According to every yoga teacher I’ve ever had, failure and yoga have nothing to do with each other. Listen to your body, let it guide you on your own individual path. Well, If, I listened to my body, it would be lying down. On the couch, not on a mat.
Failure not an option? Yeah, sure. Have you ever seen a yoga teacher who wasn’t lanky and fit? I’m here to tell you that if you’re old, overweight, and out of shape–failure is not only an option but a damn near certainty.
Yoga first caught my attention when I read that Robert Parish, the center of the Celtics great 1980s basketball dynasty, and a person who most definitely has duende, mentioned it as his way to stay limber. In fact, he said it was also allowing him to extend his career. Interesting, but I’m way too short to dunk.
Then my partner, Susan, began going to a class on in the mid 90s. Ten years of cajoling later, I was convinced to join her and a couple of our friends. So for about five years now, I’ve been trying to twist my body into extremely weird positions.
Yes, I can bend over and touch the floor. I can inhale and exhale using my abdomen with the best of ’em. I can get into Warrior and Goddess and even lie on my back and twist my body one way while my knees go another without pain.
And that’s when success comes to a screeching halt. The rest seems like torture–of one kind or another. Every time I’m told to move into Plank Pose, I do it. But the first thought that jumps to mind is “drop down and give me twenty.” And I was never in the army. Hell, I couldn’t do more than three pushups at any point in my life.
Then plank morphs into Downward Dog.
Twenty might have been better. At first, “assuming the position” with my butt stuck up in the air made me think of bending over for soap in jail. It took about a month, but eventually the image disappeared and was replaced by pain in my shoulders. My instructor tried to be helpful: Rotate the inside of your elbows forward to lessen the shoulder strain. It did, which allowed me two or three sun salutations (extra dogs) before the pain again kicked in.
Then there’s the balance issue. Actually it’s a nonissue; I have none. First, I can never find a spot to stare at without seeing someone else moving since I insist on being in the back row. I prefer making an ass out of myself without other people watching. In theory, anyway. I never get away scot-free–a good part of the hour, the people in front of me are bent over with their head between their legs looking at my feeble attempt to stick my own head under my crotch.
But back to balance. We start slow by placing one foot on a yoga block and simply swinging the other leg back and forth to loosen the hip. I’m fine for two swings, three on a good day. Then it’s off the block and onto one leg with the other placed on the inside of the planted thigh. I have a few problems with this. I have a bum knee, which makes standing on that leg and lifting the other impossible. And when we switch to the leg without my bum knee it ain’t any better. Like I said, no balance. At this point in the hour I start to wonder what the fuck I’m doing there, but I force myself to focus on breathing since that I’m able to do.
Only my doubts come screaming back when we’re told to turn our feet outward with our heels touching and slowly lower ourselves (spine straight!) into a squat. Which I can also do (I often play catcher on my softball team) but I know what’s coming next.
The fucking Crow–a crouched pose where you’re supposed to flatten your hands on the floor, bend your elbows, and lift your knees onto them. The first time I tried, my body simply refused to move out of the crouch. My teacher noticed my look of dire immobilization, came over, and lifted me up from the rear. At that moment I understood the freeze. My nose was inches away from the hardwood floor that was just waiting for a splattering face plant. I’ve already broken my nose three times; I ain’t gonna do it again. I guess Geraldo felt my entire body begin to tremble and he gently brought me back down. Sweet of him and even sweeter is his willingness to let me roll into relaxation mode when the Crow is coming.
Especially since it’s sorta fun to lie in my back and watch some other people glide smoothly from the Crow to a headstand. Pretty amazing sight. Which is all it will ever be.
So, in all honesty, I am a yoga failure. Nevertheless, I’ll keep going each Monday with the forlorn hope that, someday, I’ll be able to stand on one leg longer than 5 seconds. And with the anticipation of our every Monday night after-yoga do. Eating a hot (not down) dog and drinking a couple of beers.
Toxins out, Toxins in. My yogic symmetry.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin