April 21, 2014

Misadventures in Yoga: Take the Class.


“I can’t go to a staff meeting with a bag of corn on my ass” I say to my BFF.

I am lying on the couch with the bag of frozen corn under my upper back, trying to wriggle into a position that makes the spasms stop. Between adjustments and vain attempts to keep the damp cold plastic bag from making contact with my actual skin, I rehearse explanations:

“I hurt myself saving kittens from a burning building.”

“I meditated for twelve hours on the side of a cliff and I’m a little stiff.”

“I was on a ladder painting scenes from the Old Testament on a church ceiling.”

Anything but the truth: “it’s a yoga injury, because I’m a dumb ass.”

Two days earlier I had told my BFF (who happens to be a yoga teacher) that I was having lots of pain in my back, neck and shoulders, mostly from tension.

I also told her that I could no longer go to the class I used to love because it conflicted with taking care of my father, and anyway, the studio was just too far away for me to spend an hour there with my phone off when he was so sick. If I walked to my cubby and discovered that he had called during class and needed me, I would be nearly 30 minutes from his house.

“Find a restorative class” she said.

“But I do home practice all the time; I can figure it out” I answered, feeling pretty pumped about my extremely thorough knowledge of seven or eight asanas.

“I know,” she said patiently, “but you’re stressed and possibly injured. You don’t want to hurt yourself and make it worse.”

The following day there was a Groupon for five drop-in sessions at a studio near my father’s house. They offered a restorative class at a perfect time. My husband, possibly tired of hearing me gasp and clutch my lower back, bought me the sessions.

But the class didn’t meet until Sunday, and Sunday was Easter, and the studio was closed for the holiday. “

I’m just going to try to figure out something here” I told my friend.

“Wait and go to class” she said.

And that was nice of her and all; she is a very caring person, but I was pretty sure I could just find a restorative class on YouTube. After I hung up the phone, I rolled out my mat and booted up YouTube on Apple TV. I had bookmarked a nice restorative class, and once I found it again I gathered up a promising pile of blankets, pillows and bolsters.

“I got this” I announced smugly to the dogs.

I got as far as “now place a rolled blanket or towel under the small of your back” when the video stopped. Lying on my back, rolled blanket halfway under me, I frantically pushed buttons on the remote. Nothing. I stopped it and started it, I tried to fast forward, and I could not get past the place where hope went to die. I gave up and turned the TV off.

I decided to give up on restorative yoga and try the series for “back pain” that was part of my “Yoga for Stress Relief” DVD. I popped it in the DVD player, pushed play, and waited. And waited. Sitting cross-legged and bending forward to stretch my sore back, I texted my husband. “DVD not working.”

“Mchn brkn,” he replied. “Srry.”

Not being a quitter, I got up, fetched my laptop and put the DVD into the pop-out tray. I put the computer up on a trunk, three feet off the floor. I couldn’t really see the instructor, but I could pretty much follow her directions just by listening.

Except that several of the asanas were unfamiliar and I wasn’t really, super, exactly sure I was doing them right. They didn’t feel very good. I craned my neck to look up at the tiny screen and discovered that sunlight from an adjacent window made it entirely impossible to see how high my legs were supposed to be raised off the floor, and if my head was supposed to be raised or resting on my forearms. Regardless of which my head was not only raised but bent back at an unnatural angle so that I could maybe see the outline of the instructor and decipher what I was supposed to be doing.

Now my neck hurt, too.

I did my best for the whole 30 minute series, shut off the computer and went about my business. My neck hurt, and my back now felt as if a waist-high gremlin was following my around and pinching me every few minutes. I called my friend to ask her what I should do.

“Well, did I mention you should have gone to class?” I allowed as how she might have mentioned that. “Try some really slow forward bends.” I did; it helped. “Now put something cold on it and rest for a while. Do you have a bag of frozen vegetables?”

Which brings us, full circle, to the fact that I could not attend a staff meeting with a bag of (non-organic, generic frozen corn, and I don’t even eat corn) clutched to my sacroiliac joint. So I took some Aleve, I took a hot shower, and I went to the meeting where I tried very hard to make it seem like I was wincing because I was sympathetic about the need to replace the boiler and not because I was in agony.

And in the end, I learned several highly valuable lessons:

  1. If you don’t know what you’re doing, take the class.
  2. If your BFF is a yoga teacher and she tells you to take the class, take the class.
  3. If you are likely to disregard lessons 1 and 2, keep a bag of frozen vegetables in your freezer, preferable something small like peas or corn because broccoli would really hurt.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Stephan Hochhaus on Flickr      

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