I went to a yoga class for the first time in my life the other day, and if you knew me, you'd already be laughing. I'm not exactly the yoga type. I'm a diehard carnivore, as we've discussed at length in the past, and I've never been a big fan of group activities that didn't involve a puck or a ball. My activity these days usually involves walking the dog.
Now, I've stretched once or twice in the past, so I figured I knew what yoga was going to be all about, right? You lie on a mat and stretch your body parts, and you try to breathe deep without sounding like you're struggling to do it. How hard could that be?
I'm not completely inflexible, either; I can still touch my toes. I can't see them when I'm standing because of my gut, but I can still touch 'em.
Oddly, despite such an impressive flexibility credential, my wife has long believed that I could benefit from yoga. There was more to it than stretching, she said, and the breathing and mind-calming aspects of yoga might not be such a bad idea for a hothead like me.
I like to think I have an open mind when it suits me, and an hour a week dedicated to stretching is probably a good idea for anyone, so I signed up to take a yoga class through my local community college. I mainly did it because it only cost about 40 bucks. That way, even if I gave up after one class, I wouldn't be saddled with some crappy membership to a gym I'd never visit.
I've heard from a friend that the thing to do at a yoga class is sit near the back so you can see all the pretty girls stretching. That's his whole reason to go. I didn't consider that a huge incentive as a married guy - it would be like taking me to a buffet and telling me I couldn't eat anything - but I nevertheless walked in with the intent of heeding my friend's advice.
I mean no disrespect to the women in my class, because they were all attractive enough. It's just that they were all older than me, so when I saw a fan blowing air across the front of the studio I abandoned the idea of ogling from the back row and set down the yoga mat I'd borrowed from my wife in the breeziest spot I could find. With any luck, the fan could help me avoid major sweating, which is always a concern when I exert myself.
I figured yoga, which has a reputation for being relaxing, would by its very nature be easy. The moves, I reasoned, would be simple to do; yoga masters would be the ones who could stretch the moves the furthest, but anyone could assume the positions. That was my logic, anyway. It turns out I was wrong.
The instructor - or yogini, in hipster speak - was a charming woman with an unpronounceable name and an exotic accent. The first thing she did, after dimming the lights and switching off the fan, was have us sit cross-legged. I haven't been able to do that with any degree of success since I was about 12, and trying just makes me frustrated, so right out of the gate, yoga wasn't doing so well.
We stood, spread our legs and got into an awkward groin-stretching stance that brought beads of sweat to my forehead in the stagnant air. Then we twisted our torsos in such a way that I got to see my face in the mirror as it turned beet red with the effort of rotating my midsection.
The instructor let us relax for just a moment before telling us to intertwine our arms in a way that I'm still not sure is actually possible. Then, while I was trying to make a double helix with my arms, the instructor told us all to stand on one foot, bend our knees and cross our legs. I got the distinct sense that she was just messing with us.
I tried, but I couldn't hold a pathetic rendition of the pose for more than a second, which caused me great frustration. It didn't seem very mind-calming to me, but a couple minutes later, when the yogini let us lie down, I was so relieved I almost nodded off.
Is that the way yoga is supposed to work? I don't know, but I'm going back next week. I could use the nap.
Todd Hartley had a Stretch Armstrong toy that couldn't have done that with its arms. To read more or leave a comment, please visit zerobudget.net.