- Exercise & Fitness
Yoga for the Unenlightened
© B. L. Bierley 2012
Recently my husband Cap and I started a dual workout regimen. Our needs differing slightly (because Cap is in much better shape than me) we decided to pursue a gradual path in our program. Our first step was to take walks every evening, building our endurance by walking different paths throughout our neighborhood. But soon this seemed too easy. So next we looked into several possibilities for our next step up from just walking. We needed something that would challenge us both at our varied levels of skill and ability. We finally made a decision and chose Yoga: a wonderful way to transition into the next level of an exercise routine.
But then we discovered that Yoga is a vast and varied exercise activity. There are numerous levels in which you can work the various parts of your body. Now, I am the impulsive member of the family. I would have just chosen a DVD from the shelves at the sporting goods store and been done. But Cap did his research like a good Capricorn will always do. He spent a good week on the internet scouring the various programs and reading about the different and varied workouts you can do with this program or that one. Eventually he found a set of four DVDs that provide multiple, gradual levels for the beginning Yoga participant.
There Ought To Be a Warning Label
Okay, so we were preparing for our first night doing Yoga together. Cap had purchased a purple Yoga mat and block for me, my favorite color. He cued up the lowest level of the DVD’s so that we could start off slowly. The title of this program was very non-threatening. It was called: Relaxation Yoga. I was in my shorts and a t-shirt. I was standing at attention on my brand-new mat and I was eager to be relaxed. Cap got on his own mat and started the DVD.
It became apparent very quickly that there would be many items required for this level of relaxation. The soothing voice of the narrator was calling out the equipment necessary to perform the relaxing exercises. Four folded blankets, four bolster pillows, two to four rolled towels. It was very hard to relax while we were tearing through the house trying to gather up the things we needed in time for the program. Cap eventually had to pause the clip until we found enough blankets.
And I ask you, who has four bolster pillows in their house? Anybody? We’re minimalists with no decorative skills whatsoever! We were lucky to find four regular pillows of similar size and shape. We learned soon after we restarted the first exercise video that the “bolsters” the soft-spoken voice told us to get were nothing like any bolsters I’ve ever seen! The ones the demonstration girl was using were large and thick, nearly big enough to keep a small child comfortable while napping! It was apparent that we would have to improvise. Cap wound up taking the cushions off of our sofa in order to have enough support for the activities once we were underway.
We gave up worrying about the equipment and decided to just wing it as Cap started the program over the third time. We were instructed to sit in what is referred to as the “Child’s Pose”. For those of you who don’t know, this is where you sit on your knees with your feet beneath your bottom. The soothing woman’s voice said that our big toes should be touching. I shifted my feet to achieve this pose and then proceeded to fall on my side clutching my foot in screaming agony. Apparently if you aren’t in very good shape you can get a cramp in your foot from sitting this way. My middle three toes seemed to be held in a triangular position pointed down and away from my big and pinky toes. It took me a good two or three minutes to massage the ball of my foot until the clenched muscles relaxed.
Cap was having a pretty good laugh at my expense as the soothing woman continued to tell us the benefits of a relaxing Yoga routine. I was describing my experience thus far using my favorite four letter words in their adjectival forms. Cap eventually had to pause the video until we could breathe well enough to continue. Yoga is very big on breathing, apparently. I commented that it really didn’t bode well for our inaugural Yoga workout that it was taking us four starts to get going on the simplest of the routines. Once my foot returned to its non-alien form, Cap hit play to resume the relaxing Yoga program once again.
More Than Meets the Eye
After we got through the initial fits and starts, we made our way through the first program to fruition. I’d love to tell you it was uneventful after our goofy beginning, but that would make this a very boring and dull article. No, the program placed us in some of the relaxation poses through calm narration one after another. I couldn’t stop giggling as the woman kept saying things like, “Feel your abdomen unfolding!” In my mind I imagined my doughy stomach falling accordion-style from just below my ribs. The language of the video’s direction certainly took some getting used to.
I realized I would have to turn off my writer’s brain if I truly wanted to get the full effects of the relaxation. Also, I could tell Cap was losing patience with me when I made odd comments about Optimus Prime when the woman said to “let your body transform so that your muscles and skin separate, giving you a heightened state of awareness and relaxation!” I had a few flashbacks to my college anatomy and physiology dissection lab when she advised us to look inside our hearts to find the focus of our center or something like that. At that moment all I could think about was that my heart was likely working overtime as my legs were up against the wall boosted underneath my butt by make-shift “bolsters” to allow the blood to pool in the cradle of my … okay I admit I was tuning out by that time because my right leg was starting to tingle and go numb.
The relaxation came to a close with Cap and me lying on our mats in the floor while our faithful dog Velcro watched from his perch on the cushion-less sofa. Apparently we hadn't vacuumed the sofa in a long time and there were some tasty items unearthed during the cushion removal. The majority of it was popcorn fragments, so it was like Velcro was watching a home movie with his Orville Redenbocker! Meanwhile the position Cap and I were in on our mats made me think of those police outlines you see on crime shows when they have already removed the body but the outline remains to show where they found the decedent. Then I started writing the headlines in case we somehow died in those positions:
“Two Bodies Found in Ridiculous Contortion" See "Bad Karma" on Page A2 for further details.
Round Two: The Mating Rituals of the American Suburbanite
The next night of Yoga saw us attempting the DVD entitled “Power Yoga” despite the poor showing we made with the initial video. This program consisted of three ten-minute routines. Sounded easy enough. The good news was this time there wasn’t much by way of equipment needed for the exercises. The bad news, it was very difficult to perform the more rapid movements and trying to stay balanced while attempting to watch the demonstrations.
If aliens were to come down at that moment and see Cap and me in the throes of Yogic exercise, they would probably have some interesting scientific footage to take back to their galaxy. I imagined that we looked a lot like those birds on the nature channel, trying to demonstrate their mating worthiness through a series of shaking, bobbing and flopping. All I will say is that it would be evident to any observer that I didn’t marry Cap because he was a good dancer.
Cap and I managed to finish the program without killing ourselves or one another. And I admit it will take a little period of adjustment for us to get the hang of Yoga as an exercise. It will probably take longer for our kids to recognize that it is not a good time to talk to us when we are grunting and straining to hold the “Crescent Pose” or attempting to flow through the phases of the “Warrior Pose”. We’re really not at our best, nor is it safe to approach us when we’re in the process of physical torture for the sake of exercise.
All kidding aside the Power Yoga was a little bit better than our Relaxation Yoga as far as overall exercise routine. Cap mentioned that the relaxation video would be better as a form of stress relief rather than exercise in the grand scheme of things. I feel strongly that either of the routines will get easier once we become more familiar with the patterns by repetition. We have two more DVDs to attempt before I make my final assessment of how effective this new regimen will be for us. One thing is certain, Cap and I are enjoying the program mostly because we are doing it together. And when you have to exercise, which if you’re familiar with me at all through my writing you’ll know I rank it very low on the scale of things I want to do, it goes by much easier when you can allow for a little humor in your routine!