And now yoga. A friend takes me to yoga.
She described it as “calming the chaos of the mind.” Which scares me, because I’m really into chaos. Rest tends to make me restless. Quiet is noisy stuff.
Relaxing makes me tired and irritable. Tranquility sorta bugs me. I’m reluctant to achieve Enlightenment, because I’m worried it’s going to be dull. In college, I could never study in the library. The quiet was too distracting.
Left alone, quiet and inactive, my brain will sometimes try to eat itself.
So, yoga. I’m gonna learn yoga.
I haven’t been buried in so many affirmations and so much self-esteem since I last watched “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” It turns out that “I-I-I caaan.” It turns out that “my best is enough.” It seems I’m “part of the divine” and the divine in my instructor keeps recognizing the divine in me. Like, maybe they went to high school together. “What you can do is all you can do,” the instructor says to me slowly, patiently, eyebrows raised, just pedantic enough so I notice but not enough to tick me off.
There’s, like, a whole language that comes with this. The teacher leads us through a series of poses.
And the poses have Sanskrit names, named for animals and cosmos and geography.
I ace the first pose right off. Tadasana (tuh-dah-suh-nuh) — the mountain. You stand, feet together, hands by your side. Got it. I’m the skinniest mountain ever, but a mountain to be sure.
Now uttanasana (ooo-tuh-nah-suh-nuh), intense stretch pose, and prasarita padottanasana (prah-sah-reeta puh-dot-tuh-nah-suh-nuh), same thing with legs wide. Got it. Just like in basketball warm-ups, ’cept I’m not frenetically chewing Juicy Fruit gum. Then things accelerate. The warrior. The cobra. Down dog. Half moon. Chair. Fierce chair (my quads hurt). Pigeon. King pigeon (mine looks more like road-kill armadillo). Upward bow. Wheel pose (which, for me, quickly collapses into Beached Whale).
At one point, I look up, and I see they have replaced our teacher with an inspirational hologram. I assume, anyway, because had a human being with an actual skeleton gotten into that position, I would have heard things breaking.
It descends rapidly into a game of TwisterFromHell, but all by yourself. Pretty sure the teacher just asked me to reach through my spleen and grab my right ankle while placing my left foot on top of my head.
But still, I was glad to make a creative contribution to the class. I was inventing poses left and right! There was Old Man, Panicked Old Man, dweebasana, geekottana, and I capped it all off with fallonmyassana.
So, Steven, what do you think of yoga?
You mean, when I could walk again?
I think yoga is worship. Church in your body. I think it crucifies you, because it knows that’s the only way to resurrect you. It empties you of you, and then connects you with yourself.
It makes you small. Then whole. Then powerful. But quiet.
I’m gonna rethink this ‘quiet’ thing.
It teaches you to breathe. Respiration. Respire, inspire, aspire, expire. Spire. Spiritus. Spirit. It amazes me how many English words contain breath and breathing.
See, people like me forget to breathe.
As do depressed people. And scared people. And anxious people. Oxygen is our friend.
Yoga teaches me something astonishing. Very little worth having requires my rigor, straining, grimacing or grunting. Some things are better experienced than achieved. Some things are better received than wrought.
I’m a very intense guy. But not everything needs my intensity. Turns out I don’t even need it most of the time.
We end with savasana; or, corpse pose. I call it unabletomoveana. Flat on my back. Eyes shut. Motionless. The teacher leads us through a meditation. I’m guessing more positive affirmations and self-esteem, but I honestly was zoned out.
Suddenly I’m aware that my friend has reached over to squeeze my hand. I think, “Why is she holding my hand?”
Then it hits me. Uh-oh. I wince. Then I giggle.
“I was snoring?”
“Uh-huh,” she says.
Seems I confused meditating with sleeping. Apparently a common yoga faux pas.
Steven Kalas is a Nevada author, therapist and Episcopal priest. He writes a weekly column for the Sparks Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.