The transformation has begun.
So last night I cast away my fears and started yoga.
Goddamn, it kicked my ass. Especially the headstand. My neck is a little sore now. My feet too, since I lost my balance and went tumbling backward, with my feet landing on the floor with a loud THUD. Loud enough to make the instructor come over and ask me if I was okay. I felt pretty uncool, but then again, I AM uncool, I never will be cool, and honestly, I don’t really give a shit anymore. I'm cool to myself, and I am really the only one I'm concerned with impressing right now.
I walked up to the instructor after the class and introduced myself. He seemed to be a friendly, spiritual fellow with a gentle soul and sparkling blue eyes. He told me he was glad I was there, and yoga should be a lifetime journey. I couldn't help but agree...seeing is how bad I was at it and there were a few positions I was unable to do. However, something did happen to me during that yoga session...and I really can't explain it.
I'll try, though.
I’m not the most limber or flexible person, and I’ve never, ever been able to touch my toes with my legs fully straightened. Even during basic training, I was screamed at for not being able to have my legs flat on the ground while leaning forward and grabbing my toes. I said, "Stop screaming! I am trying my best here and that should be what counts! I'm sensitive and if you don't stop your incessant bellowing I just might cry!"
Okay, I didn't say that. I didn't even think it. I did, however, think a few choice words, words that might have been uttered in a 70's blaxploitation flick or Cleveland public transportation, but they never got past my lips. Well, one did, but nobody heard it.
I hope. It rhymed with brother and trucker, run together. I learned it from my sister Hillary.
So last night, I gave it my best. I stretched, twisted my body into these positions that it was never designed to do, lifted my arms and legs off the floor and held them there, trembling slightly, but holding the position nonetheless, refusing to ever give up. That's the key...never giving up. I've given up way too many times in the past, and I’m not going to do it now. Not now, not ever again. Life is too short.
After the session, we were lying on our yoga mats (I bought a really cool one at Lombardi Sports yesterday) doing some breathing exercises, and the instructor had us do some relaxation exercises that also involved mild hypnosis. Nothing I haven't done before, in fact, it was very similar to something my grandmother taught me one night in their suburban New Jersey swimming pool while she was dunking her feet and I was sitting in the water on the stairs and just hanging out. But I felt some sort of strange energy wash over me, something healing, something I really couldn't explain.
Afterward, I sat in the dry sauna for about 10 minutes until I couldn't stand it anymore...by then I was sitting in a puddle of my own sweat...and then had a lukewarm shower. I drank some of the shower water, and had one of those strange flashback memories that startle you sometimes.
Back in the 70's and early 80's my parents had one of those Teledyne Shower Massage showerheads on the end of a hose in the shower. During the summer, after hosing me down and rinsing off all the dirt I had accumulated during the day (I wasn’t allowed to touch anything when I came inside the house because I’d get so filthy dirty playing outside...hey, I was a boy, what do you expect), my dad would turn off the hot water, and slightly turn on the cold. He’d then turn the showerhead upside down, twist it to the pulse function, hold his fingers over two of the pulse nozzles, and the water came out of only one nozzle so I could drink from it like a drinking fountain. After a long, hot, humid day of running around and playing outside and riding my Bigwheel up and down the hill, I was extremely thirsty and the Cleveland municipal Lake Erie tapwater was delicious. Cool, slightly metallic in taste, quenching. The perfect end to a hot 1970’s Ohio summer day. Simple? Yeah. Exciting? Not especially. But for 7 year-old me, it was one of those things I enjoyed completely and just savored like a Jolly Rancher at the city pool or a Push-Up from the ice cream freezer at Rukasin's Drug Store (the local family-owned corner pharmacy a block from my house). That's probably why I remembered it so well. I still savor simple stuff like that to this day, actually. Maybe I'll remember the way North Beach smells on a foggy morning when I'm 90. I sure hope so. It's definitely something I savor.
Anyway, after sitting in the sauna I was extremely thirsty, and which is why I drank some of the shower water. It tasted exactly the same as the Cleveland tapwater, maybe because I was as hot and thirsty as I was when I was at the end of a scorching summer day. I thought about that for the first time in probably 20 years. It made me smile.
But not too much, because I was in the shower at the gym and didn't want to give anyone the wrong idea. It *is* San Francisco, you know.