Yoga (not dancing) in the Dark

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Sometimes I wonder if our best friends truly do have our best interests at heart. My friend, Lisa, has recently decided to get back into shape by practicing Yoga and she invited me to join her. Now, I’m no fan of Yoga, I’m more of a cardio, strength training person, but I am a fan of spending time with Lisa. “You have to come.” She said. “You’ll love it. He plays the best music! Even Bruce Springsteen.” Now, I was intrigued. The music in every other Yoga class I had ever attended sounded like one monotone flat note on an out-of-tune sitar followed by intermittent finger bells. But, since Lisa played the Springsteen card, I agreed to go.

It was a freezing Saturday morning when I showed up at the Yoga studio in town. Having had to park a block away I was anxious to get inside and warm up. I ran up to the building but because the glass windows and front door were all steamed up I couldn’t see inside. Wearing my down coat with the hood pulled up and carrying my Yoga mat, I opened the door and stepped inside. Immediately, it felt like I had not walked into a building but rather into a clothes dryer full of hot, steamy, damp towels that smelled like they hadn’t been laundered. The lobby was small and there were about 1,000 half dressed, barefoot, sweaty bodies all clamoring to get to the exact spot where I was standing. Not since the Continental Baths in New York closed down in the 80s because of the AIDS epidemic has there been one singular space teeming with more bacteria than this lobby. I quickly edged my way out the front door and back onto the street. I stood there gasping for air and searching for my hand sanitizer when Lisa walked up.

“What are you doing out here? It’s freezing,” she asked. “I would rather die of pneumonia here in the street and have dogs eat my frostbitten limbs than go back into that cesspool,” I replied. Lisa gave me that look that she sometimes gets when she realizes it was a mistake to take me anywhere that is less pristine than a DNA lab. “Get inside,” she said as she pushed me through the door. I’m sorry to say that nothing improved inside except that perhaps 50 or 60 more people had come in. While Lisa signed us in I noticed all the items for sale on the desk. There were sticks of incense, beaded bracelets, toe rings, and water bottles. I would have purchased a beaded bracelet if the beads were made of penicillin. Once we were signed in, I hung up my coat and suddenly realized I’d have to take off my shoes too. “I’m not wearing any socks,” I told Lisa. “No one is. You’re supposed to be barefoot,” she said. “You mean I have to walk through this lobby without my shoes?” I was horrified. I quickly scanned the lobby for any solution that would get me from where I was standing to inside the studio without touching the ground. Short of learning how to master the art of levitation in less than 60 seconds, I was screwed.

So, I hiked up my pants and walked on my heels trying not to think about why the floor was so wet. As far as I was concerned, it was from melted snow. I repeated it as a mantra all the way into the studio – “Melted snow. Melted Snow. Melted Snow.” Once I entered the darkened studio and the wave of humid heat blasted me, I knew that the puddles under my heels were sweat, the worst kind of sweat: stranger sweat. “It’s too dark in here. I can’t see anything,” I said. “It’s always dark in here,” Lisa told me. “It helps to keep you focused on what you’re doing instead of what’s going on around you.” Without the aid of night-vision goggles, I had no idea how many people were in this room. It was a windowless, airless studio, long and narrow with a high ceiling and I could hear a babbling brook off in the distance. I assumed the water sound was recorded and I was hoping that it would soon be replaced by the promised Springsteen. By the time Lisa and I found a spot on the floor to spread out our mats, I was drenched in sweat. “Holy shit, how hot is it in here?” “It will cool off,” Lisa said. “It’s just hot from the class before this.” “Was it a furnace building class?” I asked.

Now that we had staked out our spots and my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see how crowded the class was. Lisa was up against the wall and, unfortunately for me, I was up against some shirtless guy in tight blue spandex gym shorts. I proceeded to arrange my purse, towel and water bottle in between us to send him a message to stay on his own side. I looked around the room and I could see shadows bending, twisting and contorting into various poses in preparation for the class. Lisa did some stretching while I sat on my mat and rearranged my blockade just in case shirtless-blue-spandex-shorts-guy wasn’t getting the message. Just as I was getting comfortable with the darkness the studio door opened and there stood the instructor silhouetted against the bright lights of the lobby. “That’s Jason, he’s the Yogi,” Lisa whispered. Jason, the “Yogi” entered the room clad in nothing but low riding, rolled up cotton pants and a beard. He had long hair, the palest skin I’ve ever seen on a living person, and he weighed somewhere between 60 and 70 pounds. Jason greeted the class and told everyone to keep their eyes closed and focus on themselves and not anyone else. Finally, I thought, something I’m good at.

However, the last thing I was going to do was keep my eyes closed. Jason did keep mumbling something about seeing through “your third eye” and since I had no idea where that was; I decided to assume mine was closed. But, believe me, the other two were staying wide open. Slowly, he began to call out poses. I don’t recall the real names of the poses but they ended up looking like Toe in Mouth, Legs Behind Ears, Personal Gynecological Exam and Stand On One Foot After Snakebite. Jason started to creep stealthily around the room either adjusting poses or copping a feel, I couldn’t tell which. I did close the lid on my water bottle just in case he intended to put a roofie in it. And then there were the sounds.

I heard him say, “Breathe in. Breathe out,” a number of times. But, not once did I hear him say, “Moan and pant like you’re having the best sex you’ve ever had,” but that’s what it sounded like. No wonder this class was so crowded. I was afraid to look over at shirtless-blue-spandex-shorts-guy because from the sounds he was making I figured he was just about to experience a Yoga Happy Ending. I inched a little father away from him and started frantically looking for more things to add to my blockade. By now I was sweating profusely and slipping all over my mat. I stopped for a minute to wipe the sweat out of my eyes (all three of them) and that’s when Jason came over. He bent down and whispered, “Let the sweat pour out because your body wants it to.” I lifted my head and smiled, but behind that smile my brain was saying, “Get the hell away from me you undernourished freak.” As for what my body wanted, it wanted a shower, and preferably a Silkwood shower.

By the end of the hour I was a dripping mess, my body had been tied up in positions no human should ever experience and for some reason I couldn’t feel my right leg. It was now time to finish the class, and Jason told us to “lie back and relax in corpse pose.” Yep. That’s what it’s called; corpse pose. I’m assuming from the way Jason looks he’s right at home with a room full of corpses. He then walked around the room and put damp compresses on everyone’s face. I immediately yanked my off in case it was doused with chloroform. Then he opened the studio door and the bright light shone in like a beacon from Heaven. I disassembled my blockade, grabbed my stuff, and headed into the light like a lost soul searching for redemption. Lisa caught up with me and said, “Wasn’t that great?” I just looked at her, asked her what had happened to Springsteen and she just shrugged her shoulders. I shook my head, hiked up my pants and headed out through the lobby on my heels. “Melted snow. Melted snow. Melted snow.”

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