My Date with Hatha Yoga

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I’ve been dating someone. Not like going steady and definitely not monogamously, but I’ve been testing out the waters with this new gentleman. His name is Yoga. Hatha Yoga, to be exact. Dipping my toe in this new relationship, I’m going slow, taking my time. He’s supposed to be the gentlest variation of yoga, but truth be told, he’s far from it. And I’m dubious.

Our latest date night was at YogaWorks. The date started our promising – the room was airy and the sun shone through the floor-to-ceiling windows, illuminating the dust motes floating above the colorful yoga mats spread throughout the room. The date went downhill rather quickly after this peaceful opener. The instructor began the class by asking us to sit in Baddha Koṇasana, which is to sit cross-legged on the floor, the bottoms of our feet touching.

“Feel the sides of your knees gently kiss the floor” he said.

My eyes bulged. Feel my knees do what?

I glanced around me to see if anyone else thought this was as ridiculous a request as asking me to lift my car above my head. But alas, the room was made up of female Gumbies. And their knees were not just gently kissing the floor but taking themselves all the way to home base. Hussies! I looked down at my stubborn knees, which were closer to gently kissing my earlobes than the floorboards.

With this pretzel of an opener, I was terrified of what the hour of focused stretching had in store for me and my creaky Tin Man of a body.

The next stretch seemed so simple that I had a hard time believing it was a stretch. Vajrasana, the Kneeling Pose, was just what it sounded like. The latter part, not the former, which sounded like the name of a fancy $23 cocktail made with kombucha and served out of a biodegradable, edible, and wearable cup in a hipster Atwater Village restaurant. You could practically hear the order being placed.

I’ll have a Spicy Vajrasana with a side of gluten-free avocado toast. And please confirm that the avocado was harvested in a cruelty-free environment. Namaste.

Back to the Kneeling Pose. You kneel and sit back on your heels. And keep sitting. And sitting. And sitting. My hips cried out in agony as my quads fell asleep, my ankles cramped (which I didn’t even know was possible), and my toes tingled. And this was five seconds into the stretch.

“Listen to your body. If you feel your knees, ankles, or hips resist, gently modify the pose.” The instructor advised.

Or? Wrong conjunction. My knees, ankles, hips, quads, and toes were revolting against this pose. Twenty seconds passed and circulation was cut off to the lower half of my body. I wasn’t certain I could successfully unfold myself out of this pose due to the loss of blood circulation to my legs when the instructor suggested we deepen the stretch and “gently recline our back to the floor” into Supta Virasana or Reclined Hero Pose.

One second, let me just amputate my legs and I’ll join you on the floor.

“Use the bolster or blocks if you need to.” Suggested the instructor.

He didn’t have to tell me twice. I started stacking them double time. All the blocks in the studio couldn’t make the pose any less uncomfortable. I felt my Gumby neighbor eyeing my rapidly growing Leaning Tower of Pisa.

“Doesn’t that feel yummy?” Our instructor crooned as my hips silently groaned in protest.

“Yaaaaaaaaaaas” the room of Gumbies whisper-hissed back in unison.

Yaas my ass. This hour of lingering stretching was proving more onerous than an hour of TRX cross-training.

Towards the end of class, the instructor asked us to get into Viparita Karani, the Upside-Down pose. Still numb from the loss of circulation, I clumsily scooted my butt as close to the wall as possible and with a series of grunts, threw my cement legs up on the wall with such force that the window frames shook with the impact. Legs up on the wall, I stared at the robin’s egg blue walls. I liked this color of blue. It was light. It was soft. It was sanitized. There was no personality inside those studio walls but there was something comforting to the hollowness, this absence of character.

“Release the tension. Feel the release. Express it.” Intoned the instructor.

While the rest of the room fell into a catatonic state of mindfulness, my frenzied mind shifted from numb hips to Madonna‘s “Express Yourself.” With zero capacity for mindfulness, my thoughts nervously hovered around one observation before flitting to the next.

That’s a great Madonna song.

I wonder how clean the baseboard are in this studio.

I’m hungry.

Did I turn the oven off before I left the house?

I wonder how many calories you burn by stretching.

I forgot to buy seltzer.

I’m hungry.

When am I going to visit my sister?

I should go shopping after this class.

I think Nordstrom is having a sale!

I need to clean the litter boxes.

I’m hungry.

We were in this pose for what felt like days.

“We don’t give enough attention to the lower back and hips. During this pose, focus on your lower back and hips.” Suggested the instructor.

No chance of me not focusing on my lower back and hips during this pose. Shakira got it right when she bleated “These hips don’t lie”. My hips were very clearly the most authentic part of me, only capable of expressing hard truths. And they were screaming for me to get out of this pose. After a few decades spent in Viparita Karani, we were able to end class with my favorite yoga cocktail. Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with a twist of Balasana (Child’s Pose). Namaste!

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