Naptime for dummies

Let’s call it “Yoga for Dummies.”

That’s what “Introduction to Yoga” at Payne Whitney Gymnasium feels like. Uncomfortable with the requisite spirituality associated with some branches of yoga and terrified of what Bikram might do to me, I chose PWG. But despite seeming more reasonable, my first hour in the class seems a mishmash of the absurd and the zen.

I wander in, and notice the rest of the students waiting patiently for the instructor to bounce over to the crate in the back of the room holding the common yoga mats. I grin condescendingly. I have my own mat. But an hour of ego-breaking, mind-muddling yoga is enough to break my ego, challenging me to grapple with many a serious question. For instance,

Did you know breathing is hard?

We spend a good five minutes at the beginning of the hour discussing breathing, practicing breathing while in place, and then reminding ourselves to keep breathing. We breathe sitting up, we breathe lying down and we even breathe while jolting our pelvises into the air.

This confuses me. I’m pretty sure I’m breathing. The instructor eyes my belly with scrutiny but doesn’t say anything.

Am I really upside down right now?

This one hits around the time the instructor announces we’ll be doing shoulder stands. I follow her directions obediently, making my fingers into a triangle and holding them beneath my tailbone. Overenthusiastically I swing upward into plow position, my legs parallel to my torso and hanging just above my head. The instructor adjusts them to point straight upward — and suddenly, I’m balanced on my shoulders, still looking up, but pretty much upside down. It’s a big moment for me.

This is cool. I’m breathing, I’m relaxing, and I’m upside down! This is totally zen!

Ouch.

I slap the floor just as I hear the instructor warn everyone to come back into plow position carefully.

Why is that blonde girl so much better at this than me?

I realize there’s a lot of butt-wiggling going on around the room when I cheat and look at my fellow yoga-ers. I’m too competitive to listen to my instructor’s promises that yoga isn’t about what your neighbor is doing, but simply what you can do, yeah yeah yeah.

That blonde girl in the front of the room is butt-wiggling better than me.

Must beat her.

Ouch. Again. I dive a little too enthusiastically and smush my face into my mat. At least I have my own, and it doesn’t smell like someone else’s sweat, right?

Is it naptime yet?

The last ten or so minutes of the class are devoted to some activity I have yet to understand. We lie down on our mats with blankets folded up underneath us. I’m fairly certain I’m supposed to be breathing. Or something. I close my eyes. This part happens in every yoga class I’ve ever attended, and I’m never quite sure what is supposed to happen. But I always close my eyes. It’s nice. Like elementary school naptime, minus the smell of play-dough ground into the carpet.

It’s why I’ll come back, I know, even though I’ll probably fall over a couple more times next week, and the week after, and soon develop an impressive repertoire of yoga-bruises and bumps.

The $55 per semester are worth it, if only for the naptime.

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