At the beginning of this morning's yoga class, while instructed to cradle myself in one of the less demanding contortions known as relaxing fetus, I endured a twenty minute lecture praising the virtues of a raw vegan diet from our anorexic-chic, loose fitting hemp wardrobe wearing substitute teacher, who despite being a southern California Caucasian insisted on being addressed as Guruji. To further challenge my serenity, Guruji selected an appalling musical score to play in the background that was a combination of John Tesh's anyone-can-press-keys-on-the-piano-and-call-it-jazz and Cirque De Soleil's chorus-of-maniacal-voices-blathering-in-some-Flemish-inflected-nonsensical-language.
Although my memories are hard to piece together from my mother's gestation period, I vaguely recall that there was nothing particularly relaxing about the fetal position. The womb of my formation was laced with the smoke of Virginia Slims 120 cigarettes and the gastric acid of marital upset, which is probably why I exited the place three months prematurely. But despite the obvious complaints of that primary residence, it still felt less claustrophobic than the yogic womb of this morning's practice.
I positioned myself in the corner of the dimly lit studio, where I could best neutralize my social anxiety. New York yoga has a strong sense of blood thirst, each class serving as an informal battle royale of relaxation. Everyone sneaks glances at each other’s poses with a sense of defeat or victory all under the Yogic guise of being supportive.
To my utter dismay, we were assigned partners for the introduction of a new pose to add to our already overly complicated routine. This was to encourage lessons of trust and in theory to be pushed deeper towards that ultimate goal within a yoga practice, where the breath and body unite. For me, the goal of this particular class had now shifted into surviving intact without having each breath lead to a faster one until a hyperventilated release of vomit and consciousness.
My partner was Vince, a middle aged body building refugee from the 1980s, whose lifetime of lifting heavy weights had left him shockingly inflexible. After introducing ourselves, Vince laughed heartily when he mentioned being a novice to the practice. Vince was also a novice to proper gym attire, allowing his steroid shrunken testis an unsolicited public appearance in short shorts that in the midst of midtown Manhattan were shockingly not worn with any sense of irony.
“Uh oh. I gotta make a number two. Yoga really has a profound ability to stimulate the bowels,” I told Guruji, announcing my immediate departure before the commencement of the partner exercise.
I went to the weight cage of the health club, where a punching bag dangles invitingly from the ceiling. I summoned up the introductory lessons of my Tiger Schullman Karate training that I had regrettably abandoned for Yoga and then proceeded to beat the hell out of the bag for two full minutes, releasing much of the tension that had been percolating. Violence channeled towards an inanimate object has always brought me much closer to yogic enlightenment than any of my actual Yoga classes.
I returned to the classroom visibly drenched and short of breath from my unscheduled workout within my workout. My apology to Vince for my inability to continue as his partner due to exhaustion raised a confused eyebrow since he assumed I had just returned from the bathroom. I collapsed onto my mat for the remainder of the class, where I returned to the familiarity of a fetal pose to contemplate my theory that besides all of the obvious health benefits, Yoga really sucks.