Yesterday, after hearing a colleague extol the experience of yoga at Gold’s Gym, where I am a member, I decided to attend a class. My wife, Ruth, was going to meet me there at 5:30. Somewhat assured by the idea of having Ruth and a colleague in the class, I decided to commit to the venture.
Upon arriving, I quickly learned two things. First, this would be HOT yoga (with the thermostat turned way up). Second, every other person in the class (Ruth didn’t make it and neither did the colleague) was a prime physical specimen. No body fat on the men or women and bulging muscles on the men. That left me to serve as the “before” picture in the group.
Nevertheless, I was there and wasn’t going to back out, even if I did look silly in my pleated khaki shorts with a big leather belt. I forced myself to abandon my reserve just enough to remove my white athletic socks.
The teacher turned down the lights and turned on the soft, global village sounding music. I prepared for an experience that I hoped would be relaxing and would help my chronically sore lower back.
Our instructor led us through a series of poses. With each one she offered us four options. The first option was the easiest. I adopted that pose each time (and did not find them all that easy). Every other member of the class went for the fourth and most difficult pose. I was generally okay with that dynamic except when it came to our default position. The rest of the class returned each time to downward dog. I had to be content with what the instructor called “the child’s pose.” I must have adopted the child’s pose 20 times or so during our class, which lasted for a hot and difficult hour. I spent a lot of time as a 44 year old child. I kind of thought that they should call it “the rickety, stiff, middle-aged person’s pose.”
As a political scholar, I reflected on what we were doing. It seemed to me that the positions involved a lot of subordinate-seeming bowing and scraping along the floor. I wondered whether yoga related in some way to the tendency of people in the east to go low before some mighty ruler who commanded worship. But then we began going through the various warrior poses in a standing position and my theory was shot.
The verdict was ultimately positive. My back pain was gone, though temporarily, after we finished. The resting time at the end of the hour was truly blissful and would have been more so if I’d been less self-conscious. And I noticed that for at least a couple of hours after the class, I seemed to have a bit of a vibrant buzz. I wondered if some magical alignment of the spine had plugged my brain into a new power source.