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?
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?
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.)