Yoga has never been a primary strength for me. I prefer gentler approaches to caring for the body, like taking long baths, lying in bed, or receiving massage. Sam soon had us doing things I would not have thought possible or advisable. We had to stretch our legs straight out in front of us, and bend forward from the waist. Some of the ladies were kissing their kneecaps in smug flexibility; as hard as I tried, my knees were still a long way from my head.
Next we lay on our backs and raised our legs and feet up toward the ceiling, then raised up the whole torso, so only head and neck remained on the ground. That was bad enough, way beyond my pain threshold. Every tiny space between every vertebra was announcing revolt.
But it did not stop there. It went on and on. We lowered our legs even further behind the head, until the feet were touching the ground. That was the idea, anyway, and it seemed to work out fine for the ladies with rubber spines. My feet dangled in midair, like a disoriented insect. Sam cruised among the urban yogis, murmuring words of encouragement. As she came close, I lowered my feet even further to the floor, in a kamikaze bid for her approval.
“Don’t strain, Matt,” was all she could offer my heroic self-torture.
“Would Hawaii suit you for the honeymoon?” I tried to reply. Too late, she had moved on. “And what about children, I’m really ok to have more.” We could discuss it later. We had the rest of our lives.
We finished with a balancing posture, for which I was truly unprepared. First we stood on our mats, in two long lines, one behind the other.
“Place your feet together, feel your head pulled to the sky as though by a golden thread,” Sam said.
I relished every word, made mental notes to encourage her to write poetry.
“Now, reach back with the left hand and catch your left ankle. Pull your foot up to the buttocks.”
I felt a shiver of excitement as she said that word. I love your buttocks, darling, I rehearsed for Hawaii.
“Stretch your right arm out in front, and lean the head and torso forward.”
Every tiny part of me was now relying on my right ankle to stay upright, and my right ankle was feeling quite unsure of its credentials for the job.
“Now, stretch your left foot and leg out behind you.”
A very trained foot, proudly adorned in a pristine white sock, appeared perfectly still in mid air before me, offered as a challenge from the lady on the next mat up. I was already wobbly before Sam did her tour of the room, but the more desperate I felt to excel at this feat, the more elusive it became. I held out as long as I could, but when it was truly time to abandon hope, raw instinct kicked in. I reached out for the nearest stable object I could find, in hopes of staying upright. I grabbed that still and strong white sock. We went down together.
I was disappointed in that lady. With all her yogic practice, the perfect outfit and all, I would have expected greater control of her emotions. Her assumption that I had done it on purpose, and her quite needless aggression to me betrayed her yogic training to be very immature. I made a mental note to have a word with Sam about this, when we were alone later.
“So sorry,” I offered as I helped the lady back up to her feet. “I trained in partner yoga in India, you know. More interaction in those schools.” She was unimpressed, and looked at me as though I were both mad and dangerous. Sam giggled. I winked at her. We would have a good laugh about this later, maybe in bed gazing out at the sunset, sipping white wine. Organic.
Excerpt from Arjuna’s new novel, The Last Laugh.
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickwebb/3968719105/, http://www.nerospinto.it/nero/2013/simboli-nello-yoga-e-nelle-asana-della-tradizione/, http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/12/17/fashion/20091217-socks-slideshow_4.html?_r=0