So. I’m supposed to be returning from a trip to Colorado right about now. It started out as a week-long road trip for SkipFitz and me . . . then turned into a family road trip (with a 4-year-old who HATES the highway—thus taking “Are we there yet?” to a whole new level of DEAR GOD MAKE IT STOP) . . . and at (quite literally) the eleventh hour, we decided not to do it, for several reasons. On the Friday night before our departure, I arrived home from work, to be greeted by the stench of dog poo. Seemed our elder dog had once again (for the third inexplicable time that week) pooped in her crate (and SkipFitz comes home for lunch every day, so it’s not even like she has to hold it for an entire work day, so really, it’s just pissiness on her part . . . or, er, poopiness, I guess . . .). But still, what the heck was going to happen when we were out of town and our sweet neighbor-kid was coming over to take care of her, as he’d agreed to do? We couldn’t ask him to be her damn orderly every day!
And I was already cranky, because after WEEKS of struggle with a painful, infected tooth that turned her into Rocky Dennis for an entire weekend, my 82-year-old mother had called me earlier in the day to say that she was finally going to go to the dentist, and would probably have to have the tooth pulled, and was not going to do it (a) alone, or (b) without copious anesthesia, so I was going to have to drive to her house (an hour and a half away) and go with her, and WHEN was I going on my trip, again . . . ?
Suffice it to say that a whole bunch of issues came crashing down on our heads that evening, and we ended up, mostly for the sake of MY sanity (thank you, sweet husband) deciding to turn our Colorado week into a STAY-cation. It’s actually been fun! We made that night Fright Night: we put spooky decorations (including a skull candelabra) on the mantle, lit candles, and watched The Haunting (and then wound up sleeping with our kid—who did, in fact, find the film quite haunting—wedged between us). Saturday (a day of rain), we made cookies, divvied them up into baggies, and delivered surprise chocolate chip goodness to seven of our neighbors. Sunday we went to the Irish Fest. Monday we had some buddies big and small over for a playdate and grilling. Tuesday we went bowling. Wednesday we had a picnic lunch, and then went to a movie (more on that later). Thursday I returned back to work, in order to save paid time off for my mom’s upcoming dental adventure. But overall, I found it a lovely and relaxing time.
And what better way to relax than with a little yoga? Our road trip abandonment provided me the opportunity to start taking advantage of my sparkly new Bikram yoga Groupon, which was originally going to have to wait until our return from Colorado.
I have done hot yoga at several studios in town and, though each studio does it a little differently, I have always enjoyed it tremendously. In fact, when I first started, I extolled the virtues of hot yoga to anyone who’d listen, and tried (never successfully) to figure out how I could manage to do it the recommended 3-4 times a week, what with a full-time job and a family.
My super-awesome massage therapist, Julia (who is probably reading this and thinking I’m acting awfully posh and possessive for someone who ends up canceling every other appointment I make with her—and since I only make appointments, like, twice a year to begin with, she probably couldn’t pick me out of a line up . . . unless maybe it was a line up of people lying prone on cushioned tables) was concerned. “I’ve been to hot yoga classes where they push a little too hard,” she said. Examples she gave included instructors telling students they should be looking at the wall behind them during the “backbend” part of half moon, or telling them that if something didn’t hurt, they weren’t trying hard enough.
And. Well. I thought she had gone plumb crazy. Which I was willing to tolerate, mind you, because when you find a massage therapist with her kind of magical talent (seriously, the woman’s a bona fide miracle worker), she could spend every Wednesday afternoon scooting around the perimeter of her upstairs bedroom, gnawing on the bed and ripping down the wallpaper to free the woman trapped inside it (all the while complaining about its cloying “yellow smell”)—and by golly, you roll with it. Still, I was curious: what kind of seedy, scary-clown yoga underworld had she experienced in which yoga teachers did not spend 100% of class time alternately praising students for sharing their beautiful spirits with the class, and encouraging them to be ever so gentle with their bodies?
Well. Now I know.
I arrived at the Bikram studio 15 minutes early, as instructed, for “orientation”—which consisted of the day’s bubbly, smiley, bright-eyed instructor introducing herself and asking a few questions of me. Had I been to Bikram before? “No,” I answered, “but I’ve done hot yoga.” She boingily (if you could meet her, you’d completely accept that as a real word) informed me that Bikram was going to be a little bit of a new experience for me, so my only goals for the session were to “stay in the room and breathe. That’s it! Just stay in the room and breathe!” (Grinny Grinny Boing Boing.)
“Whuuuuuuuuuutevs,” I thought. I was no neophyte when it came to sweatin’ to the OM-ies. And I’ve always been a fan of research (unless I have my eye on a highly impractical but stunningly beautiful used car, a disclaimer I’m adding only to avoid my husband’s ruefully raised brow), so I knew what to expect. I knew it would be more challenging than the hot yoga I’d done before in some ways (a 105-degree room with 40% humidity, as opposed to a 90-some degree room with a draft coming under the door; a structured sequence of poses, as opposed to the instructor’s whim; an hour-and-a-half long class, as opposed to an hour)—but I was ready. The only thing she told me that I didn’t already know was that unlike other yoga teachers, she would not be doing the postures with us, but rather talking us through them from the front of the room—so as a newbie, I should find a spot on the back row, in order to watch and learn correct form from others in the class. That, and that I should leave my hand towel (which I’d brought along with a beach towel, thinking that 105 degrees might call for both) in the locker room, because I wasn’t going to need it. “Huh. Interesting,” I thought, making my way to the locker room, as Bubbles chirped out behind me: “Just stay in the room and breathe!”
When I entered the studio, everyone seemed (a) kinda naked (women in sports bras and tiny shorts, men in just the tiny shorts), and (b) really focused on finding some elusive spiritual “center”: some stretched; some lay in savasana; still others sat upright with closed eyes, breathing deeply and (apparently) meditating. But aside from the audible breathing of the Bod Squad, the hum of the heaters and the hissing of the humidifiers, the room was utterly silent.
After a few minutes, the instructor entered the room. Everyone instantly jumped to attention as Bubbles, following a brief greeting, instantly morphed into Cujo (from the lesser-known prequel, Cujo Goes to Vietnam).
That woman became a straight-up drill sergeant. She yelled at us! She clapped her hands at us! She told us several times that we should be pushing “BEYOND THE LIMITS OF [OUR] FLEXIBILITY,” that we SHOULD be feeling pain, SHOULD be feeling dizziness, SHOULD be feeling nausea—that meant we were doing it right! When I was forced by a wave of nausea (accompanied by a Flashdance-inspired hallucination) to drop out of camel pose and come down on all fours for a few seconds, she assured me (LOUDLY!) that the more I came to class, the more I’d learn to work through those feelings and stay with the posture. The woman next to me, a redhead whose face had flushed such a deep red that her freckles were beginning to look like glow-in-the-dark stars, tried to leave the room, and was told to stay and sit down on her mat until she felt like she could join us again. Fearing for that poor gal’s life, I gazed out the studio window and tried desperately to blink a morse code message to the couple returning to their car from the Subway next door. Knowing NO morse code, however, I probably actually communicated something like, “I’ve got potatoes in my chest, and both radios are in the sun, so it’s all out for the trees!” No wonder they slammed their doors and drove off.
And for the record, I now know why I was told to leave my hand towel in the locker room: we were not allowed to wipe away our sweat. “It’s just a distraction!” we were told. “Resist the urge!” Actually, we were told to resist several urges, particularly during the mountain pose phases between postures: no fidgeting; no scratching; no adjusting clothing (and, speaking as one of the folks in the back row, let me tell you—ADJUSTMENTS WERE NEEDED, particularly following some of those forward bends). No punching the instructor.
But I did it. I stayed in the room. I breathed. I did most of the postures as well as I usually do (I am nobody’s king dancer, but I can hold an eagle pose with the (maybe third- or fourth-) best of them. I did not wipe my sweat, even as my own personal Niagara Falls tumbled straight into my eyes. I did not fidget. I did not scratch. I did not die.
And I went back.
Twice so far—two days after my inaugural experience, and again (at 6 a.m.!) the day after that.
Interestingly, the instructors have gotten progressively nicer (and for the record, Bubbles did return to her normal, boingy self after class, complimented me on a job well done, and led the class in a round of applause for me and the redhead, who was also a first-timer). I’ve had a different instructor each time; first Bubbles, then another woman (who kept to the anti-fidget rules and the “BEYOND THE LIMITS” stuff, but spoke more softly, and encouraged us to have fun with our practice), and then a man (who did not clap at us at all, and actually made us laugh a couple of times).
So I think I’m going to keep it up—at least until my Groupon expires in two months. For one thing, every time I walk out of there, I weigh at least three pounds less than I did going in! Water weight, I know, but do you think that stops me from running home and trying on my old Seven jeans after each class? (So far, I wouldn’t call them comfortable, by any means, but the hope is alive.) For another, I’m determined to get my money’s worth out of that Groupon. And best of all, Bikram has made me kinda badASS.
Case in point: Wednesday, on my last day of staycation, the husband, boy, and I went as a family to see ParaNorman. And for those of you who’ve never been in a movie theatre with my husband, just know that people texting in the movies is a HUGE pet peeve of his. We’re talking special circle of Hell (with hordes of thumb-devouring fruit flies, nose-hair-plucking crabs, and running commentary by Joan Rivers). And for good reason; I mean, it’s distracting, you’re supposed to be watching the movie, and seriously, it is NOT THAT HARD to put the dang phone on vibrate and keep it in your pocket or purse. Not to mention that even the most Podunk theatres have gotten with the times and begun to include admonitions against texting during the film along with the ages-old gabbing/crying baby shtick. Trouble is that there is inevitably one schmuck in every movie who is either illiterate or apparently exempt from movie theatre rules. But I digress.
When we walked in, we had the WHOLE. ENTIRE.THEATRE. to ourselves. GLORY! We let our little dude choose where to sit, and so settled into the center seats in the very back row to enjoy our private screening . . .
. . . which only remained private until about five minutes before the start of the show, when a family came in that we just knew would be trouble. You know how you just know, sometimes? And we were right; I am convinced that not one of them saw more than 40 minutes of the movie, because they were constantly getting up (either individually or in groups of two) and leaving the theatre, only to come back a few minutes later for someone else to have a turn. A small child ran up and down the entire flight of stairs stretching from the front of the theatre to the back, chased by a man who made an occasional half-ass attempt to cajole him back to their seats (meanwhile, MY small child sat dutifully in his seat watching the movie, having never been allowed out of it during a movie, except to use the restroom accompanied by me or his father). All of this, we ignored with gritted teeth.
Then the texting started.
As usual, my husband leaned forward in his seat and called out his typical imperative: “Turn your phone off, please.”
Still, the little square of light shone brightly, wavering slightly with the pressure of texting thumbs.
My husband repeated: “Turn your phone off.”
This little light of mine, came the silent reply of our fellow movie patron as s/he kept texting, I’m gonna let it shine.
Usually, during these exchanges, I sit silently, hoping (against hope, in most cases) that the offender shows some consideration for his/her fellow moviegoers and abandons the text obsession. Because anyone who knows me knows that I generally avoid confrontation like the stupid buzzing fly trapped in your car on the highway studiously avoids every single one of the four wide-open windows AND the open sunroof, while still managing to fly straight into your ear every eight seconds. But on this particular day, Mama’s three days of Bikram survival kicked in, and I went all Don’t F@#$%CK With The Babysitter on everybody, issuing forth a thunderous command from the depths of my being:
My husband and son turned to look at me as if they’d never really seen me before, like they were just now discovering that I was not, in fact, the wife and mommy who’d accompanied them to the show, but had suddenly POOFed into a chupacabra wearing bright orange lipstick and a crown made out of gold-dusted Band-Aids.
I like to think that I sounded somewhat like [WARNING: NOT SAFE FOR WORK] Sigourney Weaver telling an alien queen where to get off, or Demi Moore telling a commanding officer to perform on her an act which until recently still constituted sodomy in several U.S. states (even though she lacked the proper, er, “equipment” to enforce the request).
My husband says I sounded more shrill, but definitely loud; “kinda like a witch’s cackle,” he added helpfully.
But I’ll be darned if Dorothy didn’t surrender.
For awhile, anyway; the phone reappeared about 20 minutes later, and eventually, my husband was forced to walk down to the offender’s row and state, politely and quietly, that we’d speak to someone about having the family ejected from the theatre if the disrespectful refusal to follow stated movie guidelines continued.
But still. BadASS, right? ME, right? I was even prepared for the post-movie confrontation—but my husband says that never actually happens.
Dang. I had a coupla zingers ready for the occasion.
But I don’ t think they’ll go to waste; after a couple more months of this Bikram thing, I’ll be ready to take on the world! Those people who park in the “New/Expecting Parent” parking spaces when they’re not pregnant or carting around an infant? They’re MINE. People who don’t return their shopping carts to the corral? Send them over here. People who throw cigarettes out the car window? They will know a fresh hell the likes of which they have never seen. And don’t even get me started on people who speed on past when the little schoolbus stop sign comes flinging out.
Bring them on. I am ready.