Yoga has always fascinated me though I am not certain what possessed me to take some lessons. Quite possible it could be just another thing I had never tried and wanted to before I became too old to do so—maybe a bucket list entry.
I knew very little about it except that it had something to do with Hinduism, breathing and quiet time. Its advocates always looked graceful and even mysterious in performing all their various positions and exercises. That should have dissuaded me from even thinking about it.
I have been taking Yoga for well over a year. I knew I did not want to take a class with a sorority of women, not because of their sex but because I knew I would not be able to keep up with them because of my age and a minor case of rigor mortis.
I am amazed how women can bend and twist into positions that would delight a contortionist. But that’s natural for them. Anyone whose body is designed to give birth to a football-sized being can do Yoga in her sleep.
So I arranged for private lessons at the local Yoga and Pilates studio. Its primitive conditions disqualify it from ever calling itself a spa. First of all there is no separate locker facilities for men and women.
I wonder what the gender equality mavens would say about that. In fact there isn’t a facility for either of us. When I change into something more suitable I have to use the only restroom in the place.
When I first entered the Y&P, it reminded me of some of the very narrow Italian restaurants in New York City that seem to be a block long and a doorway wide. The room appears even smaller when filled with a receptionist desk, and two lines of Pilate’s machines. Students use these to stretch and sometimes inflict self-damage. I quickly learned to prefer the touch of the live instructor.
For my instructor they paired me with Valerie, a lithe and deceptively strong and shapely woman with beautiful silver hair and an infectious smile that betrayed a nurturing soul. She was exactly what this old dog or is it down dog needed! From the first moment she twisted and bent me, I think we had a kind of mentor/disciple simpatico.
I think she had been an occupational therapist or had worked in a pretzel factory before she heeded her true calling in life. Val is as equally at home discussing the mysticism of Franciscan Father Richard Rohr, as she is the Biblical imperative of the fictitious Lisbeth Salander.
To make things even more private we have virtually all of our sessions up in the Loft, a semi-private, unenclosed though elevated section of the restaurant I mean studio where they hide their worst students, mostly the men. I was happy for the privacy venue because Yoga has an intimacy to it, not unlike massage therapy, except in Yoga you usually have clothes on.
I have read about some people who actually do all the Yoga positions in the Nude. I mean being free, natural and uninhibited is fine but they have to admit that some of their positions lend themselves to full exposure of every appendage, crack and crevice the human body has. Perhaps this variation is the direct result of what my daughter takes—Hot Yoga, where they turn the thermostat up to 750 Fahrenheit.
Personally Yoga is one thing I want as much support and protection as I can get. In fact after working out in shorts and a tee the first two times, I decided to adopt the attire that most of the women used. They all seemed so comfortable and moved so easily in their tights. Surprisingly most of the ladies wore just black tights.
Maybe it had something to do with evolution or body consciousness. But as a male I feel compelled to dress in more colorful plumage though I am well past my mating game years.
So a shopping I did go! O. K. my first two pair were black. But the third one was a beautiful royal blue Under Armour pair of tights in a snakeskin design. They are so cool!! To date they are still my favorite.
It seems that my exercise wardrobe is not complete until I have one for nearly every day of the week. What followed was a silver snakeskin tight, a camo black and blue pattern, and a tasteful-done plain navy blue that can be worn for more formal affairs like weddings and funerals. I am into tights so deeply that when I see a well-rounded woman in colorful tights, I am tempted to ask her is where she bought them.
For my 72nd birthday my only daughter told her mother that she had a surprise for me. But neither of them would tell me. Come the night of my party, I approached said daughter and asked her what my surprise was.
She would not answer. Is it a pony? She shook her head! A motorboat–I always wanted a motorboat! No! How about a new car. I really need a new car. Same answer. Some fur-lined tights? No answer.
Well I just decided to end the mystery and open the box. Staring me in the face was my first Yoga outfit, replete with matching shirt and jacket…a Yoga ensemble! No fur but that wasn’t really necessary…too itchy… No pony, motorboat or car keys. Four choices not bad!
And what cool tights they are…a medium dark green with a lime border. I don’t do well with greens and blues since I was diagnosed with traditional white male bl/gr color blindness a few years ago, which was 45 years after my wife told me I was color-blinded. It is not official until the doctor says so! I have worn them a few times already and noticed that they seem to exaggerate my manhood a little more than any the others. Maybe that’s why they are fast becoming my favorites.
Up until my birthday, I guess my silver tights were the sexiest. I had just seen an old Richard Gere movie, Breathless, which displayed more of his naked body than it did any nascent acting ability. This way before he started playing, fully clothed, brooding, angry and intellectual roles.
The movie was really terrible but what sold it for me were his frequent dialogues and personality exposures while reading comic books about the Silver Surfer, one of the lesser known action heroes.
When he would finish one he would do this Elvis-like gyrations of his hips, with his finger pointed, collar up and eyes cast down that was liken to John Travolta’s manly walk near the end of the movie Pulp Fiction. Not only was it very manly, it was an energizing tonic to an old man like me, wearing silver tights in public.
There are only a few other men that I see when I go to the Y&P. If my mother were alive and I told her I was going to the Y&P she would ask me to pick up a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk. Most of these other guys seem to be a few years older than me. They usually wear regular clothes or maybe long ugly shorts.
They look very uncomfortable to me. One works with Val just before me. I was up on the landing leading to the loft because someone else was up there, doing my stretching, bending and twisting to the virtual enjoyment of not a one among the gaggle of women sweating and grimacing below me. So I could watch him and the women of course.
I later told her that she should suggest he get some tights or something better suited for Yoga. She told me that she had no interest in seeing this 77-year-old Harvard brain surgeon in tights. Of all her male students and maybe a few females, she said I was the only one who could pull it off. Surely she did not mean the tights because they can be difficult and even dangerous to remove.
In fact one time I almost took her words literally. After she has finished cleaning and sanitizing the mats we have used, Valerie lets me change up in the Loft after my session. Funny I noticed all the other students, men included seem to have to clean up after themselves with handy spray bottles, filled with bleach, disinfectant, and antibiotics. Only once has she asked me to do that. I think I will add pampering to nurturing.
I have a modest way of stripping while there are a half-dozen women just below me, mostly of sight. I sit on my shirt and then in one swift movement I yang them off, underarmoured shorts and all…only this time they got caught around my ankles and I almost fell to the floor.
If I had hurt myself, unable to move and started screaming, a room full of women would have quickly come to my rescue and found me, lying on the carpet with my modesty around my ankles. A fantasy or nightmare?
Another time I noticed that the doctor was limping a lot. I asked Valerie if he had that limp when he first came in. That’s relevant because the one downside to Yoga is the pain. I know the adage—no pain, no gain.
If that is true I must be far ahead of the pack because Val works me so hard and so thoroughly that there is not one muscle, bone, nor hank of hair that has ever escaped her physically demanding routines. At times her level of exercise rivals that of a medieval rack, chain and rope…even when she is being easy on me.
I should be flattered that she has encouraged me to push the cart of my limitations to the edge of the cliff. I can tell that is true by how much more flexible my limbs have become. I can get into some positions that should be unnatural for a man. My feet can get cozy with parts of my body that had not touched since the womb.
Surprisingly I can do some of the basic positions with aplomb and maybe if I dare say finesse if not grace, such as the up and down dog, the plank, forward fold, cat, cow and table top to name but a few.
One time when Valerie was trying to get me to separate my legs from my torso, with out the benefit of any horses, she told me to imagine I was at the gynecologist’s office. Now when I was first married I took my wife there several times but I never ventured past the waiting room. I told Val that if she introduced stirrups, I was out of there. Come to think of it we have used a Pilate that does resemble stirrups.
When at last we are nearly the end of the hour, Valerie brings me down from my lazy man’s high with a gentle neck massage, soft and relaxing words of peace and harmony until she tells me to wiggle my toes and my feet and roll slowly to one side. We both sit up with our legs in the Lotus position, hands folded upwards and say a short prayer. Since we are both Catholic it becomes a celebration of God’s gift of life rather than any Buddhist incantation. Then a hug and maybe a quick peck and we are finished for the week.
Why do I call it Polish Yoga? Many years ago someone told me the story of a man, named Joe Yamikoski standing in the street and hitting himself in the head with a hammer. When asked why, he said because it feels so good when I stop!