In the Sunday yoga class, everyone is packed in like sardines. When I open my arms out to the side, I have to be careful not to give my neighbor a black eye. The teacher tells us to lower into plank and lift our left legs off the ground, but I want to open a window. There is a sweet chemical smell hanging around my mat. Is it some synthesized spray used to clean the hardwood floors? I sniff the air. I can’t pinpoint it, but it smells familiar and ordinary. The teacher has us switch legs, and then I know exactly where the odor is coming from. My face is so close to the foot of the woman in front of me that I can smell her toenail polish. I can tell she painted them just before class because the violet lacquer on her right big toe is creased and puckered. The teacher tells us to inhale and I hold my breath.
“Shift your weight onto your right leg,” the yoga teacher says. “Then lift your left knee, cross your left ankle over your left thigh. Now bend your right knee slightly and lower your forearms onto your left quad muscle and hook your left toe around your right forearm…”
Then put your right foot over your left shoulder, stick the your left thumb into your left ear, hook your pinky finger around your lip and put your right index finger into your nose, I think as I balance on my right foot.
I am excellent at meditating.
I can tell that this is the grand finale, the gravity-defying arm balance that every other pose was leading up to. All those side planks and warriors were just kid stuff and now it is show time. I have no expectations of myself when it comes to arm balances. I generally can’t do them because I suffer from spaghetti arms. After more than a week of low activity, my ability to open a sealed jar of olives is the first thing to go.
As I lower my hands to the ground and tighten my core, I don’t expect myself to go any further. I don’t expect anything at all. So imagine my surprise when my standing leg springs out and I’m suddenly perched in the full expression of the pose, whatever it’s called. What did she call it? Dragonfly? Horsefly? Warrior Z? Superman?
It was remarkably simple, like opening up an umbrella. I make an audible noise of satisfaction and immediately turn red, remembering that I am not alone in the room. When I can’t hold the pose any longer I collapse on the mat, tangled up like loose yarn.
“Now everyone laugh. Ha, ha, ha,” says the yoga teacher. “We yogis take ourselves too seriously. Ha, ha, ha.”
The 8:30 class is not very popular. Who wants to be awake at 8:30 on a Sunday morning? I hardly ever do, but I like this teacher. She is a five-foot tall knot of pure muscle. When I am fifty years old, this is exactly what I aspire to be, among other things. I suspect that she’s a former dancer, or maybe even a former gymnast like me. We are on the same page. We both appreciate the meditative aspect of yoga, but we don’t prioritize it over the athletic part.
There’s an unwritten rule that at the beginning of class the yoga teachers must tell a story that gives the class a theme or an intention. The teacher takes out her phone and reads aloud a series of quotes that I suspect she’s gleaning from her Facebook feed.
“What if love was our religion?” she reads from the screen, and follows it with a quote from Rumi. Then, in our first downward dog, she tells us that 2015 is the Year of the Butt.
“Have you guys heard the good news?”
She puts on a playlist of Sia and MC Yogi (whose name make me giggle every time). Fifteen minutes into the class, “Blurred Lines” begins to play. Everyone in the room looks at each other, confused, especially the teacher.
“iTunes is shuffling my playlists,” she explains.
Is there room for “Blurred Lines” in my yoga practice? Even in the Year of the Butt?
I’m tiptoeing barefoot from the bathroom back to class when the receptionist behind the front desk whispers to me.
“Did you see the really hot guy in class?”
I know exactly who she’s talking about.
“His mat is right in front of mine,” I say.
I leave out the part about how I’ve been trying to figure out if he’s wearing a thong. I can’t help but notice the thick purple straps around his hips, protruding from the band of his gym shorts. It looks like a thong with wide straps. There’s some writing around the strap and I want to know what it says. I can make out the word “tape.” Maybe it’s some sort of athletic tape?
After class, I do scales in the door frame of the kitchen and explain what I saw to Dave.
“That sounds like a jock strap,” he says. “They look like thongs.”
“But do you need one of those for yoga?”
I want a yoga friend. This is the longest I have ever consistently practiced with a group of people and I still do not have a yoga friend. Something about this studio really brings out my shyness. I have singled out one woman in my Thursday class who looks as out of place as I feel. She is extremely tall and has a ponytail like a paintbrush. Her clothes don’t have any Lululemon logos. Her magenta shirt is probably not intended for sweaty physical activities.
The weather is getting nicer, the classes are getting smaller. We take our mats to the wall because there is enough space for everyone to practice their inversions.
While upside down, I plot out what I will say to her after class when we are standing upright at the shoe cubbies, buttoning down our winter coats. I will say something like, “It’s nice having a small classes once and a while,” or maybe, “Did I miss anything last week?” Maybe I will tell her the story about the purple toenail polish. In the end, I over-think it and I chicken out. I don’t say anything at all.
We move from upward dog to downward dog. Warrior one and warrior two. Fish and bridge and boat. And when the class ends, we say namaste, roll up our mats, and leave.
We spend so much time opening our hearts, and for what?
Leave behind your trusty Corolla that you bought with cash from a tight-fisted Egyptian grandfather. Hit the breaks in the empty desert. Kill the motor. Leave the keys in the ignition because there is no one around for miles. Watch as the waves of heat rising up from the ground make the air look like it’s melting.
Dig a hole. Dig a big hole in the brittle earth big enough to turn into a little garden pond, like the one at Caroline’s place. Now make the hole even deeper. Make sure no one is looking but of course no one is looking who would be looking anyways.
Now drop the thing into the hole. Get rid of the thing. Look at the thing, sitting there in the hole. Cover it up. Pick up lots of clots of crumbling earth and drop them into the hole. Fling them with some force so that the thing will know that you don’t want it, that it is repulsive in your eyes, that it is certainly not welcome to return to the tarp in the back corner of your carport. Pat down the dirt with a shovel until it looks natural, like no thing was ever buried here and no thing ever will be.
Briefly consider planting a cactus over the thing. Decide that it would be too much trouble.
Walk into the shadow of the mesa. Search for your Corolla.
Notice that you are not alone. Realize that you were never alone. Notice that you have been followed. Notice the ring of hooded figures changing around your Corolla. Know that the hooded figures know everything, saw everything, hear all of your thoughts at this very moment as you are thinking them.
I am taking the GRE in less than a week and I just want to get it over with.
I blew a lot of time drilling myself on the verbal portion even though I probably didn’t need to. My attack plan has been to focus extra hard on the verbal part in order to procrastinate from learning the icky math. My vocabulary is not amazing, but I used this exam as an excuse to make it amazing. I downloaded a vocabulary app onto my cell phone to learn words that I will probably not remember a month from now and clicked my way through it on my lunch break in between bites of soggy homemade pizza.
Torpor… decorous… vociferous…
Every time I see the word “antediluvian” I sneer and say it aloud in my snootiest British accent. Antediluvian.
But I really should have been studying the times tables.
8 x 12 = ?
I began studying for the math section of about two weeks ago and have since relied on Dave to remind me of the most basic concepts. I don’t remember learning the fact that any number divided by itself is one. I don’t remember the last time I had to divide anything. These supposedly basic concepts are ten years away from me and I am riffling through my nightmarish recollections of math class, finding only traumatic memories of when I was castigated for writing out a formula too slowly on the white board in front of the classroom. Every few minutes I drag Dave to the open Princeton Review book.
“What do you do when there are two variables?”
For those who do not know, equations were invented by a group of mathematicians during a particularly onerous road trip to visit elderly relatives in South Carolina. When the highways became too desolate for their game of I Spy to continue, they played a new game called “solve for X.” Hours passed and they just kept making up new rules. What if there are two Xs? What if we introduce a Y?
Had they known that their little game would have stultified millions of teenagers for an upward of forty minutes every school day, perhaps they would have ended the game before it was too late. No, mathematicians are notoriously selfish beings. They think of no one but themselves.
By the time they got to Topsail Beach, they were throwing negative numbers and square roots into the mix. For them it was like a game of pinball made exponentially more interesting when more balls are thrown into the machine. Their flippers went crazy, the balls were shooting around the machine like electrons, the bells and the lights were out of control and it was stimulating and exciting.
I think the root of my math grudge is buried deep in my lack of context. When does one actually use a quadratic equation? What are negative numbers, anyways? Who in the world is using all this math? Something just isn’t clicking.
The test is less than a week away. I can hear the endearingly sassy voice of the Princeton Review GRE workbook telling me that this isn’t really a test of my intelligence. I can outsmart the test, I repeat to myself as I practice my times tables. What kind of grad student doesn’t know her times tables?
Going to the gym is hard. Sometimes just getting the motivation to leave the house seems impossible and why is your front door so far away from your couch? Do you ever wish there was an easier way to get the benefits of a rigorous workout without putting on pants? Then I have great news for you. A study from John Hopkins University discovered that raisins contain a chemical that can improve organ function, circulation, muscle growth, and bone density even more efficiently than a Pilates class you despise. Yeah, you heard me: Raisins! Scientists also discovered that a glass of red wine had a similar effect.
Scientists tested this powerful antioxidant on a lucky sample group of rodents that were fed raisins, while the control group was fed nothing at all and rode tiny stationary bikes.
“The results were so astounding that we immediately approved testing a daily dose of raisins on diabetic patients,” said Dr. Richard Sandino. “The treated group was also given a bottle of wine and a small dose of medicinal marijuana.”
This is fantastic news for doctors and raisin-lovers everywhere, but don’t expect your doctor to tell you to eat more raisins. He’s probably afraid you won’t be able to stop! Keep in mind that moderation is key. You can have too much of a good thing, even something as good as raisins.
You may reap some other well-known benefits that come from making raisins a staple of your diet.
“The test group had fewer instances of cancer, arthritis, fine lines and wrinkles, dementia, and lived longer than the subjects that did not consume raisins,” Dr. Sandino adds. “We also observed this effect in subjects that habitually consume red wine, pistachios, and have regular oral sex.”
More studies on human subjects still need to be conducted, but that could take decades. Why wait? We say if it’s good enough for the rats, then it’s good enough for us. Please, pass the raisins!
This is my fourth year writing new year wishes, a ritual that I shamelessly appropriated from Neil Gaiman. Last year I wrote about subway serenades and in 2013 I wrote about feeling pleasantly uncomfortable. Onto 2015, whether we like it or not…
This year, I hope you are open to the possibilities of an ever-expanding universe, some of which will be unexpectedly marvelous, some of which will be exasperating, and some of which may involve unpleasant encounters with cat urine. I hope you find a ten dollar bill in your pocket that you didn’t know you had and that the cobblestone roads of happenstance always lead you to the doorway of an Indian food buffet. I hope every now and again you spend a little time with people who don’t have fur and sandpaper tongues. I hope you crack open a fortune cookie and find all the answers you’ve been waiting for, or at least the Chinese word for “pumpkin.” I hope that any unkindness inflicted upon you is counterbalanced by a smiling Asian baby with just one tooth, and that someone surprises you with box of chocolate sea shells.
I went to a yoga class on the shortest day of the year. I had spent the previous day at a winter solstice party and the previous night meandering through Manhattan with Dave. Over the course of the weekend I had pushed myself a little too hard to be outgoing and may have hyperextended my social ligaments. I woke up very tired.
I knew that this would be one of those densely crowded classes and I always mean to get there earlier, but when I arrived there was little space for my mat. The teacher was talking about embracing the night when I squeezed into the back corner next to the low shelves of foam blocks and Mexican blankets.
Strange things happen in yoga classes. In the last class I attended, the teacher played chanting music playing in the background and the man next to me started chanting along with the recording as he moved through his vinyasa. No one else was chanting, the only other sound was breath.
I can always expect that two girls will settle down on their backs about halfway through, layer wool blankets across their bodies, and take a nap with little eye pillows across their faces. When everyone is peeling up their latex mats and padding around the hardwood on bare feet, they are deep in stage-three sleep. I understand that relaxation is a key aspect of yoga, but I’m still mystified at people who spend twenty dollars to take a nap on a hardwood floor with strangers beneath blankets that have known many strange butts. The girls always look so blissfully comfortable. I’m not sure what happens when the next class on the schedule comes in, but I imagine the teacher rolls the girls up in their Manduka mats and props them up in the utility closet.
I provided the spectacle for this particular class. It wouldn’t be the first time. During one downward facing dog I noticed a little cocoon of black thread dangling between my thighs. I wanted to surreptitiously tear out the wad of thread but I couldn’t think of a graceful way to do it, not in front of the yogi masses. I tip-toed through the crack in the door, trying not to disrupt the woman who had to lay her mat in the doorway, and I closed myself in the bathroom.
Once in private, I investigated my legging situation. Not only was there a ball of thread, but there was also a three inch hole in my crotch where the thread had splayed apart. It was not fair. This was only the second time I had worn these leggings. What if they were split open the first time, too, and I was only just noticing now? These leggings had all of my favorite buzzwords working in their favor – organic cotton, recycled materials, fair trade – but they couldn’t even withstand a few crescent lunges. Suddenly I was grateful for my tight space in the back corner. If I had a good seat, the rows behind me would have had an excellent view of London, France, etc.
Back in the studio, I rejoined the class. Every time the teacher instructed us to lift one leg in plank pose, the flaky sole of my neighbor’s foot rose up a couple of inches from my face and I retreated into child’s pose.
“Don’t kick your neighbor’s face,” the teacher reminded us.
When we flipped into a pose called wild thing, I found myself sharing space on my mat with an inverted elderly man (a.k.a. the Phantom Chanter). The heating system, a maze of metal tubes that protruded from the ceiling that is clearly haunted by a poltergeist, made startling booming noises. It sounded like someone was trapped inside the sweltering metal tunnels trying to pound their way out with a crowbar. It was nearly impossible to relax, between the noise, the claustrophobia, and knowledge that I had been inadvertently exposing my underwear. While everyone else was merrily rocking around on their backs in happy baby, squeezing their feet in their hands, I let my knees fall from left to right and pretended I needed a real good spinal twist.
As we settled onto our backs for shavasana at the end of class, the teacher talked about using the longest day of the year as an opportunity reflection. Once upon a time, December 21st was the last day of the year. This made me feel anxious because there was so much I wanted to do and I realized the year was over. I spent the class writing this in my head, taking mental notes of the elderly man’s foot on my mat and the alarming clang of the heating system and the snow spitting from the sky in the window behind the teacher. I’m afraid it’s not a very mindful habit, but I do it all the time. I let it play like a song on the radio that I’ve heard a million times.
I still felt tired after class and it seemed like it was already getting dark. The two blonde girls were asleep under their wool blankets, the first humans to surrender to the longest night on Earth.
This holiday season Victoria’s Secret launches its sexiest line of iconic lingerie yet: The Unbearably Sexy Collection.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: More than twenty years ago, the cutting edge designers at Victoria’s Secret were able to define the peak echelon of sexiness by means of a mathematical formula. The resulting sexiness reached an astronomical level never beheld by human eyes, so sexy that the American consciousness wasn’t ready for it yet. The magnitude of sexiness could not be unleashed upon our society prematurely without doing significant damage to the human psyche.
The floral lace prototypes created for the Unbearably Sexy Collection were locked in the Victoria’s Secret vault for over two decades while the surviving lingerie designers dedicated themselves to creating and curating collections for a still delicate population. Each collection increased in sexiness by moderate degrees and over the years inoculated the public against dangerously high levels of sexiness. Most Americans are unaware that we regularly come into contact with levels of sexiness that were once considered lethal in 1994. Today more than twenty states have laws regulating sexiness to protect public health. The designers calculated that by the year 2015, human beings would at last be able to tolerate the Unbearably Sexy Collection with minimal side effects.
“This is the Secret we’ve been referring to all along,” says CEO Andrea Ferris.
After decades of progressing towards increasingly arousing undergarments, this lingerie brand has finally reached the climax. This line represents the highest levels of sexiness a human being could conceive of without suffering an orgasm and immediately falling into a coma.
“The collection features twilight blue satin pushup bras that bump you up five cup sizes and more complex strap systems than ever before,” boasts designer Vittorio Cavanna. “Twenty years ago when I first unveiled this design, two of my closest friends were killed instantly. This collection is for them.”
There are still some at Victoria’s Secret who believe that these revolutionary designers have gone too far with lingerie technology. Others suggest that we need more time to fully understand the nature of extreme sexiness, that we must further investigate the effects of long-term exposure. Several employees have opted to leave the brand citing ethical reasons.
“This is only the beginning,” brand strategist Antonio Milano explains. “The future of lingerie involves identifying sexiness that exists outside of the spectrum visible to the human eye. I predict that in five years, Victoria’s Secret will be pioneers in that territory. This isn’t just about lingerie anymore, it’s about the human organism evolving to perceive and appreciate a level of sexiness that our ancestors could not even detect. They would have just been killed instantly.”
The line will be released throughout the brand in November of 2014, just in time for the holiday season.