighed more than 75 pounds, there was a clump of hair missing from the side of her head, and she had a rash on her elbows the size and texture of clamshells. She had her arms folded in front of her so she could scratch both clams at the same time. The side of her hair that was still there was noticeably dirty, and she was scowling.

"That's gotta be contagious," I whispered to my daughter.

"You can't quit this time," she answered.

"Did you not see those elbows?"

"It's only yoga. What's the worst thing that could happen?"

I shrugged and looked around the class to see if anyone else was having second thoughts about deep breathing in the same room as Tammy, but most of the other women were too distracted by their own fingerling thighs.

Tammy announced that she'd been having some personal problems lately, in regard to certain things that she couldn't let go of, and that she had deliberately cut her hair unevenly to balance her chi. She also explained that negative energy, which she cleverly renamed negativo energy, was the only thing she found intolerable. It looked more like she'd accidentally lit her head on fire, but I smiled and nodded to get on her good side, as though I would have cut my own hair similarly in her situation.

My daughter knew she was taking her chances by inviting me to join her class. I'm famous for trying to worm my way out of activities that involve being upside down. In previous yoga classes, I've been known to resort exclusively to child's pose early on, quietly remaining there until someone taps me lightly on the shoulder -- usually it's the cleaning lady.

"Are we ready, people?" Tammy asked.

"Let's do this!" I said.

"Downward Dog," Tammy commanded as she tried to twist her arm around to see if anything had started bleeding.

"Breeeeathe as one, people. Air is communal food," she said, obviously misinformed about what air is, but the woman next to me believed her and breathed in so much oxygen she must have thought it was an all-you-can-eat buffet. Her incredibly unselfconscious breathing made me instantly hate her, which forced me to have to inch my palms and feet as far away from her as possible without making it obvious that I didn't want to share my air food.

"And now I'd like you all to stand on your heads."


I turned to look at my daughter. She was up in a flash looking so beautiful and statuesque, almost like she was made of marble. I was so in awe I stood watching her with my arms folded in front of me... for who knows how long.

"Mom, stand on your head."

I tried to finagle myself into a tripod but my elbows kept sliding off my knees causing me to slowly roll over and remain on my left side. I did this same move several times until I decided to abandon the tripod and just hurl myself upwards, but my legs refused to leave the ground. It was like when you try to throw a ball and it just falls straight down at your feet.

I finally made the decision to go with a handstand instead. A handstand is easy. There was a time when I could do handstand walkovers, one after the other after the other, across my entire lawn. I put my hands down on the floor and tried to spring up, but only my left leg would leave the ground. It was like someone had put a spell on my right one. After several attempts to release and then flutter my legs into position I thought I might actually be afloat when I felt something pop in my hamstring. I dropped my legs and immediately went into child's pose.

"I might need an ambulance." I whispered into my mat.

Six months later my hamstring is still unusable. I imagine it's completely severed and just laying there limp inside me like a piece of broken tubing.

I should know better than to ask a muscle that's been happily atrophying for years to suddenly perform tricks like moving, but the truth is the torn hamstring has turned out to be a real lifesaver.

When a friend asks me if I want to go jogging, I just say, "Darn it, I can't. I got the torn hammy." If someone needs me to carry a heavy suitcase, or even something lighter, like a sponge, I just point to the back of my thigh and make the "Let's not forget what happened here," face.

Being injured is a free pass to do the thing I love most in life. Sitting. Next summer, when my hammy is fully healed, I'll be sure to sign up for another yoga class.

What's the worst thing that could happen?