I should have trusted my gut. I knew, even while I was waiting outside the yoga studio for the earlier class to let out, that this was going to be bad. I can’t explain it. Maybe it was because there were only four of us waiting. Maybe it’s because two were men. Maybe it’s because of the earlier epic battle I’d had with my new sports bra. I’m not sure, but something was telling me, Hey, you should probably just go lift some weights or jump on the elliptical or, better yet, just head on home, take off this medieval constrictor suffocating your boobs, and have a glass of wine. Anything but go into that room and be stuck there for the next hour and a half.
Yeah, because that’s some other shit people don’t tell you when you begin taking yoga. The classes are a full ninety minutes long. Now, I don’t know about you, but there’s very few things I like to do for ninety straight minutes. Sweating and being ouchy does not fall on that short list. That being said, I have been enjoying the classes, and I can touch my feet again, so I’m making some semblance of progress.
Anyhow, against my better judgment, I went in, dutifully grabbed my mat and blocks and laid down in the back of the room, away from the mirrors. When I glanced up as the instructor walked in, I noticed with alarm that not only were the other five people in the room incredibly fit and toned, but were right up front as though they actually wanted to see themselves in the mirror. By now the alarm bells were dinging a little louder, but it was too late. The door was closed, and to get up and walk out was to admit defeat before I started. I closed my eyes again, trying to focus on my breathing like everyone keeps telling me to.
The following is an edited transcript of the class, with the instructor’s voice in bold and my terrified thoughts in italics.
OKAY EVERYONE! I’M JEROME, SUBBING FOR KATIE. LET’S ALL GET INTO PLANK POSITION TO START!!!
Wait, no!!! Where’s Katie? I love Katie. She lets us lie flat on our backs for the first ten minutes, getting used to the room and breathing in and out. It’s my favorite part.
So we’re just going to hold here for several breaths, and okay, now ease slowly down and right up into down dog. Go!
And up and vinyasa and now lift your right leg as high as you can!
I don’t think yoga instructors are supposed to yell go, Jerome. In fact, I don’t think you’re supposed to yell at all. Katie doesn’t yell. She lets us lie here and breathe and says soothing things in a nice, quiet, yoga-ey voice.
Also, who starts with planks? Planks are horrible. I can hardly find my breath while trying not collapse and it’s only been five minutes!
Shit, everyone is standing up. What’d I miss?
I clumsily got to my feet and tried to copy the pose of the person in front of me, catching an unfortunate glimpse of myself in the mirror.
How did everyone get back on the floor so fast? The fuck, Jerome? Slow down, for God’s sake. This isn’t a contest, right?
Okay, now if you want to challenge yourself more, straighten your front leg completely while you touch your forehead to your knee and raising your arm towards the ceiling, raising your gaze to look at your fingers.
Oh, apparently it is a contest, as everyone just managed to fold themselves completely in half and raise their arm up.
Just don’t fall over. Don’t. Fucking. Fall. Over. You don’t have to look up. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone here. Just breathe.
What did I just fucking say? Don’t look up. YOU CAN’T LOOK UP. You don’t have that kind of balance. At least no one noticed, right?
Of course they noticed.
If you find that looking up is too challenging for you, feel free to keep your gaze low.
You know he’s talking about you, right, newbie? I told you not to look up.
Twenty minutes go by, during which I alternate flopping to my mat and attempting to stand up gracefully, consistently five to ten seconds behind everyone else. I spend a good majority of the time in the downward dog position, face firmly planted in my double D’s, contemplating a breast reduction. Also, no one seems impressed that I can touch my feet.
Now we’re going to go into the (insert actual, yoga name for squatting uncomfortably with your knees spread apart, or the pose I like to call, “If anyone is going to fart, it’s going to be now,) pose.
Yay! I can do this one!
But wait, I know what comes next. It’s where everyone else manages to do the crow pose (balancing on your forearms in what my preteen self would call the teapot) while you sit in the squat and question why the hell you ever took up yoga.
That’s okay though. This is sort of motivating. One day I’ll be able to do it. Today is just not that day.
So, even if you don’t feel comfortable trying crow, you can put a block in front of you and rest your head on it while you try and lift just one leg off of the ground at a time!
Not going to happen, Jerome. I learned my lesson with the whole looking up thing.
(Jerome stares directly at me as he repeats his modification.)
(I stare back, smiling as I sit spread eagled in a squat, hands firmly in front of me like I’m praying.)
(Jerome looks very discomfited.)
Leave me alone, Jerome. Go help the yoga masters who are somehow balancing on one arm wrapped between their legs. I’m just going to hope I can make it to a standing position from here without toppling backwards.
You are so not relaxing. I miss Katie. She tells me it’s okay and to take it at my own pace. Plus, she isn’t a contortionist like you all seem to be.
Now would be a good time to mention that every other person in the class? Is having a blast, balancing on their fingertips, legs shooting straight in the air, twirling around on one hand like circus people while I sit, smiling and squatting.
Now, if you REALLY want to challenge yourself, you can bind your arms and only use the left one for balance. Use the strength in your arm and core!
Is my foot asleep?
And….now I have to pee.
If this goes on much longer, you are going to fall onto your back like a turtle and piss yourself. Get up. Get up now.
So now to dolphin pose for some inversions. Dolphin pose is a great way to build that shoulder strength. Just walk your feet right up as close as you can to your elbows, and if you want to take the inversion, kick up…..(blah, blah, blah, because none of this is happening for you, blondie in the back.)
You know what? Fuck off, Jerome. If I ever see you again in front of this class, I’m going to run as fast as my fat ass will let me in the other direction.
Hmm. I don’t think I’m getting the whole “restorative, cleansing properties,” out of this practice as advertised.
Okay. Just do the damn dolphin pose. We’re almost done and then we get to lay down and breathe quietly. You excel at that part.
(I spend another five minutes, face firmly planted between my own breasts, desperate for 7:30 to arrive already.)
Mercifully, the class begins to wind down. We lie on our backs, we stretch, we roll from one side to the other. All things I’m very good at and – btw – Katie says are just as important.
Oh, thank you, sweet dancing Moses I don’t think I could be here much longer.
I don’t even know how to begin to process what just happened.
Well, thank you all for coming out today. Katie will be back next week but if you want to see me, I teach at (other Chicago Athletic Clubs) on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday.
From one of the circus contortionists in the front row, “Oh, but can’t you come back and teach all the time??!!! This was awesome!!”
SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH!!!
Okay, time to go home. You almost said that out loud.
With a smile for me, Jerome says, “Don’t worry. It gets easier.”
I grind out a “Thank you,” through clenched teeth and start to wipe down my mat, concluding my ninety minutes of torture by knocking over my water bottle and stepping on my phone.
Get. Out. Of. This. Room.
I don’t tell you all of this to scare you away from yoga, because for the most part, I love it. I tell you so that if you should take a class that you feel is above your level, you can think back and realize, “Hey, this could definitely be going worse!”
(I saw Jerome in a different area of the gym yesterday on the way to my class and immediately broke out in a cold sweat. Thankfully, I spotted the lovely Katie in the studio and almost hugged her, I was so happy.)