A few days ago I gave in to about four years worth of inner nagging, broke down and bought a yoga mat.
Now, the last time I did anything that was remotely flexible occurred 10-16 years ago on my neighbors trampoline and/or at gymnastics practice, where I lasted a whole month before realizing no one was calling my name to participate in any of the games we played (this may or may not still be a sore spot).
I know what you’re thinking: Small people by their very nature are supposed to be able to fold themselves into pretzels, overhead storage compartments, laundry chutes, or carry on luggage — and I can. The only issue is, I haven’t exercised these muscles since being stuffed in a locker my sophomore year of high school. As far as I’m concerned I have three muscles in my body: one-half in each arm, one-half in each leg, and one in my jaw. My client was working out to a Richard Simmons video the other day, “Sweatin’ to the Oldies,” where she jubilantly kicked her sturdy calves back while holding onto the back of a chair for support. An hour later and into the next morning she was saying, “My hips hurt. I didn’t know I had muscles in my hips. I didn’t know I had all these muscles!” It’s funny…or it was funny.
Being that I’m not fully invested in yoga yet, I only bought the mat and skimmed on the straps, bags, bricks, gloves, socks, and stretchy pants. I didn’t buy the DVD either, and instead sought any sort of free tutoring I could muster through my computer or phone. I immediately downloaded some jargon of a free yoga app that offered a limited number of beginner poses and their given names, but cut me off and demanded money when I grew antsy to see the intermediate and advanced stuff. I decided I didn’t care anyway, if they were going to blindly lead me into the darkness of stretching my body like Silly Putty and offer me no routine or advancement, then pish posh. You can’t give someone a chess set and expect them to play the game if they don’t know what a freaking pawn or knight is or does. I rested my case and moved on to other resources.
Beyond the censors and public computers of the Moorhead Public Library, I fell upon several shelves loaded with DVDs of children’s singalong’s and nature documentaries — and, after a slight dig, I came to my new yoga instructor: Chaos.
“Chaos,” who has no other given name, is my “certified yoga instructor.” Her name itself transcends the intentions of yoga, and certainly breaches my aims of calming my senses and getting in touch with my “inner self.” A ripped twenty-something blonde with multiple piercings, a wrist full of sharp bangles, and a harsh hairstyle, Chaos has the physique of belly dancer and the attitude of stripper. Her sports bra might have fit in the seventh grade, but today she’s blossoming out of it as she prepares to teach me the Sun Salutation.
Surrounded by three of her friends that could easily be mistaken as Barbie’s Rockers vs. Cyndi Lauper, I take myself to the setting of Chaos’ workout, a place only identifiable as a church basement. The girls position themselves on their colorful mats amongst a patterned brown linoleum sea, a stage behind them with a drum set that will tease me the entire video (“Will Chaos jump on stage and begin playing? When will the church band step in and take over? Better stay tuned…”). Sad indie music sets the mood, and Chaos rattles off her instructions with a preciseness I’ve never seen from a woman with her head between her legs.
What feels like three hours pass, and I’m questioning why I’ve demoted my exercise routine to touching my toes and raising my arms above my head to become “a triangle.” I can’t decide if I’m disoriented because of the sun worshippers I’ve been repeating, or from watching the DVD screen in an upside down position as I relaxed my muscles and bent backwards as far as possible without falling over. Checking the DVD’s chapters, I realize I still have three left.
The Chaos did cease, eventually, and when she did it was the most triumphant closing of all: the solemn instruction to lay on my back, arms at my sides and legs straight, eyes closed. “Now, let go of everything that is not in your control,” Chaos commanded. “Lay here as long as you need to and let go of your worries.” I did, almost falling asleep in the process and keeping in time with her last wish of a final bow. Like a roller coaster cart coming to a rest at the bottom of the track’s deepest drop, I got out in exhilaration and relief.
And the next day, I woke up sore as a beginner. The Chaos continues.