I started doing yoga again. Not only have I become a better person but I feel as if I am developing an understanding of my body. I understand this: My body is stiff. If I were wood, you could build a house with me.
I’m not only better but calmer. A day after my first yoga session, a driver behind me gave me a double honk — the beep beep — because the light had turned green and I had not yet moved. The old Herb might have become unhinged and used colorful language but the new Herb murmured “namaste,” a yoga blessing that means “may your car burst into flames and your children desert you when you become infirm and sightless.”
Years ago, a group of us took some hot yoga classes at a studio downtown. Hot yoga refers to the temperature of the room. The thermostat is set at about 105, in other words the temperature of your car in the summer. A hot car can be a good introduction to hot yoga because when you sit down and then immediately have to flex your buttocks and arch your back to get clear of the burning seat, you’ve just done the first two poses in hot yoga.
In hot yoga, students are encouraged to bring towels in order wipe down their mats and foreheads because if they don’t, they may slip and slide out the door and down the fire escape while they assume Warrior II.
Last week, friends invited me to a session with their yoga instructor, Carl. Carl was not a big man, but don’t let that fool you. Yoga people can surprise you. They’ll get you down on the ground and squeeze the life out of you like a python.
“Sit down on your mat,” Carl said.
“Sit down” sounded easy enough unless it was coupled with “stand up.” I can do both but prefer to have a day or so between them for recovery purposes.
The session got harder. I grabbed, twisted and pulled. Carl reminded me to keep breathing through my nose.
My nose? I can barely breathe through my mouth. Nose, mouth I’m in no position to be choosy. I’d breathe through my ears and naval if it would help.
Somebody in the room was groaning. Somebody was panting. Somebody was on the verge of crying “chaacha,” which is “uncle” in Hindi.
“I know this feels like you’re not doing much,” said my friend toward the end of the session, which seemed to last longer than a Mumbai summer. “But it’s really a better workout than you think.”
Not doing much? Speak for yourself, Ms. Loosey-Goosey. I’ve never done so much doing so little.
“Here, try a yoga block,” said Carl, handing me one of those colorful Styrofoam blocks that can be used by beginners when the flexibility isn't quite there yet.
A yoga block was fine but what I really needed was a yoga block and tackle, one that would raise and lower me into position.
I didn’t have yoga pants. That was my problem. I was wearing the kind of shorts you wear when you play miniature golf.
An hour later, the session was over and we were lying on our backs in what's called shavasana or the corpse pose. Some people think it’s hard, given that relaxing is not always easy.
For some people, yes. For others, no. I could do that one all night long.