Three is the magic number.
I spent seven years in this place, but could never encapsulate its power like this woman can:
“This place is both more fragile and more courageous than it lets on. It has taken care of me, but it has never tried to impress me. Push farther, Boston seems to say. Work harder. Don’t complain. Just finish. There is an implicit understanding among us that whatever needs to be done we will do it, because that’s what we do.” - Josie Duffy
Read the whole thing on Gawker.
I’m not sure why I’m always late. Usually it’s the result of excessive daydreaming, often while staring at a computer screen. I’ll be deep into some research about, say, “the mysterious death of Edgar Allen Poe,” or “What does it mean to dream about killer whales” or “large tiger-like cats/toygers”* and then, whoopsie daisy, I was supposed to start getting ready an hour ago. And now I have to be wherever I was going in ten minutes. Commence scrambling, swearing and sweating, etc., etc.
I’ve always been a dawdler. A dilly-dally-er. I’ve done it since I was a little kid; following those little kite trails in my mind is soothing. But ok, I’m pushing 40. Time to start limiting my dawdling so that I stop pissing off my friends and pissing away productivity. Besides, lateness just leads to heart palpitations and recurring diarrhea.
Every once in a while I need to switch up studios. Sometimes I’m having a Jane Fonda kind of day and want more of an aerobics vibe. Luckily, there’s this disco yoga studio in town that offers up a lovely breadth of hot yoga. It’s the leaves-you-drenched-in-sweat-while-listening-to-a-Britney-Bollywood-remix kind of yoga. If you’re in the right head space, it can be really cleansing. Other times, it can be an actual, literal, one hundred percent historically accurate representation of hell. Depends on the mood.
Of course, I was running late and rolled into class with about two minutes to spare, which usually makes it tough to find a spot. But that day, there was a super awesome open space up by the front of the class. Sweet. I marched right up and claimed the spot and unrolled my mat and sat down and immediately realized why that spot was open. It was because it was directly next to an extremely hairy, extremely shirtless man whose hair was all white because he was definitely over the age of sixty-five.
But no big deal. I can hang. Plus, yoga grampa was impressive. Yoga grampa was the kind of guy who gets to the studio first to warm up with a five minute headstand followed by a legs-over-the-shoulder arm balance, toes spread, the whole nine yards. He was doing some serious swami shit. Poses I had never seen before. Go grampa! You show that class! You tell people that OG yoga grampa is here to stay! Tell it with your BODY, mister! God DAMN!
Class hadn’t even started yet and yoga grampa’s mat was already surrounded by what can only be described as a moat of sweat.
After about five minutes, I noticed something was terribly wrong. We were all hanging out in downward dog, doing some deep breathing exercises, when it became apparent that someone had farted. Again—no big deal. Farts happen. But in HOT YOGA? Who’s the asshole? Literally. Whose asshole committed the crime? I automatically assumed it was yoga grampa. He was over sixty-five, after all. It’s not like he has the sphincter control of a young twenty-year-old buck. Oh, yoga grampa. Sometimes he does that. So I silently forgave him with lovingkindness and moved forward with strength and perseverance.
But the scent persisted. And then it morphed. The more deep inhales I took, trying in vain to “follow my breath”, the smell had less of an egg undertone and took on a more musty, ripe note. And then, like a drunk suddenly remembering what exactly happened last night, my brain kicked into gear and I recognized the scent.
It was balls. Drenched-in-sweat, yoga grampa old man balls.
Holyfuckingshit. Like someone was aiming a powerful hair dryer at his testicles and blowing it right toward my face. From two feet away. And scientifically, that’s pretty much what was happening. His ball particles had surrounded my entire body and were floating all up in my lungs and had infested my pores and was all over my hair. Like an old man ball bath.
Things I considered doing: 1. Barfing; 2. Bursting into tears; 3. Developing old man ball deodorant; 4. Taking off my shirt and tying it around my face and finishing the class topless; 5. farting loudly in defiance and in an heroic attempt to neutralize the air quality. Instead, I stuck around for the entire hour and fifteen minutes, mouth breathing my way through all the poses, and narrowly avoiding loss of consciousness.
And then I went home and took a bleach shower.
Not my best yoga moment. Actually, it might have been the most disgusting, un-yoga moment of my life. It was more like the aforementioned hot yoga hell. I’m still getting over it. But I tell you what: from now on, Imma be on time to class.
*pulled from google search history. Not a joke.
When it comes to matters of love, it’s often platonic devotion that proves the most intimate and carries the most weight in one’s life. It’s the love stories of friendship, the decades-spanning, unbreakable connection to someone that stays around as lovers come and go. Yes, romantic love is an all-encompassing illness of the heart, but without a best friend to guide you, life becomes less tolerable. Cinema has long been awash in tales of romantic love, of course, but it’s rare to see a tale of love between two female best friends, especially one that genuinely shows what it is like to have that kind of soul mate, without whom everything else would be askew. But with Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Frances Ha, we see one woman’s journey of self-discovery, ignited by a fractured friendship.
"Without a best friend to guide you, life becomes less tolerable." To all my best friends—and you know who you are—let’s go see Frances Ha.
My yoga studio is in the industrial section of SE Portland. It’s not too far from where I live—I could easily ride my bike–but no matter how the cookie crumbles, you have to cross a set of train tracks to get there.
So obviously, on the way to day two of the yoga cure, I got stuck behind a train.
Now. Normally, waiting for a train to pass would send me into a steaming pile of dire frustration. My heart would start beating faster. My chest would start to feel all twisted and tight. But that day, I ignored the blaring beast, and made a conscious choice to breathe through the anxiety. Breathe in. Detach from the past. Breathe out. Detach from the future. Sometimes, the obstruction in your path keeps you in the now.
And the train, like every moment does, passed in due time. I don’t know if y’all have noticed, but I’m getting all afterschool special with this yoga shit! I made the class with minutes to spare and learned a small lesson on the way! Success! Perseverance pays! I’m a YOGI, people! Namaste! Ok, clearly I’m geting ahead of myself, but still.
(Sidebar: Where is Yoda when you need him? Has anyone else noticed how Yoda is the ultimate yogi? Or am I late to this game, like everything else in life? Late, I am. )
That day’s teacher came highly recommended as a strength builder, and she didn’t disappoint. Think holding plank posture while she calmly counts, “Om one. Om two. Om three,” all the way to ten. Three times in a row. (Usually, this quirky counting method would irk me, but I was all up in some focus and I wasn’t going to succumb to petty irritation. This time.) In fact, aside from a small incident that occurred when I was laying on the ground and got a little too over-zealous about stretching my arms overhead and accidentally touched the gross feet of the old man behind me, the class was really working for me. Redemption for the patchouli-packing yoga studio. Or more likely, I was opening my heart a tiny bit.
The best part? The place has no mirrors. No mirrors, no judgement–just me and my body, doing its thing. Balance was happening. Peace was happening. My newfound yogi confidence was at an all-time high.
Until it came time to do a headstand.
Inversions are scary to me. There’s the idea of falling over and snapping your neck, but you don’t die, you’re just paralyzed from your chin down and you have to communicate by typing on a keyboard using a long stick-like apparatus that you grasp in your teeth. Plus, there’s the fact that your ass is over your head, which, in my mind, leads to less control. Of everything. Like, basically, inversions are a roaring invitation to the lower intestines to cut loose. It’s a pubic free-for-all. Everything’s just up there a-flappin in the breeze, and with my questionable lower ab strength, inversions are a recipe for disaster. I live in fear of audibly farting in class.
Did you see that? I live in fear. Cutting the cheese in class is embarrassing, but it’s not life-threatening. My way of dealing with fear is to set it aside, review it, and realize that it’s not going to happen. I make up 99% of my fears. I—me—am responsible for the majority of my internal emotional torture. And even if whatever fear I did have came to light, I will deal with it. Who cares if I float an air biscuit? That would be funny. In all reality, I would totally own that fart.
With the wisdom I’ve gained in my 39.999 years, I’ve found that the easiest way to get over fears is to simply move forward. In this case, I didn’t allow myself to stop and think about ripping a king-sized burrito blast, or breaking my neck in a freak yoga accident. I just dragged my mat over to the wall and started trying to do the headstand.
And I did it.
I did a goddamn headstand, separate from the wall, all by myself, balancing there on my head, for three whole breaths. And I smiled so hard I thought I would cry. I was walking on air, I was floating, I was interconnected, I was empowered by this cosmic notion that everything I need—all knowledge, all strength—could come from within, and as I walked down the stairs, across the street, and to the car, I kept thinking,
“I did a headstand. I did a headstand. I did a headstand.”
It felt good. Really, really good.
So good I didn’t even mind getting stuck behind the train on the way home, too.