I recently decided my schedule would be stable enough to purchase a gym membership to one pool (yes, folks – one!). They informed me that not only did I have access to the pool and to all the various devices in the Medieval Torture Chamber, but any classes I want to take are also included. And they offer yoga. I’ve done yoga before, but I’ve never been to a yoga class. I’m a swimmer. Yoga is good for us! I was excited about this and determined to go.
The day arrived and I showed up early. I introduced myself to the instructor and informed her that it was my first time in a yoga class. She was very nice to me, telling me to just do what I could do and rest if I couldn’t do something.
She also had red hair, and the curls were bound and determined to escape the plethora of bobby pins she had employed to hold them down. Excited about this point of connection, I wanted to nervously jabber at her excessively about the finer points of having curly red hair. Did she, too, often find strange men touching her hair in supermarkets and shopping malls? Did she, also, see the overall benefit to society of carrying the burden of having red hair? She must, at least, find herself randomly angry from time to time… perhaps that was why she is now a yoga instructor. It keeps her red hair in equilibrium with the universe. I did not bring up our obvious similarity, but I did feel very much at ease.
She helped me find a yoga mat and set me up next to the mirror, far from the door. I was nervous about the empty mats spread out everywhere. People would be here. People would be watching me. I knew this, because I was going to watch them. Well, sheesh, I had no clue what I was going to be doing. And if I was going to fold my Viking, barbarian body into a pretzel, I was going to at least do it right.
“Here,” she said, placing my mat down. “Let’s put you here, not too close to the mirror, and not too near to Brian.”
I looked up at Brian, just in front of me. Most of the Brians I’ve met have been moderately to mildly unstable (no offense, Brian). So it came as little surprise to me when he was the hairiest man I’ve ever seen. I’m sure he was the original Wookie who played Chewbacca in Star Wars. He was at least as tall. His bushy hair didn’t stop at his face but sort of swallowed his jaw and chin in a similarly bushy beard. His eyebrows weren’t sure if they wanted to join his hairline or just sort or continue into his sideburns. His arms and legs, exposed by his shorts and t-shirt workout attire, were also covered with dark hair. As much as I might have been intimidated by the shorts and t-shirt clad, wild mountain man in the yoga class, I was actually put slightly at ease by his presence and proximity to where I would soon be contorting myself into an Origami crane. After all, if the Wookie could do it… I was sure I could.
“Here you are,” the instructor said. “And whenever you’re ready, you can leave your shoes over there as we do the class barefoot.”
So I rolled out my mat and set down my water bottle. I walked over to the wall and took off my shoes and socks. When my sock snagged on something, I looked down to find I had broken a toe nail. I tore it the rest of the way off so it would not impede my free-flowing movement in any way, and threw it away. I walked back to my mat as the class began to begin.
Beside the Wookie, there was a girl resembling a pencil. Across the room was an older gentleman who was already sweating profusely. (I feel like this same older gentleman who is already sweating is at every event, class, or workout room I ever attend). An elderly couple who looked like typical grandparents stood near to him. The rest of the class was full of yoga women, called wogamen, complete with elastic bodies and flattering workout clothes. Their alien race and beauty is both inspiring and intimidating and only fully appreciated in their natural habitat of the yoga class.
My mental strategy began to formulate. I knew that if I had any problems, I could watch Pencilgirl for technique. If I began to lose confidence or feel uncomfortable, I would just look back at the Wookie. If the Wookie could do it, I could. With this mental plan all set, I was sure to be fine.
I sat on my mat as the class began to begin.
The instructor’s voice lilted and drifted in a dream-like way across the floor, through our ears and into our souls. Something about focusing on your breathing. And now on your body. What is it saying?
I brought myself inside and realized that my body was telling me that my toe really hurt. No, I mean really hurt. I opened one eye and looked down at the disruptive and offending appendage. Both eyes snapped open. I had, apparently, ripped more than just the toe-nail off. Blood was pooling and running down to the other toes.
I blinked. Really?! My first yoga class, not even a minute in, and I’m already bleeding? I quickly checked the mat for blood. There was none, but there soon would be. I was suddenly panicked. I was across the room from the door and would have to make my way through the crowd to get to any kind of bandaid.
Maybe it’s not that bad… Maybe it will stop…? But what if it doesn’t? Then you’ll get blood on the floor! You are not Bruce Willis. This is not Die Hard. Bloody feet during yoga are unacceptable! They’ll have to close this part of the gym and disinfect the whole place and throw away your yoga mat in a hazmat bag. That’s the way these places are about blood! They freak out all the time! They’ll tell you not to do yoga ever again. The Wookie will escort you out of the building and Pencilgirl will laugh maniacally in your direction, like some bizarre Monty Python sketch.
Now, just go get a bandaid at the front desk.
Everybody’s eyes are closed. My most favorite thought ever when I’m about to do something that I hope won’t really matter (like wear a dress to the pool or actually swim in the ocean during a penguin plunge) entered my mind:
Nobody will notice.
Armed with this confidence, I got up carefully and walked as softly as my Hun, Celt, warrior form could manage amongst the sleeping alien lifeforms. Once I left the special dance/yoga floor… each of my steps creaked loudly above the instructor’s calm, unwavering voice. I could feel eyes turning to watch me leave. Gah… if Luke Skywalker had been there, he could have at least used the Force to get me a bandaid. But no, I got a Wookie in this class.
I found a bandaid at the front desk and hurried back to my mat and the class. I felt the disruption I had caused forgiven as I made my way back across the room and settled in. I exhaled calmly at the crisis I had averted. Now I was able to fully focus.
The instructor was great and I found the movements and positions familiar. I didn’t know any of their names, nor was I able to anticipate the steps. But I was, at least, able to follow along. I made myself try every time she said, “If you want to deepen this…” or “A more advanced position is to…”. I found myself able to do everything. I was quite impressed by my flexibility.
I did occasionally glance at Pencilgirl when I couldn’t see the instructor. I didn’t actually look at the Wookie too much. However, he seemed quite limber for a Wookie and he made the workout more intense by doing pushups and other kinds of crazy stuff. Good news was, he didn’t make any sounds like a Wookie. But, still, it wasn’t so hard to imagine that he could rip the arms off of somebody.
Toward the end of the class, we all somehow ended up just lying on the floor. My eyes were closed. I felt just sort of good all over. The music had stopped. I don’t know what I was thinking about.
I might fall asleep. I think I might.
But you get to swim after this!
…But I’m so sleepy…
Those long car rides. Those early mornings. The swimming. The work. Everything else. I’m just so sleepy. Don’t let me lie on the floor too long. Please? I need to keep moving. I don’t mean to be so tired… It’s just a lot.
It’s just a lot.
Oh dear, Bethany. Don’t worry. Don’t be sad. One step at a time. You can do this. You can.
It was some time before the instructor called us upright again. I hesitated, unwilling to battle gravity. Come on, you Viking-barbarian-toe-bleeding-yoga-achieving-race-running-marathon-swimming person, you. You can do this.
If the Wookie can do it- I laughed to myself, giving away a sneaky, wry sort of smile. That Wookie probably couldn’t do half the stuff this kid can do.
As I sat up, I heard the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi:
“The Force will be with you. Always.”
I stifled my laugh as the class ended. Yes, oh yes.
Best yoga class ever.