Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Yoga Broke My Clutch Muscle

I am not averse to trying new types of exercise.

Long ago -- twenty-one years ago, to be precise -- I broke free of my comfort zone for the sake of true love and thoroughly embarrassed myself in front of a room full of strange women by attending my first-ever step aerobic class.

The experience was not unlike running naked outside the glass-walled cafeteria of my college campus at noon. Not that I ever did that, but one of my roommates seemed to make a hobby of it. One day I saw him flash by as I dined with friends near the windows. If he could have overheard the comments people were making, he might have opted to find a new hobby. And it seemed natural that the people surrounding me in that step aerobic class twenty-odd years ago probably were thinking similar things about me. At least I did everyone the favor of keeping my pants on.

As I stepped and grunted and sweated profusely to music I hated, avoiding the judgmental eyes of women who clearly thought the only reason I was attending their exercise class was because I couldn't afford to buy porn, there was no misunderstanding that I was a fish out of water. The next morning drove that point home when every muscle in my body that I ever knew I had, along with dozens of other muscles in places I never expected muscles existed, launched a massive protest. Since then, I have alternately exercised and not exercised depending entirely upon time and desire. Maybe I simply couldn't find room in my schedule to hit the treadmill, let alone walk around the block. Or I might have had the time, but not the inclination. Be honest, sometimes it feels really great to throw fad diets and cautionary medical wisdom to the wind and eat unreasonably satisfying quantities of pizza and chocolate.

But lately, despite a slightly protruding potbelly, I have been dedicated to the whole exercise thing. Four mornings a week at the gym for cycle class, plus one morning on the treadmill, and even though my belt might still strain a bit under the pressure, I feel pretty good about my overall physical condition. Even my doctor agrees, and he almost always finds some vitamin deficiency, hormone imbalance or predisposition to some condition or other to lecture me about.

So, when My Lovely Wife suggested I try yoga, I was all in. She has tried in the past to talk me into trying hot yoga, but I was too smart for that. I break a sweat when I blink too fast. And not a glistening movie star sweat, either. When I sweat I mean it. Sweat pours from my head like water from a ruptured dam, my shirt quickly soaks through (front and back), and my sweaty palms can barely grip the handle bars of the exercycle without risking slippage and a concussion. Hot yoga? Exercising in a room cranked to one-hundred-plus degrees? Ummmmmmmm, no. But regular old yoga in an air-conditioned room with industrial size fans? Why not.

I honestly didn't know what to expect from yoga, other than it would stretch me beyond my limits. Halfway through the class, after getting the hang of downward dog, warrior, flying eagle, and half a dozen other slow-motion disco dance moves, I was sweating and grunting and doing my best to hold position. But when the class ended it all seemed to have gone by rather quickly, leaving me wondering whether or not I had actually worked any muscles at all.

Later that day, however, various muscles around my body began to voice their objection -- upper back, right buttock, thighs, abdomen, arms, left buttock. Driving was an interesting experience, particularly since my car has a manual transmission. I squeaked like a dog's chew toy every time I had to shift gears. Several times it crossed my mind that driving the eight miles from our house to the pool in second gear wouldn't really be an imposition for the cars behind me. Patience is a virtue, right?

But after several days and a return to the routine of early morning cycle class, my body has recovered and I find myself eager to return for another yoga session. Something about the calm pace of the class has me hooked. And how bad can any exercise regimen be when you can do it in bare feet? And when the class ends, you get to lay back on the mat, close your eyes, and fall into a relaxing mini coma.

The only way they could improve on that is to have waitstaff standing by serving pizza and chocolate.

© 2013 Mark Feggeler

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