I’ve been doing home yoga these past few days, using a YouTube tutorial on our TV. It hasn’t been pretty.
There’s a huge difference between taking a yoga class and doing yoga in your living room. I have to move furniture. There is no statue of the Buddha. No gentle music. I’m not used to the teachers on YouTube…I’ve been with John, my beloved yoga teacher, for years now, so I don’t even have to open my eyes to know what to do. I don’t wear my glasses with John, but I have to with home yoga. On the TV, the lithe young teachers press their foreheads to their locked knees. In my living room, my glasses fall the floor as I bend and grunt.
That’s another thing. The noises, which I’m capable of suppressing in class due to shame, come out of me at full volume. I groan. I gasp. I growl. I wonder if I’m in the final stages of life. Agonist breathing, they call it. It sounds about right. I hop to keep my balance, then clutch the armchair for balance. Am I just really bad at yoga, and John is too nice to point it out? After all, I was asked to leave the very first session of a class called Salsa for Beginners. “But…this is a beginner’s class,” I said after the warm-up period, where we were to learn the one-two-three-snap, five-six-seven-pause.
“Yeah,” the teacher said, not bothering to make eye contact. “Just…practice at home, and maybe you can come back someday.” We both knew that wasn’t going to happen. I gave him a disapproving look and went out for a cheeseburger.
Every time I’ve taken a yoga class out in the world, I’ve been the worst one in the room. The teachers come to correct me. I silently resent them. Leave me alone with my humiliation, I think. Go help that other person levitate, okay?
John knows I have balance issues, so we don’t do a lot of stuff that makes me fall. The YouTube people have no such empathy. “Put your left foot on your right thigh, raise yourself to your tiptoes and bend your knee till you’re at the floor.”
Sure. Once I master that, I think, I’ll cure cancer. I attempt eagle pose, which is where you stand on one foot and wrap your extremities around each other in a complicated pretzel pattern. I fall into the coffee table.
I notice later in the day that I have scrapes on my knuckles. Rug burns, I think. It makes me look like I’ve been bare-fisted brawling. “Were in a fight?” I imagine someone asking, gazing at my bloody hands. “No,” I’d say. “Yoga.”
My dogs love when I do home yoga. Hooray! they think. Mommy’s on the floor to play with us! As I hold plank position, Luther licks my ears. Willow barks and sometimes jumps on my back, as McIrish has tried to teach her how to give me a massage if I’m lying on the floor. Huck the Cat molests my arm, and if I try to free it, he starts biting and scratching me, so I have to stay still and let him gnaw on my fingers. Follow your breath, I’ll think as he wrestles me, as Luther moves onto licking my chin, as Willow’s sharp barking makes me wince. Empty your mind. I spit out dog hair and try.
Something is better than nothing, John tells me when I describe my home yoga attempts. Good for you. Is it, though? I almost set my hair on fire yesterday because I tried to recreate the peaceful atmosphere of the studio. Igniting myself would be bad for McIrish’s career. “Your wife did what?” I picture his fellow firefighters saying, guffawing. They have little mercy for idiot moves. “Poor Mommy,” the Princess would say in that lovely yet condescending way graceful people have toward those of us who lumber. “Do you have a video of it?” Dearest Son would ask. I get it. I’d watch that, too.
It’s all about the journey, the literature says. Do the best you can. You’ll keep getting better. I have to take that last one on faith.