She had both her hands on my ass and was applying firm, steady pressure, and I ain’t gonna lie: I liked it. I was lost in the moment and it felt great. Until she opened her mouth. And sound came out.
“Now look at Kate –“ she announced, with a mean teacher voice to the entire class of mostly women and the one or two hairy dudes with an aversion to shirts, shaving, and apparently deodorant.
“Come out of your pose – everyone but Kate – and come here. Gather ‘round. Closer people. Closer. Look at her. See her.”
See my what? Blood rushed to my head and finding no way out, pooled in my ears, my sinuses, my eyes – swirling and circling like a toilet that just keeps running.
What are they looking at?
My ass seemed to be the primary focus of the enclosing circle of sweaty yogis. My ass, high in the sky, tailbone to the clouds as they say in la-la-land, clenching though, trying desperately not to fart on cue. From any hole.
I had been a regular at yoga for only a few months, week after week in an effort to lose the babyfat that was probably 10, 12, maybe 15 years old.
It was working.
At least in a handstand. With the assist of a wall, and perhaps a friend heaving my legs up the wall, and another friend holding my ankles to the wall, I was awesome.
In a handstand, all my body parts migrate back from whence they came. My ass was high and tight, my face had an involuntary, pain-free immediate lift, my stomach flowed like a lava-lamp up to where my breasts used to be, giving me both a boob job and tummy tuck, something I would never do in reality, but fully enjoying in the moment, as yogis like to say.
The illusion, if even for only a few seconds, upside down, with a face like an engorged tick, at least my bra was filled with more than memoryfoam.
Gravity is indeed my friend.
So I was at yoga to try and tame my body. I didn’t buy the whole mind-body-spirit- angle; I was strictly there for the body part. Especially with this particular teacher, who was clearly missing the spirit element.
She was mean, or as mean as a yoga teacher can be and still claim to be Kripalu certified – and after months and months of regular mat work – I was still the example, the constant, shining example, of what not to do, and she wasn’t afraid to point it out.
Every Wednesday – and sometimes on Saturday, I begrudgingly climbed the stairs of our vintage town hall, imaging my name etched on the mural of Who’s Who town celebrities, before entering parks and rec yoga in the famous Alexandria room, hiding someplace in the back, incognito hopefully, near an exit.
While people sat and silently “centered,” I remembered being there for happier occasions: the floor sticky from Rotary club pancake breakfasts, or clean and shiny for ballroom dancing, or music blaring at bar mitzvahs, or booze flowing for Newtown Newcomers or working women – happier times, a million years ago, instead of right then and there, in the moment, on the mat, being present with people who treated yoga like a pilgrimage – a lifestyle, a religion.
I, however, did not, which probably explains why the teacher would pull everyone out of their poses and have the entire class of those younger, fitter, hipper than this mom-of-four gather round me and my mat, to observe me up close and personal, and be the example of what not to do. The list was relentless.
Poor arm strength.
Restrictive hip flexers.
Unforgiving sitz bones.
I’m joking about that last one, but not really. You get the picture.
I’m sure she would have said my mind’s eye was closed if she had the vision or opportunity.
They closed in around me, and the teacher, Nancy was her name, circled me like a used car on the side of the road. With a lot of miles, blown transmission, and bald tires. Looking for something to like. Anything.
I breathed in. I breathed out. In and out. The toilet still swirling in my ears, threatening to overflow at any moment.
“See how her spine is straight, hands relaxed, buttocks reaching toward the sky? She’s perfect. Do this. Be like Kate. Everyone back on your mat, and don’t forget to breathe.”
I exhaled. Then inhaled. And on the exhale, I thanked the universe above for my beautiful buttocks and that one ounce of unexpected, long overdue, much appreciated praise.
I was proud to read this essay at the Newtown Arts Festival in front of friendly locals, some of whom, were actually in this class with me when this happened all those years ago.