After many years of standing outside staring in, I decided to brave the New Year and enter a yoga pad, specifically the Ashtanga practice (which I had to Google).
I can only describe my first session as peering into a very distant heaven from a very sweaty hell.
On crossing the threshold, a smiling and lovely lass rolled out my mat for me. All was calm and peaceful. Gentle conversations around me lulled my senses and I could hear birds twittering as the faint scent of incense wafted through the spacious room. All was as it should be. I could sense that the Universe and I were going to become firm friends.
After a short meditation (just to let the Universe know we were there), our guide to Nirvana proceeded to take us wannabe yogis through our salutations. Very soon she had us greeting the Sun (inside?), pretending to be dogs (apparently barking and howling were not necessary), and walking the plank (after holding it for an eternity, mine snapped).
I’m not sure if screaming was the best way of aligning energy along my spine, but by God it helped (and it’s certainly a very effective form of exhaling). After face-planting for the third time due to my inability to control my forward descent to the earth, and with my hands lost somewhere underneath me, and my knees in orbit somewhere above me, I realized that gravity and my body had been having an illicit liaison for years. I also came to the realization that my mind was going to have to muscle its way back from blank slate to aware state if it ever wished to be top err…upward dog again.
At one stage, the sweetly smiling masochistic contortionist up front started playing guessing games with me. She would name a body part and then suggest I move that part in a certain way. Unable to feel anything, I would send a “move” signal along my spinal column, hoping it would get to right part.
Eventually, I got my right big toe to wiggle on the third try. Given that it had disappeared up my left nostril, I thought it wasn’t a bad effort.
Other than synchronizing with the Universe, I have to admit that I had other motives for rolling out a mat. A dear friend had said this was the place for “hot bods”, and being a lover of the human form, I took her advice in order to broaden my horizons and up my chances of connectedness. Hot bods indeed, especially the bride of Frankenstein up front.
However, the possibility of sharing mat space with any of these yogis vanished in a puff of Ujjayi. The positions these women would expect as entry-level engagement would leave me needing a wheelchair ramp at my back door for the rest of my living days (which I think at this point, is about another week or so).
My mat sessions were not without some benefit; I had a wonderful time balancing, tottering, teetering, strumming my hamstring, testing gravity and finding body parts in places I did not know existed. In particular, I rather enjoyed the occasion where I happened to find my “glutes” behind my left ear (that was novel), or was it Cujo who found them (after I misplaced them for the umpteenth time)? I also discovered that my skin is an incredibly useful thing; like plastic wrap it took over skeletal functioning when my bones, muscles and cartilage all parted company.
Will I be there for the next session? Yes, indeed. If only because I haven’t been able to scrape myself off the floor just yet. Fortunately, sweet Caroline turned my head sideways and thus I was able to avoid drowning in the pool of my own bodily fluids.
So, despite the initial interesting feedback about how immobile my body is, yoga is certainly for any body and every body.
Truth be told, my body and I took separate paths some time ago. While I may not connect with any of my new mat mates in any more of a significant way than the odd guffaw (fat chance I’m attempting that), chortle (you want me to do what?), or chuckle (you’re kidding, right?), I am connecting to me—to a part of me that had been on a separate journey for some time.
It. Feels. Good.
Perhaps then, just maybe, the Universe and I will get to hang out a little longer. In time, gravity will be kinder, the floor gentler, my guide will return to her human form and I—I will eventually get to touch my toes.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Leila Jankowski/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Quinn Dombrowski/flickr