I tell myself, when I need to put a positive spin on things,
that I take pride in the worn clothing my husband and I routinely wear. The holes in the knees of our jeans; the wear
around the necklines that no needle and thread could ever hope to repair; the
sad, frayed sweaters—all are symbols: We are Frugal. We are Salt of the Earth. We Use Things Up.
I tell myself we’re not Poor. We’re not Cheap. We’re
not Waiting to Lose Weight before buying new clothes. No, this fable of mine goes, we’re Putting
Money By for college and retirement.
But this month, we had just enough leftover cash to pay for six
weeks of yoga classes for my daughters and me.
Because yoga’s good for when you’re thinking about college
expenses and how to pay them.
The room was dark and smelled of incense. There were battery-operated flickering lights designed to look like
candles strategically placed around the perimeter of the room.
“You new at yoga?” A
woman asked me as we claimed our place at the back of the room.
replied airily. I had, after all, been
introduced to yoga
when I was a child. And
then, there was that two month class
I took with my mother several years
ago. I nodded to my daughters. “They
Women entered in pretty yoga clothes. They carried designer water bottles and
fancy-pants mats beneath their arms.
With a casual flick of their wrists, they rolled out their mats and
I took my own fancy-pants mat, my just-purchased, industrial
strength, extra-thick, Microban-treated mat in one hand. I gave a casual flick of my wrist. The mat slipped from my hand and rolled
across the floor, bumping into the back of a woman apparently in deep
“Sorry,” I whispered, retrieving my mat and spreading it out
The room was growing crowded. More and more and still more people entered
“We’ll have to scrunch in,” the instructor--a tiny,
incredibly fit woman--said. Looking at
her, I felt like a behemoth. I pulled my
stomach in. I sat up straighter. I wished I hadn’t worn my oversized
sweatshirt; wished I hadn’t stolen my husband’s sweatpants from his
dresser. Wished I, too, had pretty yoga
“We’re supposed to be downstairs,”
the instructor continued. “But they
forgot about a town meeting.” She
laughed, embarrassed. “We’ve got
twenty-one registered for tonight.”
Another woman entered.
A muscular woman in double tank tops and tight black pants. She looked at the crowd. Frowned.
She came to the back. She set up
shop beside me.
I scooted my mat over.
Gave her a pained smile.
“Remember,” the instructor intoned, after bringing us to
attention with the ringing of some sort of gong. “Yoga isn’t about competition. Yoga is for you.”
I nodded. I didn’t
need to worry about Mrs. Muscles beside me.
Yoga is not a competition.
The instructor demonstrated proper breathing technique. Mrs. Muscles started breathing noisily, so forcefully,
that she threatened to blow out one of the fake candles at the front of the room. We sat upon our mats, legs crossed. We began rotating our trunks in small
circles, gradually increasing in ever-widening concentricity.
I snickered, too. “Ssssh,”
I hissed, between laughter.
We stood. We dangled
over our feet, grabbing at our toes, bending our knees, if necessary. We swayed our hips in a circular manner. My hood flopped over and came to rest beside
my face. The strings dangled down,
reaching lower than I could.
The instructor walked behind her charges, gently placing a corrective
hand on hip, or back, or arm. “Lift that
tailbone. Up. UP.”
I listened to my daughters grunting and struggling. I laughed to myself. I still
have it, I thought. They may be able
to program a cell phone, but I could do yoga.
As we began moving into the poses, I felt myself sinking
into the stretch. The body remembers.
But then, the sequences got suddenly complicated. There were strange poses and the workout felt like aerobics not beginner’s yoga. Every time I got lost, I looked at Mrs.
Muscles’ perfect form. And then, I tried—and
failed—to imitate it.
And, really, the body can remember only so much, and
clearly, my abdominals had forgotten everything. I
watched Mrs. Muscles go from a seated position to flat on her back in one
smooth motion. I watched my daughters
balance on their butts and lift both legs up, up, up, while all I could hope
for was to not fall over as I extended my legs in the air before me.
Yoga isn’t a
competition, I told myself. Yoga is not a competition.
I looked at Mrs. Muscles, perfectly posed. This is
not a competition, I thought at her.
We stood and went into the tree pose. Mrs. Muscles, I noticed, wobbled a bit.
I remained steady.
I stood tall and smug.
I was a tree.
A tree without an abdominal wall.
A tree that would love to look like Mrs. Muscles. A tree that would kill to wear double tank
tops and neat yoga pants without embarrassment.
Still, I thought
to myself as I lay in the final resting pose, trying to stay awake, not bad for the first time back.
* * *
“How was it?” my husband asked as my daughters and I gimped
into the door.
“Not bad,” I said brightly.
“Namaste,” V said.
“Ooommm,” Filibuster said.
“Oh, there are my
sweat pants. I was looking everywhere
for them,” my husband said.
“Sorry.” I went for a
sheepish smile. “I stole them from your
“That’s OK,” my husband said, biting into a lemon-blueberry
muffin and clapping the crumbs from his hands. “But didn’t you know?” He paused,
smiling to himself. It was a secretive smile. It was a dangerous smile.
“What? Didn’t I know
“Those sweats have a huge hole in the crotch.”
Labels: Creative non-fiction, Daughters, Yoga