Over Thanksgiving my daughter, home from college, wanted to do something with me that would be fun, healthy, and relaxing.
Perfect, I told her, thinking we could watch football, drink lite beer, and maybe fall asleep on the couch.
It turns out her idea of something fun, healthy, and relaxing was to attend a yoga class.
Here is what I know about yoga. Nothing.
Here is what I fear about yoga. Wearing yoga pants.
Here is what prevents me from attending a yoga class. Bending.
“I’m sorry. I don’t do cross-legged,” I told her.
My myopic vision of yoga, instilled from black and white images I remember from my youth, is of men sitting ramrod erect atop legs impossibly folded into a pretzel on a hard floor.
“It is called the Lotus position,” my daughter informed me. “It is meant to place healing pressure on the vital organs and direct spiritual growth upward toward enlightenment. Don’t you want to be enlightened?”
Given that I am both a man and her father, I assumed this was a rhetorical question.
Besides, fracturing my ankles and dislocating my knees is not really a path to enlightenment I wish to follow.
But foolishly I agreed to go. With the stipulation that I could sit near the door to ensure firemen wielding the Jaws of Life could easily find and extricate me from whatever mangled wreck I was in. As insurance, I also made an appointment with a chiropractor.
It turns out, the yoga class exceeded my wildest expectations. Especially the parts about bending and dislocating joints and needing a chiropractor.
As I feared, the yoga instructor was a fit woman without bones who, in a deceptively gentle and patient manner, embarrassed me through a series of awkward positions that I later learned provide the basic framework for beginning yoga practitioners.
Starting with the Lotus Position.
It only grew worse after that. At one point she called me a down-ward facing dog and made me push my butt in the air with only my feet and hands on the floor. She also called me a plank and a tree and a triangle and a cobra and confused me with complex instructions on how best to tie myself into a knot.
Bring your right knee up to your chest and wrap your left arm outside your leg all the way behind you. Now take your right arm and go over your left shoulder and join your right hand with your left hand behind your back.
I’m sorry. Do what?
If that wasn’t bad enough, the graceful and lithe Twister sister coached me to breathe.
Excuse me. I know a thing or two about breathing. I have been doing it all of my life. And except for some false claims from my wife that I snore, I like to think I am pretty good at it. When I get tired, I breathe more. When I am underwater, I breathe less. It’s not that hard.
More to the point, I am still alive which I think says a lot about my breathing expertise.
But no, she wanted me to inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth and place the tip of my tongue on the roof of my mouth to complete some sort of spiritual energy circuit within my body as I slowly expanded my diaphragm to fill my belly with air.
Did she not realize I have lungs?
And more humiliating, why was everyone else in the class besides me able to do this so easily?
What did they possess that I did not? Except for flexibility and tight yoga pants.
But I must admit, working my way awkwardly through the positions over the course of an hour freed my mind from the earthly confines of my body. In one particular pose, where my torso was unnaturally torqued such that my nose was tucked into my armpit, I was transported from my rooted discomfort to another place, another time.
I think it was a men’s locker room after weight lifting.
Mercifully, the class ended with something ominously called the Corpse Pose. I was softly instructed to lie on my back fully outstretched on a yoga mat and through purposeful meditation, quiet my mind.
In kindergarten this is called nap time.
I can do this.
And I did. And it was peaceful and relaxing and fun and healthy. And with newly found awareness through breathing, I completed the Corpse without snoring.
When I awoke the room was empty and my daughter was standing over me. “Dad,” she said kicking my feet, “it’s time to go.”
I stretched my arm gracefully upward to greet her warmly from my first steps on the path to enlightenment.
Can you help me up?