Lent and other challenging things: an amateur's yoga account

First of all, let me begin by saying that I am currently laying on my futon with laptop in lap – defeated, having completed somewhere between one-third to one half of a power yoga DVD that I received over two years ago for my birthday in response to my request for something to “get me into” yoga.

I can count on my two hands how many times I have attempted this DVD in the two years I’ve owned it and that’s probably being generous. I have not ever, not once, completed it in its entirety. I also don’t know if there are other types of yoga more suited for a beginner, but power yoga is nothing like I imagine yoga to be. In my head, yoga is a peaceful gathering of flexible, thin, well-dressed women which lasts about an hour or so while an artificial waterfall trickles in the background; in my head, it is almost always followed by a day at the spa or trivial daytime errands. To me, that’s yoga. Inspiring. Calming. Trendy.

Those women would never let me into their flexible circle, no. I rummage through my drawers to pull out my tightest and stretchiest pants with a tank top to match. I consider taking off my jewelry but instead tell myself, “It’s yoga. Leave it on! You’ll feel more elegant with your rings and bracelets.” I strut out to the living room and move the coffee table out of the way. I’m feeling leaner already until I catch a glimpse in the mirror and realize that yoga clothes are much better suited for bean-pole figures and are simply unforgiving of pear-shaped wannabes. Not to be deterred, I put in the DVD, roll out my mat, throw my socks off into the corner of the room (where they will likely be forgotten), and press play.

Mountain pose. I look at the instructor on the screen and his feet seem to be touching. I do the same but my knees knock into one another until I settle on a more relaxed stance. Namaste hands. Much better. I could get the hang of this. And then, the third move in the hour-long DVD: The swan dive. The instructor ends with his feet flat, hands on the floor behind him while bent forward, legs straight. I tweak one of my hamstrings on the way down, let out a groan, and stop midway down. I can’t touch my toes! I tell myself to power through, that I’ll never get that good if I don’t try, so I keep going through the moves with a modified, non-flexible, approach.

My hip pops to allow my body into Warrior II pose and I lose my balance several times before feeling like I’ve fairly decently replicated the transition from mountain pose to lunge to Warrior II to lunge and back to mountain pose. At this point, my hamstrings are crying, not even screaming; they’ve passed the screaming threshold and have retreated silently into what can be described as trauma-management. Moving into some sort of triangular pose with one knee bent, I notice that my right side is indeed elongated as described in the video. In fact, I think my skin feels taught, despite the small bulge remaining at my waistline. That’s when I realize, it’s not just my hamstrings that are not flexible, it’s my entire body!

I try to mimic my instructor and continue to lose my balance. I am thinking elongated, stretched and lean but I can’t help from focusing on the inches of waistline being pinched between hip and rib cage as I arch over to the left. I look up at my instructor for help but he doesn’t seem to have that skin fold. In fact, he has no skin folds. His body twists and molds like puddy on a bony frame. I throw my hair out of my face again as I begin to sweat and curse myself for not putting my hair up. There’s nothing glamorous about this yoga thing. It’s grueling! I am suddenly aware that I’ve been grunting and groaning this entire time as I hear my neighbor open the hallway door to pay off the pizza man. I’m in the comfort of my own home and this experience still feels somewhat humiliating. I look up at my instructor once more and look to move the way he moves. I contort my body the best way I know how but when he tells me to raise my arms over my head and extend my body at an angle, I find my arms stuck, unwilling to extend into such an uncomfortable position.

“Forget yoga,” I tell myself. “I’m done.”

I hit the pause button and flop down miserably on my futon to grab my computer…

And that brings you up to the present. My waist sits insultingly exposed between my too-tight shirt and too-tight pants. At this point, I can’t tell if my rib cage is aching because of the pretzel-like moves I’ve just attempted or the band built into this damned top. My intestines are still untangling.

And all I really wanted to do was get in a light workout before writing about the sacrifices and focus of Lent – how I’ve given up alcohol this year (a cake-walk compared to the past 15-30 minutes) and what my friends think about it, etc. But instead I’ll leave you with the real image of yoga and call it a day. I’ve got to recuperate after that fiasco.

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