Columnist tortured at Yoga studio

Henry Briggs is going to try this “crow” position next week, but first he is going to call Chestnut Hill Hospital to reserve a bed in the Intensive Care Unit after his workout.

by Henry Briggs

I’ve been trying yoga recently. Yoga, for the uninitiated, was started years ago by a guy named Gandhi, who realized that British guns and ramrod stiff bearing were impossible to compete with. So, he and his followers pretended to acquiesce but then upended the British by tricking them into take yoga lessons. Really.

“You’re too inflexible,” said Gandhi in ethereal tones. “Let me teach you yoga. It will loosen you up.” So the British exchanged guns for yoga mats. The rest is history.

That’s kind of what happened to me. Really.

I had whined about my bad back successfully for years until my neighbor said to me one day, “If I hear you complain about your back one more time, I’m going to make you shovel your own driveway and take out your own garbage. Go do yoga.”

Not wanting to lose free snow and garbage removal, I bought a mat and signed up for yoga. Who cared if I hadn’t lifted anything heavier than a TV remote in 20 years? My only worry was looking like a wuss in front of the other guys in class.

The way yoga works is you put on a T-shirt and shorts, drive through icy rain and then freeze your shorts off running from the car to the “studio” — which is not, say, a place with artists or singers or TV cameras.

It’s a big room with lots of women in brightly colored tights and a Buddha model, all smiling at the one guy in the room. Me. Hey, this could be cool.

The instructor, a pretty blonde with kind eyes, told us to sit on our mats, then grab our knees and pull them to our chests. Or, as she explained it, “Hug your knees to your heart!”

Is that all? This would be cake. I grabbed my knees and pulled them into my chest. “Ouch!” said my lower back.

I looked over at the women. They were hugging and smiling. Then we all did something called “Downward Dog.” Hands and feet firmly on the mat, you push your butt straight toward the ceiling with arms, back and legs perfectly straight and then hold there for, oh, two hours.

From there, butts still up in the air, we “walked” our feet up to our hands, then stood straight up, raising our hands to the sky and immediately moved into “Warrior 2.” That’s where you stand, feet wide apart, one foot at right angle to the other. Then you bend your right leg and reach the right arm out, parallel to your right leg, and twist your head to look past your left leg. All the while trying not to fall over. I fell over.

“What the … !” said my legs. “Are you kidding?” said my back. “Not me!!” said my shoulders. “Wasn’t my idea!!” said my brain.

Then, still smiling, this Machiavelli of a woman told us to bend all the way down, legs straight, and plant our palms against the floor. “Fo-o-o-o-ld in half to embra-a-a-ce the earth … Fe-ee-el your body responding.” I fell over.

Before I could get back up, Little Miss Torture was telling everybody to glide into a seated position and curl our legs and arms in ways I can’t describe. (Well, the word “pretzel” does come to mind.)

I glanced around the room in a panic, looking for empathy. The women were smiling in their pretzelness. The physical pain was now superseded by humiliation.

My memory of the rest of the class is scattered. I’m not even sure how I got home. But my macho, having been bruised, sent me back to the yoga studio again. And again.

I never became a pretzel, but I can do a passable Warrior 2 now. I take my garbage to the curb now, and if it ever snows again, I’ll shovel my driveway. Maybe.

Henry Briggs, a local humor columnist for weekly newspapers, can be reached at [email protected]

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