December 5, 2012 – GQ India Online
When GQ approached me to write a short piece about Yoga, I laughed. It seemed absurd. Then they explained the premise: a guy who has never attempted yoga will test out and evaluate a few different types. Fine. I normally eschew exercise for the sake of exercise, and I doubt this little experiment will change that. What follows is a brief and not-terribly-comprehensive chronicle of my experiences in the yoga studio.
Day 1 – 0600 hrs
This is an uncivilized time to wake up. Corollary: I hate yoga.
Last night I stayed in feeling feverish and achy. I’m inclined to believe this anticipatory soreness was my body’s last desperate attempt to dissuade me from going all the way to Kemps Corner for a 7am Yogalates class.
Yes, Yogalates. I should clarify: Yogalates is basically just traditional Vinyasa Yoga with a little jogging in place at the beginning, and some standard ‘core’ exercises (sic – because I refuse to use terms like ‘core’ seriously) at the end. There were only a handful of us in the very pleasant multi-use space, Ave 29. Our extravagantly pretty instructor, Simi, was gentle with us at that early hour, and much to my surprise I felt significantly better (and less silly) than expected after an hour of stretching and breathing and using my limbs for things other than avoiding potholes, stepping over sleeping dogs and hailing rickshaws.
Day 2 – 0830hrs
I’m at Yoga House in Bandra this morning feeling much less ill and disgruntled than I did for Yogalates. There are more of us for today’s beginner’s Hatha class, and a preponderance of yoga pants, and a small, bald, 30-something instructor who is calm to the point of catatonia, all of which combined makes me feel inadequate in my mesh shorts and grade school t-shirt (year: 2002).
As this guy gets going, I don’t so much notice the positions he sustains (mostly because while he’s doing this I’m concentrating on not breathing like I’m in labor), but rather the ease and fluidity with which he enters them. And despite having done my very best to hide at the back of the room, he more than once finds an opportunity to come improve my posture, once placing his foot in the small of back and gently pulling my wrists until I’m arched backward with my shirt riding up over my belly button (the shirt may be too small).
Thankfully, this is a beginner’s class, so short of that girl in the front who is plainly not a beginner and probably only here to feel good about herself (I dislike her), everyone leaves at the end with the same dazed look. I feel pretty outstanding, but also slightly ashamed at the amount of leg I was probably flashing. Note to self: yoga pants are not bullshit.
Day 3 – 1830hrs
I’m back at Yoga House, this time feeling almost empowered: I’ve devised a plan to conceal myself from the instructor so as not to attract unwanted attention. I get to class a little early, sit outside on the veranda (better known to me for reliable coffee and WiFi) and eventually go looking for a place in the middle of the pack. Much to my dismay, I find I am one of three people in this class. Things get worse when the Pretty Young Instructor (henceforth PYI) arrives and 1) asks if the three of us are ready to sweat, and 2) asks me specifically if I’ve ever done yoga before and what kind and when. So much for hiding.
But the extra attention is actually welcome. Though Vinyasa Flow, as the instructor explains after, is usually about helping people find a time and space to concentrate on breath and movement, today is Friday and she wants things a bit more aerobic. Within 15 minutes I’m sweat-drenched. And because there are three of us, PYI is spending a lot of time correcting my poses, putting blocks under my hands when I can’t reach the ground and gently maneuvering me into something that resembles downward dog (why is this basic pose so much harder for me than any other?). At this point, despite the profuse sweating, I stop being self-conscious. PYI is cool – this is her job after all – and at least I’m not making bad dad jokes like the big 40-something guy across the room (who only really bothers me because he can reach his toes over his paunch).
I especially like the part at the end when we lay on our backs and breath in the dark. PYI extends this for a good long while and when I open my eyes I feel like I’m supposed to feel after a nap but never do: awake and energized and refreshed. At the end, PYI says she hopes I keep practicing. I even find myself thinking, ‘Yeah, me too.’
Day 4 – 1930hrs
I spend over an hour in traffic to get to Cuffe Parade for Artistic Yoga, so I’m not the happiest of campers, but am at least expecting a laugh. The class is me and six women of various shapes and sizes. Three of the studio’s walls are hung with red and blue bungee rope, and the fourth wall is mirrored. This, combined with the quiet among my sisters-in-arms, strikes me as portentous.
The small, lithe instructor enters at a brisk clip and puts on some music that sounds distractingly like an aerobics video from the late Nineties. He has us jogging in place, swinging our arms around and such, and I can’t stop giggling to myself.
Then he decides it’s time to kill me. I begin to wonder: can GQ reimburse me for my dignity?
After some rudimentary exercises (some of which involve squatting very low and moving my hips in a way that I will only describe as indecorous), we launch into a round of 30 Surya Namaskars in rapid succession. If you’ve never done 30 Surya Namaskars in rapid succession, I can now heartily discourage you from trying. You’ll certainly get your heart rate up, but you stand a good chance of throwing your back out in the process.
I’ve done my best to block the rest out, though the image of a rather fat woman across the room holding her leg at 90 degrees while I struggle to keep mine at 45 seems to have stuck. By the time I leave, my whole body hurts, and in a nasty, flu-ish sort of way, as though my feelings back before my first class were actually an auger of pain to come. I may not be an expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how it’s meant to feel.
Nevertheless, I leave grateful – at least GQ never found a Bikram class for me. The editors should be grateful, too: They might have gotten stuck executing my will.