My practice is slow and steep

September 16 — I decided to start yoga again. “My practice”, as the devotees refer to yoga, is in its infancy. It means I bought a purple rug, put it in the closet and forgot it. I felt virtuous and like I was doing yoga because I had a mat.

I showed the rug to a friend.

“It’s not a yoga mat,” he said. “It’s a Pilates mat.”

“What’s wrong with this rug?” ” I asked.

“It’s too thick. You won’t be able to do the balance positions,” he said.

Balance positions? Like when you stand on one leg and your arms go in different directions? I couldn’t do this if my rug came with a stripper pole. At least if I run into this one, it’s pretty cushy where I’m going to break an arm and a leg rather than three of each.

The mat has a nap written all over it. This is useful for the savasana, or the corpse pose, which involves lying on your back with your legs apart. The goal is a “relaxed conscience”, which for many Westerners translates into 40 winks or “lights out”.

Twenty years ago, a friend sitting next to me started savasana at the end of a particularly demanding hot yoga class. We thought we had lost him and considered stealing his doe slippers, but his chest moved. He came to himself but he was groggy and we almost had to pull him out on a litter box.

Hot yoga is good for the elderly, stiff, or masculine. It’s reminiscent of “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” Robert Service’s poem in which Sam McGee freezes to death in the arctic cold but comes to life when they put him in the crematorium.

During our lessons, I managed to cross paths with our instructor because when I entered the room, I checked the thermostat and if it was not at 105, I turned it up.

When the instructor arrived, she refused. Back and forth we went and soon our yoga wedding was on the rocks.

—- Two weeks after I bought the purple mat, I took it out of the closet and browsed yoga videos on YouTube. There are a million of them, so I searched for one with the words “sweet and beginner”.

No matter what type of yoga you choose, eventually you have to get down to the ground. Usually I try to stay on top. To sit down, you have to get up, which, as my father used to say, requires a block and a tackle to do so.

The friend who encouraged me to do yoga signed up for a yoga class for pregnant women.

I asked him why, knowing that he was neither pregnant nor in the age range where it might be possible.

“I thought I could run a yoga class with really pregnant women,” he said.

He was wrong. Halfway through the course, he almost gave birth and had a yoga baby himself. The rest of the students did well.

I started with two sun salutations, a series of poses intended to welcome the sun. If I was the sun and saw someone doing what I did, I would go behind the mountains and wait for my sun to go down.

“Don’t rush,” my teacher said on the video, a slim, patient woman with a sleek nose ring.

Do not worry. I couldn’t rush if I wanted to. I am slow, stiff and not pregnant.

Herb Benham is a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at [email protected] or 661-395-7279.

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