May 9th, 2012
My yoga card for the local gym has four punches left on it, and expires in as many days. And thus the stage is set for a showdown between my frugality and inflexibility.
This card, which I bought a little under a year ago, was my second. The first was purchased after a consultation with a weight trainer who, after evaluating my physical capabilities, told me not to darken his dumbells until I returned a little more limber. That came as no surprise, honestly, as inflexibility runs on the maternal side of my family. Even as a beanpole of a child I spent the “touch your toes” portion of gym class getting reacquainted with my kneecaps at best.
So, yoga. My gym has a “Happy Hour” session every weekday at 4:30 (so named because “Agony Hour” went over poorly with the focus group, I presume), each with a different teacher. I tried a few different days before finding an instructor with the perfect mix of patience, mercy, and amazing playlist.
The first thing I learned about yoga is that it has a profoundly screwed up incentive system. When you do something wrong, a lovely and/or handsome instructor comes over and places a hand on you and murmurs words of encouragement. If, on the other hand, you accidentally improve, you are able to more closely approximate the ideal pose, and wake up the following morning feeling like you were on the wrong end of a grapeshot cannon. The ideal strategy, I have found, is to just sort of flounder around aimlessly. In this regard I am a master strategist.
The only thing worse than bringing a knife to a gun fight is bringing a cellphone to a yoga class.
— Matthew Baldwin (@matthewbaldwin) March 4, 2011
Prior to this I had only done Wii Fit yoga, which is to actual yoga what playing with a Hotwheels car is to piloting the space shuttle. The Wii Fit yoga instructor tells you to hold your pose for a mere 60 seconds, and only comments if you seem “shaky”. This is because the sole input device used by Wii Fit yoga is the balance board. Real life yoga instructors, on the other hand, can evaluate a multitude of other factors, such as whether or not you are audibly sobbing. And they make you do yoga for a full hour instead of for just 10 minutes. And “taking a breather” in the middle to drink beer and play Wii Lego Star Wars is frowned upon. It’s pretty draconian.
On the up side, “gym” yoga is not like “yoga studio” yoga, in that many of the participants are just dabblers. Even so, I have rarely seen another as inflexible as myself. In one class I was behind a woman who seemed to be struggling as much as I during the initial, limbering up exercises, and it was only when we began the routine proper, and she turned to the side, that I discovered that she was in her third or possibly fourth trimester.
Still, for all that, I eventually grew to enjoy my sessions, and got in the habit of attending every Thursday afternoon. I even used up my punchcard and purchased another. But, alas, about halfway through the second, my Thursday afternoon instructor introduced us to the “Knife In the Back” pose, by resigning from the gym and moving to California to open her own studio. BOOO TO YOU PRETTY YOGA TRAITOR LADY!
My yoga studio will be called NOTHIN’ BUT CHILD’S POSE!
— Matthew Baldwin (@matthewbaldwin) January 28, 2012
I tried a few other instructors thereafter. Some were mean (“If you’re going to make faces you may as well smile” one told me), and others employed Bad Music (one just played Sufjan Stevens’s “Illnoise” album during our session, which was fine until the phrase “cancer of the bone” rang out during the downward facing dog). Eventually I fell off the yogatic wagon altogether.
Until earlier this week, that is, when I dug out my card and found it set to expire with five boxes unpunched. And so yesterday, after six months of absenteeism, I returned to Happy Hour Yoga … only to discover that Tuesdays are now the “core workout” session. As I have the core strength of a bundt cake, and will sooner become the Secretary of the Agriculture before planking for longer than a handful of seconds, it Did Not Go Well.
At least the instructor constantly urged us to “tighten your stomach muscles”. This is the functional equivalent of “sucking in your gut”, something I habitually do in yoga class unbidden, so I was pleased to discover that there is one maneuver I can perform flawlessly.
One down, four punches to go. Hopefully they won’t all feel like they were delivered to my midsection.