It’s 9:45 on Saturday morning. In addition to a 25 minute kettlebell/burpee/pushup/box jump workout, I’ve run 3 miles, done 200 inverted weighted situps, and maxed out my clean and jerk. Cocktail hour, however, isn’t for another eight hours, and I need to fill the time, which isn’t easy to do out here on the Outer Banks in the winter. There isn’t even a MOVIE theater out here, for crying out loud.
I go over to the bulletin board to check the class schedule to see if there’s at least a class I can take, and there is: Gentle Yoga.
Gentle Yoga? Yoga’s already gentle. Do they really need to insult it even further by describing it as “gentle”? I don’t want Gentle Yoga. I want a 45 minute met-con beat down that leaves me lying in a fetal position, soaked in a puddle of sweat, sobbing quietly to myself in a darkened corner, but Gentle Yoga’s the only option, so I take it.
Five minutes later, I’m standing in a dimly lit room on my Yoga mat, with soothing music playing in the background, waiting for class to begin. Also in the room waiting for class to begin are an older Latino couple, a younger couple who have come to class because they ran out of gas outside the building, and one other person, a 65-year old woman that looks about as flexible as a barn door, quite possibly suffering from Brittle Bone Disease.
“In honor of Valentine’s Day,” says the smiling, friendly instructor, “This is going to be a Partner’s Class. I just wanted to let everyone know beforehand, because you have to be comfortable touching and being touched by people you might not know.”
I freeze. What happened to Gentle Yoga? I’m not even comfortable fist bumping people I DO know, let alone touching and being touched by people I might not know.
“And if you’re NOT comfortable with that?” I ask, in what I hope is an equally smiling and friendly voice, trying to sound normal and well-adjusted, like I’m just making conversation, and not outing myself as a person who’s deathly opposed to being touched by complete strangers during a workout.
“That’s perfectly fine,” she says happily and non-judgmentally. She doesn’t scoff at me like I’d be scoffing at me if I’d been in her position dealing with a person like me, and merely tells me it’s not a big deal, that I don’t need a partner, and that I can find alternate ways to do the moves, using the walls or something … whatever makes me comfortable.
I relax a little, but I can already tell that, despite my playful tone, I’ve managed to ostracize myself from the warm circle of communal Yoga love that otherwise envelopes the room.
I’m clearly the Island of Do Not Touch.
Yet, when it comes time to partner up, and everyone has a partner but the 65-year old lady, suddenly, she becomes my responsibility. She’s staring at me with a look on her face that says, “You could make this really awkward for all of us and insist on doing the partner class by yourself, which means I’ll have to do the class by myself too, and we’ll be a disruption to everyone, or you could just be an adult about this, and be my partner.”
It’s a Mexican Stand Off moment that feels like it lasts for about ten minutes, with everyone standing around looking at me expectantly, waiting for me to ruin their Valentine’s Day Workout.
As much as I want to, I just can’t do it.
Which is how, on a Saturday morning in February, I find myself being hoisted up and precariously balanced on the back of a geriatric senior citizen who doesn’t look like she’s lifted more than a 5 pound barbell in her life, but who is determined, against all odds, to show me what Partner Yoga is all about. She’s breathing hard, bent over double like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I’m laid out in a backbend on top of her with my chest to the sky. We’re supposed to be standing in place, but we seem to be covering a good bit of real estate, as she teeters back and forth on shaking knees and arthritic hips, a circus act threatening to topple, first to the left, then to the right, with the audience anxiously following the teetering procession with their heads like we’re a gripping tennis match. All I can think (besides “Whoa! Whoa! Put me down!”) is how, if she drops me and I break my neck during a class that bills itself as Gentle Yoga, I’m going to be really really mad.
We looked nothing like this (although I’m pretty sure she thought we did):