the back row yogi: winter flu edition
Getting Back to the Mat
By Gretchen Giles
Sunday: I love going to a theater matinee on a Sunday afternoon. Even though I’m now in my 50s, I’m usually the youngest pup in the place, which perks me up considerably, and a 2pm start time makes it somewhat less certain that I’ll fall asleep. It’s the close, tiny seats that drug me. When I reviewed films, I could stay awake for upwards of 160 entire minutes in the evening, slouching around on armrests with my legs splayed. When I reviewed live theater at night, I’d regularly fall asleep in the early part of the second act, anaerobically imprisoned in the tiny chair. I once had an actor awaken me simply by staring at me with intense anger. Look at my old reviews: You’ll never see the last part of the play described.
So I am youthfully seated in a theater on a Sunday afternoon and all is well, except for the woman to my right, who is distinctly unwell. She coughs and sneezes for the full length of the play. I will her germs away. I use my hand to fan them. I consider staring at her in intense anger. I snuggle closer to Leon’s tiny chair.
Monday: Up and at ’em for early morning practice. I’ve been coming each weekday for a while now and Mondays feel good. I have oomph from not practicing all weekend and strength from practicing five days a week. I love yoga!
Tuesday: 6:30am and jaysus, am I old for someone recently so young. I’d be old even if there were theatergoers available. My joints have mutinied. My knees hurt when I try to lift into Warrior One. My hips hurt when I bend over for Straddle Fold. My shoulders hate Updog. My arms can barely sustain the fierce arrogance of Warrior One.
Wednesday: 7am and why am I even here? Downward Dog hasn’t been this difficult since I began practicing at another studio, years ago. I was certain then that the teacher’s assertion that this was a “resting” pose was an error on her part. Or a lie. Or both—yes, an erroneous lie. I take Child’s Pose and pant. Wow, do my knees hurt.
Thursday: 7:25am and I’m lying in Savasana, my least favorite pose (that’s a whole other post). I have as much energy as a snake in the winter, but my mind is horribly alive. It announces “YOU SUCK” so loudly that I start up from my mat, certain that it was said aloud. I slink home and passionately complain to Leon, who mildly hands me a bottle of Ibuprofen and makes some tea. Leon is a hatefully calm man.
Friday: 2:37am and there’s a knife stuck in my throat! OK, maybe it’s just a sore throat. But: A sore throat gifted to me by the lady from the theater. A lady who treats herself to a theater performance in Berkeley might have traveled anywhere! She’s probably just back from Nairobi. I don’t have antigens for colds from Africa! She might be an archaeology professor at Cal who just unearthed a tomb and gave me some ancient germs that had been locked away for centuries. I don’t have antigens for ancient tomb germs! I sleep, I awaken, I glug tea and swallow pills, I stagger dramatically around the house trying to interest Leon in the fascinating malady that has afflicted me. He likes the tomb angle, but is otherwise unconcerned.
Five days pass. I work from bed. I sneeze, I cough, I complain, I begin to get better. Leon remains grossly, unfairly, healthy.
Wednesday: 6:30am and it’s like I’ve never practiced yoga before. Downward Dog is not, nor has it ever been, a “resting” pose, dear lying-liar former teacher. Chair Pose, Chaturanga? Come on—they’re like physical jokes dreamed up by some demon yogi. How could my legs ever have held my incredible, gravity-loving weight? I limp through the practice with almost no muscle memory and barely a mind to the most basic Sanskrit nouns. I hate yoga.
Thursday: 7am and I’m kind of a little tiny bit maybe remembering why I used to—way back last week—enjoy the practice. Because of the other people, for example. The other people who today nimbly leap and jump and spring through their practices like gazelles newly liberated from a cage. I suppress an unkind thought. I do love the other people. It’s just yoga I don’t like.
Friday: 7:30am and the JAM is over. I’m still alive, entirely swarmed by my own sweat, but alive. I even enjoyed the practice. Downward Dog is kind of restful, you know, if you choose to think of it that way. Chair Pose is really just a squat. Chaturanga can be cheated on. Warrior One only needs a good back leg. That Chair-to-Boat-and-Back-Again trick that Anna likes to throw into the JAM feels just as clumsy and impossible as ever, nothing new. It may be that I’m well. It occurs that I really do love yoga.
I rush home to tell Leon the good news. Take me to the theater, I’m young again! He smiles, kisses my sweaty forehead, and hands me some tea. He really is a wonderfully calm man.