Back in the mid-90s, Nicole and I were roommates and fellow Immunology graduate students. A few times a week, we would quit our mouse murdering, gel loading, and cell spinning to put in a few pre-pasta hours at The Lady Gym. These were the days when fat was bad, carbs were good, merlot was popular, and yoga was for smelly weirdos who couldn’t run six minute miles while watching Friends. Bored with the Stairmaster, Nicole took the smelly weirdo class one day and was hooked. She urged me to join her, extolling the virtues of stretching en masse; and because Nicole wasn’t wrong about sushi or The Gipsy Kings, I reluctantly agreed to try a class. I marched my Rachel haircut and former-gymnast bravado into the studio and spent the next 45 minutes trying hard not to laugh at, well, pretty much everything.

Do NOT do this if you’re menstruating. Eww. Why?

This pose cleanses the adrenals. MASSAGE your adrenal glands! That’s not where your adrenal glands are, and even if you could, massaging them would spell disaster.

BREATHE into your SPINE. Huh?

Namaste. Jesus.

Because I couldn’t stop giggling at the (perfectly pretty and absolutely annoying) instructor, I left early and spent the next fifteen years making fun of yoga… and anyone in flared pants that claimed intimacy with her adrenals. I went back to my Gravitron, elliptical, and treadmill to dispassionately count the minutes until I could dismount these instruments of torture, resigned to exercise as a form of punishment for diminishing hotness. And paid $75 per month for the displeasure of it.

I know plenty of women who adore working out, who love to run more than I love to sit, who train for marathons and triathlons and other vomit-inducing feats of endurance. But you’ll never find me wrapped in a foil blanket. Compelled by postpartum body distortion, I pay a lot (A LOT) of money to have a professional force me to squat and lift and pull and repeat repeat repeat because left to my own devices, I’d always choose less strenuous undertakings for a child-free morning in stretchy pants. I’m just happier when my heart rate (and everything else) is resting, and I continue to approach exercise like flossing, Costco shopping, or other unavoidable, irksome chores. I certainly never expected to revisit The Land of the Adrenally Aware… but that all changed when I went to Nordstrom’s with April.

So many little deaths occur in fitting rooms. All of us occasionally loathe that girl in the mirror and hurl bullying remarks at her bulges and zipper defiance. It was one of those days shimmying in and out of one-size-too-small when I was struck with total appendage envy. April has great guns. Every dress looked fabulous with her sculpted triceps accessories. Forget the teeny Missoni… I wanted April Arms. Was she swimming? Lifting? Starving?

Ugh, seriously?

Fifteen years of yoga ridicule halted by pure vanity. Now, if my no-nonsense, scientist-turned-mommy friend could stifle sniggers to ohm-for-arms, then certainly I could give it another chance?

I could, and I did, and I didn’t laugh once being rather preoccupied with gasping for humidified air. And now, I habitually join a group-sweat-and-stretch with a room full of people sharing a collective yogi-crush on a man named Maasaki. I sign up early to get a spot with Jacqui whose beauty and wisdom transcend her ridiculously townie accent. And though I’m hooked on these absurd poses, addicted to the heat of the room, psyched for the opportunity to do splits and handstands… to be perfectly honest, I’m doing it for the sake of my jiggle-y bits. I fake the chants, and my inner Catholic finds all of the third eye pressured bowing to be goofily blasphemous. The mini catnap at the end will always be my favorite part. But these instructors make it tolerable by not taking it all so seriously (or referencing their adrenals). And it’s one of the few places I never feel cold, or weak. Having spent so many months bald, tired, and shivering, yoga gets a big Namaste shout out for that.

I now realize that my first yoga class with Nicole sucked. Taught properly, even this mocking mommy can suspend downward dog derision for one hot hour of chatarangas. But I always find myself high-tailing it out of that sweltering room, feeling like an interloper in a cult. Though I’m a regular at Hot Vinyasa Flow, I haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid or bought anything at lululemon. I’m still a skeptic, and this keeping-it-at-(toned) arms-length has a judge-y, un-Christian feeling to it… even though it’s just yoga. And to be fair, I have learned a thing or two on that sticky mat. Jacqui often says, “If your eyes aren’t closed, and you’re comparing yourself to everyone else, you might look fancy… but that’s not what it’s all about.” And she totally has a point. So I’ll keep going back. (Until my arms look like April’s.)

13 responses

  1. How that class did suck! And many years later, after finally finding a few “Jacquis” of my own, I realized that. But sweat or no sweat, the good Hindu girl that I am tries to find beauty and peace (and some buff arms) during that meditative hour. And it’s one hour away from three children. Breathe!

  2. Well! A true suffragette! I saw no reason why I would not live forever, doing the things that normal folk do, until I gradually became aware of The Back from Hell which became accompanied by a very sore leg resulting in all manner of difficulties. Appointments are made in the time scale of weeks, not days, and the scale stretches into units of months. The word Linearity takes on an entirely new meaning. Next is an MRI, then another visit to The Spine Unit, then PT (assuming the MRI does not bring bad news). But I cannot complain, as I am twice your age and am blessed with a loving wife and from my previous wife three offspring and nine grands. All of course above average. So I tell myself that I have no reason to complain. Did I mention a loving dog?

    Press on with your blog! Just don’t preach yoga! Yet.


    Sent from my iPad

  3. Once again you have entertained and enlightened us and – I admit I turned to wikipedia twice in this article. Having no idea of what Namaste could be I am now informed and impressed and believe yoga must be a good fit for you. You have combined your working out agenda with some amazing cultural and spiritual connections. And I am not surprised at all at this point in your life that you are attracted to the spiritual gesture of namaste and not the other worldly greetings.

    Thanks to April and Jacqui for inspiring you and giving you enough motivation to say no to childless, baggy clothing, sit-a-bit mornings….

  4. Genius writing, my (not-really-all-that-) old friend. Love it so much. Laughed out loud, ‘though I will forego the unfortunate internet age abridgement. We can’t just write the whole thing out?

    Can’t wait for the next installment.

  5. Brilliant and hilarious story BUT, If you REALLLLLY think about it…. Can you really laugh at “adrenal massage” at the same time as having faith in the second most (Mormonism takes the cake) ridiculous Christian cult errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr sect? You cannot be selectively skeptical about all things non-empirical.

    I think you should spend more time at the Miller’s Energy Trust trying to unlock that mystery with A-ma.

    Love you!

  6. Blasphemy! And yes, I can laugh at (and have faith in) both. But you won’t be reading Christian mockery from me. Because, you know… CANCER, and survival, and gratefulness, and whatnot. When I had a whole bunch of people praying for me, I totally felt it. And it was better than any adrenal massage.

  7. I laugh because I am still at the popular culture rebellion stage. My neighbourhood is full of Lulu-wearing matt carriers and I refuse to join them (even if I am missing new age nirvana). From a mother with jiggly bits. Thanks

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