In August, Jenny and I always go to The Mind, Body, Spirit Expo at the NC State Fairgrounds in the Kerr Scott Building. Jenny is a Republican who believes in Reiki. I am a Democrat who believes in hedging my bets. I am as spiritual as the next person. Oh, okay. As superstitious as the next person. But I have a baseline skepticism I find it difficult to move past. My mind is open, but not enough to let the cat out.
Since I returned from England not quite a month ago, I have been more or less on vacation until classes resume at State on August 23rd. I’ve been using this time to read books I won’t be tested on, watch escapist videos, have coffee with friends, work in the yard and purge my bedroom and desk area of junk. My friend Mickey and I agreed to be fitness partners and get into shape by walking three miles, three times a week at Carmichael Gym. He is gorgeous, but wants to lose some weight and I want to lose some weight, gain some energy and pretend walking will make me gorgeous. He is my very good friend so he pretends with me. Or did until, one week into our program he reached down to pick up a piece of paper and threw his back out. He drives three miles to see the chiropractor three times a week. I told him that when his back is better, yoga or tai chi will be integrated into our weekly routine so that he doesn’t keep jamming himself up. In anticipation of his healing, I have returned to taking yoga classes at the YMCA after a lapse of 2 years. I can appreciate the flexibility and relaxation that yoga provides. I invited my daughter, Phoebe to come with me.
“You could reach Nirvana,” I told her. “You could find Enlightenment.”
“I could be on the couch with a bag of chips,” she said.
My friend Lucy and her son Ethan came with me.
“Think about why you are here today,” Graham, the yoga instructor advised, as he sat on his mat folding his fair-trade fabric legs into what I think was Lotus. I folded myself into Wilted Camellia.
“My goal,” I said, “is first to do no harm.” Meaning I didn’t want to hurt myself trying to achieve Horse Swimming Through Swift River pose.
Graham smiled his yogic Mona Lisa smile. “Ahimsa,” he informed me. “Very good.”
In the darkened room with flutes warbling and chimes tinkling on the CD player, Graham led 20 of us through a variety of balance, strengthening, opening, and flexibility poses. Each pose seemed to be punctuated by Down Dog. Down Dog is to yoga what pasta is to Italian food. Vanessa, to my left was a 20 year old AKC registered Down Dog with the symbol for Om tattooed on her right shoulder blade. She probably has a microchip in her neck so she can be returned to the ashram if she gets lost. She grimaced in very Western contempt when I couldn’t do Crow Eating an Insect. She probably thought I was leaking polluted chi and it might get on her hand silk-screened mat. I hated her. When Graham told us to visualize inhaling light through our left nostrils and exhaling any tensions or emotional sludge out through our right nostrils, I built a dam around my aura so Vanessa would be caught barefoot in my root chakra sewage. Finally, we did the pose where you lie on your back, pull your knees to your chest, grab your ankles and rock around your sacrum. I don’t remember the name for it---Sandinista? I always think of it as June Bug on its Back. I love June Bug on its Back. From the bug Graham directed us to settle into Corpse Pose. I did this much better than Vanessa because I am over twice her age and came in the room at least half way there. Graham tiptoed on little cat feet between the mats and dabbed our temples with sage oil and ylang-ylang or something. All the while he was crooning about world peace and inner peace and channeling energy yada, yada, yada. An earnest young man in his early thirties who has a political science degree from Duke.
Ethan and I gently held hands across the 3 inches of indoor/outdoor carpet that separated our mats. I felt contentment settle on my abdomen like my pet guinea pig Buster. I shine at Corpse Pose. Gradually, Graham had us roll on to our right sides and push ourselves up slowly with our left palms to a sitting position. Just as the nurses at Rex Hospital had me do after Dr. Manley removed my gallbladder. The gallbladder resides somewhere in the vicinity of the Manipura or “jewel city” chakra. It is the seat of willpower, which would explain why, since I had my gallbladder removed I cannot stop eating and need to go walking with Mickey.
When we sat facing him, Graham pressed his palms over his heart, thanked us for our attendance and mindfulness. He wished us a peaceful week and bowed, saying, “Namaste.”
“I like how I feel after yoga,” I confessed to Lucy and Ethan as we drove home from the Y. “But while I’m doing it I am bored out of my mind.”
Ethan popped a gum bubble. “That’s the point, isn’t it?”
“No,” Lucy said. “To stop multitasking. To monotask. Just do yoga.”
“Was I multitasking in yoga?” I asked her.
Having just heightened my intuition, I could sense her rolling her eyes even though she was driving and I was in the back seat viewing only her short salt and pepper hair.
“Duh. You brought a pocket notebook and a pen.”
I assumed the defensive pose of the Killer Bee. “Hey! I put them in my shoe with my socks.”
“Yes,” she said slowly. “But you brought them with you to the yoga room.”
“Oh,” I said.
I did feel taller after our session with Graham. Flexibility and Enlightenment might take a little longer. My date to go to the Body, Mind, Spirit Expo next weekend with Jenny will give me a head start before Mickey comes back.