Now that I’m done with my college volleyball career, I have an insatiable desire to fill my sudden abundance of free time with all sorts of novel athletic pursuits. Thus, it was only a matter of time before I would decide to participate in a yoga class. My roommate and I agreed to start a free week at a local CorePower studio (you didn’t think we could actually afford yoga classes, did you?), and we picked a Yoga/Barre class with “simple and precise movements” that sounded feasible for a beginner like me. To be honest, I believed that I was on a different level from other “beginners” due to my background in competitive athletics. After four years of killer workouts and marathon matches, how hard could this be?
When the day finally arrived, I entered the class feeling poised and confident. Our young instructor strutted into the room and turned to face us; she had a small, tan, compact body and crazy bleached blond hair in a ponytail that stuck straight out from her head. After flying through the compulsory introductions and explanations, she immediately ran us through a series of warm-up positions, and before I could figure out what was going on I found myself in a sort of modified downward dog pose, crossing one leg behind my back, craning my neck to see what everyone else was doing, and nearly throwing out my back in the process. Instructor was over by the speakers turning up her music and counting out loud: “Just six more! And one, two, three, four…” I let my head fall forward so that I was looking at her upside down between my legs. I thought we were just holding this pose…were we supposed to be doing reps of something…? I felt my face turning red as the blood rushed down to my head. Instructor jogged to the front of the room and began shouting “Breathe in! Breathe out!” in a very authoritative voice. I put my leg down on the floor tentatively. I had always imagined a yoga instructor as having a mellifluous voice, murmuring pose suggestions as the sound of harps and waterfalls played in the background. This image was quickly being destroyed by this peppy specimen of a woman – perhaps she had a background as a zumba instructor?
Instructor ordered us to stand up, place our feet shoulder-width apart, and begin squatting in time to the music. I scrambled to my feet and squatted appreciatively – this was a familiar exercise. Instructor then shouted “Move your feet three more steps apart, and squat, and squat, and squat…” My feet were already sweating, so as I rushed to slide them apart I narrowly escaped slipping straight down into the splits. After wobbling magnificently for a moment, I regained control and looked at myself in the floor-to-ceiling studio mirror. I was peeved to find that, instead of a look of serenity, my face wore the expression of a terrified child. Next, we were ordered to move to a seated position with our backs to the wall, where we could reach up and hold on to the barre to assist us in an ab exercise. While we students sweated and shook our way through the reps, Instructor sat in the middle of the room and performed them easily without a wall or a barre. When she turned to look at one of the other students, I glared at her. Just for a second.
After muddling through the ab portion of the class, I followed Instructor’s directions and positioned myself next to the barre in such a way that I could stand on one leg, rest the majority of my weight on the barre, and lift my other leg up behind me repeatedly in time to the music. Ultimately, this exercise allows the muscles of the hamstring and buttocks to feel as though they are being stabbed repeatedly and roasted over a fire – like marshmallows, I guess. I kept looking down at my supporting leg, which was shaking uncontrollably, but Instructor would always catch me: “Look up! Open your collarbone!” I forced my chin upward and focused on the thermostat on the wall. It was turned off. Sweat dripped into my eye. I continued to kick up my other leg behind me as the instructor counted off the reps. The barre was wobbling as I clung to it for support and my mind wandered: How much could I sue the studio for if the barre ripped out of the wall suddenly? What was this pose, anyway? The modified poison dart frog? Or maybe the ninja II… My leg was trembling even more violently and my foot was slipping sideways across the floor. “Look up!” Instructor startled me out of my reverie; crap, she caught me looking down again. She moved back to the middle of the room and yelled “How’s everyone doing??” Silence. Either no one had enough breath to produce a response, or no one could bring themselves to voice their true feelings.
One of our final leg exercises involved standing with the barre to one side and lifting up the leg opposite the barre so that it looks as though you are forming half of the indian-style siting position, but in the air. This turned out to be impossible for me, since an inexplicable absence of flexibility in my right hip has prevented me from ever being able to sit indian-style, even in my youth. Instructor came over to correct my leg position, of course. She grabbed my shin with both hands and began to force it upwards: “See? Try to hold it like this.”
I nearly fell over as her well-meaning attempts threatened to wrest my hip from its very socket. “My hip just doesn’t move that way,” I explained apologetically after jerking away from her. “It’s always been like that – I don’t know why.” Inside I was screaming “I’M SORRY I’M INCOMPETENT!”
Instructor just smiled and said, “No worries, it could be worse!” I thought back to what would have happened if I had slipped into the splits a few minutes ago.
Yes, it definitely could have been worse.
If you’re looking for me, I’ll be doing the corpse pose.
(Images adapted from Show Me How by Lauren Smith)