I am maybe becoming one.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s that my mom bought me my own mat for Christmas (before you throw blocks at me – hear me out – the mats at the gym smell so bad that one day I almost had to leave class because it smelled like a working man’s armpit and I thought to myself I cannot lay on a mat that smells like armpit). Maybe it’s because I like the clothes, they are my normal business attire. Stretch pants and a stretchy top, finally a place where people dress like me! Or maybe I just like a quiet stretch.
Wednesday night, I needed to stretch. Lucky for me there was yoga at 6:30 pm at the health club. We belong to nice health club with a smorgasboard of classes; yoga, aerobics, dance, aquatics, heck tonight I even saw women in a class using the ballet barre. It’s pricy but worth it. Listen you spend every day at the health club and you learn that the 10 bucks a month gym is not your safe, happy place. It’s worth the extra few bucks to feel like you are not going to get staph from everything you touch or risk someone touching you inappropriately.
Blame a few slow drivers and a freakin’ half inch of snow for my late arrival. Unlucky for me there seems to be an unspoken rule – you just should not arrive late to yoga. Even my husband feels this rule. And if he feels it, it’s not unspoken, it must be written somewhere in bold, block letters where someone was trying to state the obvious.
Flashback to Sunday when we had to drop my mom off at her house before heading to yoga. This meant we were going to be late. Chris sat in the backseat having his 3 year old moment – which may have been my fault since I clearly forgot his bag of Cheerios – kicking the front seat while whining about being late for yoga.
Since when do you care if we are running late? I asked. Family birthdays, holidays, meeting me up at the altar – all things he was late for.
He just looked at me angry.
For crying out loud, it’s a 90 minute class we can afford to be 5 minutes late. We’ll sneak into the back of the room, I assured him.
Apparently not good enough for him, so he replied: I can't be late, it throws off my chakras.
Chris, you don’t even know what a chakra is.
Doesn’t matter. It’s already thrown off, he said.
We arrive a few minutes late and, you know how this goes. Everyone is already deep in trance on their mats with their eyes closed and ready to turn their breath to noise to chant the sound “om”. We are new to this class, don’t recognize the teacher so imagine my surprise when she starts saying we are going to chant the word “om” in a southern accent. I love me some southern accents but in this class – it was throwing my chakras off.
I got more bizarre. She then informed the entire class we were going to be “rocking out to Seal tonight.” When I come to yoga the last two words I think about putting together are “rockinout” (one word if you want to get to the true meaning of the word) and “Seal”.
But I’m game. After all, it’s yoga and I’m new to it. Maybe this is something yoga people do. They get together on their mats, put their hands together in Namaste while singing “Crazy”. So the Seal soundtrack begins as we begin a series of poses from Ashtanga which is really just a fancy way of saying very-painful-stuff-to-do-while-standing-on-one-leg. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than pigeon pose she throws out this:
After that experience, I come back tonight for more. Same studio, this time different teacher. My wet squeaky shoes across the wooden floor signal my late arrival. Hey guys, I’m here. Let’s turn the sound of my squeaky feet to even more noise and chant
OM...............IGOD LIZ HAS ARRIVED.
I’m trying to be all quiet and casual when I notice something at the front of the room….really…it can’t be….
It is a man.
There is a man leading our yoga class. Excuse me, class? Over there - MAN. I don’t mean to be all gender-biased but where is my tall lanky woman in stretching pants and a halter top telling me in a soft voice to take a luxurious breath.
So what’s with the dude? And is he wearing board shorts? Class has barely begun and my head is spinning the 100 reasons why a man could or could not possibly be leading a yoga class. Really needs money? Wants to meet chicks in tight pants? Lives on the fancy side of the street? All which are cool with me but my mind is wandering and chances are I might just blurt out my burning question, dude what’s the deal with teaching yoga, explain?
I’m going to stuff my yoga sock in my mouth for 60 minutes and hope it stays.
I’m not sitting for more than 2 minutes then he’s already walking up to me. Great - he is not only teaching this class but he can read minds. He knows I'm wondering. Then he touches me. Uh, there seems to be confusion here, MR. yoga instructor. There are about 20 other adults in this room longing to be touched (look at them – the woman in the headband which clearly begs TOUCH ME) and I am not one of them. I DO NOT LIKE WHEN STRANGERS TOUCH ME. Hands off. Back away from my mat before I whip you with my yoga belt.
He fixes my pose and I just smile. We do a series of other seated poses and this is my worst flaw at yoga – my mind wanders and I am people watching. I know I should be timing my breathing with the pose or some shit like that but really – look around – this view is much more interesting. So there is the woman in the headband, there’s the guy who is breathing really REALLY loud and then there’s just this guy. Like a totally normal shouldn’t he be at a bar tonight picking up chicks kind of guy. I found that odd because you don’t see a lot of ‘guys’ at yoga. There are men who are clearly runners with tight scrawny legs that cannot get within six inches of their toes and thought – I need yoga.
But there are not usually “guys”.
So this guy, I’m respecting the fact that he did the kind of unguy-like thing of showing up on the mat but then I notice something. He is bending over to grab his toes when his shirt lifts off his back and he shorts dip down to reveal nothing but 100 percent pure…
(this is why I really should not people watch in yoga class)
The rest of the class all I can see is this guys crack. After about 30 minutes of this I’m ready to throw my yoga block at him and tell him to saddle up his shorts, the moon is not supposed to be out tonight. Not only that but I’m fixed on the instructor’s board shorts. I’m surrounded by women in cute stretchy pants and matching tops and I’m thinking to myself someone needs – desperately NEEDS – to design a line of men’s yoga clothes. Because board shorts and crack are not cutting it.
It gets worse. I’m doing the poses but my mind is somewhere between fancy street and crack and I have no idea whether I’m inhaling or exhaling now. I’ve completely blown the purpose of the class – to relaxandstretch. I’m stretching but my mind is moving along at a sub 6 minute pace.
Next we move into our first downward dog of the class and once in position the instructor says, now feel free to walk the dog.
I almost lost it. You see on Ragbrai when you tell another man to walk the dog you better close your eyes because he’s dropping his pants. Sorry folks, this is R-rated but I remember a dark night in Coralville with Giff naked against the van holding a flashlight and showing us WALK THE DOG. It is NOT something that you should have to see.
And definitely not something you should be telling an entire room of adults to do when they are on their hands and toes!
To confirm this: when I arrived home, I asked Chris "if a man told you to walk the dog, what you would think?" He paused for a moment (I could tell he was thinking about this) and said “are we talking about the dog dog or puppetry.”
So I’m walking the dog (god help me) which is really just lifting my heels up and down on the mat and then we start doing seated poses. Good because this signaled the almost end of class. Soon as I knew it we were preparing for final relaxation and I’m lying on my mat (which smells fabulous incidentally).
The instructor, whose name is Paul, is walking around telling us what to soften and descend. Soften the mouth, descend the arms, your eyes and finally – descend your brain.
Wait a minute. You had me there until….descend the brain? DESCEND THE BRAIN?
At this point, I wanted to rise up off my mat, shake him and say what the hell are you talking about, Paul. How am I going to descend my brain, Paul, without detaching it from my brain stem? And then how would I drive home, PAUL, without higher cognitive functioning?
Are you seeing a pattern here? It’s not him, it’s that he’s named Paul. I will admit that I have a thing with that name. Now, I know that Andrea’s husband is named Paul and he is a really nice guy. And Paul the athlete whom I coach – he is also really nice and really fast. But any time I hear the name Paul it makes me want to run up to the guy and shake him on the shoulders and just shout ridiculous things at him while also shouting his name. It’s just that kind of a name. It begs to be shouted. PAUL PAUL PAUL.
I trace this back to the fourth grade when a kid named Paul sat in the back of the class. Paul was a wildly rambunctious kid always talking and always in trouble. Of all the words I learned that year, none were as frequently heard as the word Paul. Not only that but he was always playing with this little action figure robot that he called his “chicken cutlet”. So any time I hear the name Paul now I think of a wooden desk in the back of a room on the 2nd floor of P.S. 203, Mrs. Lugoff my fourth grade teacher, a wild child and chicken cutlets.
Can you blame me?
Which is how I found myself laying on the mat trying to descend my brain which was filled with the name PAUL PAUL PAUL thinking about chicken cutlets and wondering how long until final relaxation is over because I need to get out of this place or crawl under my mat to hide from the other guy’s crack.
I left tonight not so sure yoga is good for me. If it’s supposed to quiet my brain it is only providing it food for thought. And my brain is hungry. And clearly taking names.
Maybe I should try pilates instead.