Let me preface this piece by stating clearly, in italicized lettering, “I am not a yoga expert.” I’ve never taken a yoga teacher training class, primarily because I don’t have a couple thousand dollars stuffed up my sphincter to toss down the throat of some poor instructor who’s just trying to pay rent in this holy land of outrageous housing markets. I am not even a regular practitioner of yoga, mostly because my brain doesn’t particularly enjoy peace and quiet. I was 21 when I first learned the correct way to do Warrior 1. Please, do not consider me an expert.
Aside from helping me really stretch out my chronically tight hamstrings, yoga calms me down. Most of you reading this are probably stressed—work is stressful, finances are stressful, relationships are stressful, social media is stressful. Everyone and their mother is fanatically busy—self-induced or otherwise—and it’s just not healthy.
Because I'm not a full-fledged, Prana-wearing yogi, I often find my thoughts drifting through the ether during a long yoga class. Today, I would like to share that inner dialogue with you. Because I love you. In an entirely platonic way. In the same way I love a good cup of very dark coffee. In the way I love watching young families floundering with heavily packed strollers at Disneyland. In the way I love tiny dog sweaters. Lots of love, all for you.
The yoga teacher starts us in child’s pose. Never have I ever seen a child sit in child’s pose, which looks something like this:
During child’s pose, it is important to breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. This activates something called, “breath of fire,” which is handy if you’re ever freezing to death and need to thaw your hands in order to open your backpack, where you have a plump stash of vegan tofurkey jerky, because real meat is obviously gross.
We shift out of child’s pose and into something called downward dog, which sounds pretty much how it looks, but which isn’t a pose I’ve ever seen a dog in, or likely ever will.
The instructor tells us to breathe again. Breathing is important during yoga, and during life. Without breath, we would all just be stones. We move out of downward dog and into something called “rag doll.” If you were ever a child who ever played with a rag doll, you know that rag dolls are extremely bendable. Very easily persuaded. Rag dolls can be tied into knots. Crumpled into balls. You can become a rag doll simply by bending over and relaxing your face. You may sway back and forth a bit here. If your hamstrings are extremely stringy, this pose will be difficult, and you may want to bend those ‘lil knee-bobbers of yours.
From rag doll, we stand up straight in something called “mountain pose,” in which we stand with our arms over our heads. Very triumphant. Mountain pose has me thinking about climbing a real mountain. This time, I tell myself, I will bring adequate water and remember to pack extra almond nuts and toilet paper. This yoga thing has me feeling inspired already.
From mountain pose, we transition into something called Chaturanga. This is a difficult pose, in which you must tuck your elbows into your sides, and hover only centimeters above the ground.
We quickly move into upward dog, which is nothing more than the inverse of downward dog, and then back to downward dog.
At this point, I should have kept gazing at the space between my splayed fingers, but for some reason, I make the mistake of looking up. Up, directly into the ass of my one of my fellow yogis. Her ass was extremely visible, because her yoga pants were very worn and therefore very thin. Thinner than cling wrap. Thinner than a sheet of tissue paper. Thinner than Tom Hanks circa 2000, Castaway. Yikes.
- Increased flexibility
- Muscle tone and strength
- Improved respiration, energy, and vitality
- Weight maintenance
- Cardiovascular and circulatory health
- Improved athletic performance
- Injury prevention
In addition to these very vague physical benefits pilfered from Wikipedia, yoga can also calm you the fuck down. Relieve some stress. Bring some clarity to your very frantic mind. Since yoga incorporates a lot of inhalations and exhalations, it can teach you to breathe deeply. This stimulates something called “relaxation,” which happens to be good for your brain cells. Yoga also sharpens body awareness. The term "body awareness" is also sort of vague, since everyone’s body is different. I can’t tell you what it feels like in your body, but I can tell you that to be fully aware, you need to pay attention. Paying attention will prompt you to think about how certain activities/foods/people/situations impact your body and make you feel. It’s pretty cool to learn how to listen to your body. My body sounds like Johann Pachelbel's Cannon in D, in case you were wondering.
The yoga teacher has placed us in shavasana, an end-of-class sleepy pose in which we lie on our backs and attempt to ignore the heavy breathing of the heffalump in the corner of the studio. For your information, heffalump and woozles do exist, just ask my friend Winnie the Pooh. We breathe in and out. In and out. We think about nothing. I think about woozles. We sit up and the teacher says, "The light in me salutes the light in you." I briefly look down at my stomach, to ascertain whether or not it has lit up like a Care Bear. It has not. All is well.
Namaste, my friends.