I like to think of myself as Very Evolved. I get that I am a Spiritual Being and, thanks to Eckhart Tolle, I am well aware that Ego is Bad, Consciousness is Good. I have put my Pain Body out to pasture and am at One with My Purpose. I meditate regularly (when I remember) and I know about half the Real Names for all the yoga positions I contort myself into. I thought I was doing pretty well... until the end of a yoga class the other day.
It’s always the way isn’t it? Anne Lamott calls it “God’s banana skin,” or something like that. The minute you get all Enlightened and cock-sure about something or other, and make some great big declaration about it to God, The Universe, or whatever you like to call the great big Power-crazed Puppet Master who pulls our strings and yanks our chains, he/she/it will pull the rug from under you, throw you an impossible challenge, or just give you an experience that makes you feel downright stupid.
I discovered Yoga when I first moved to LA. It’s like trying Fried Cockroach if you move to certain parts of South East Asia, it’s part of the culture, it really would be rude not to. But I discovered I loved Yoga. Not since I was 12 had I managed to rest my nether regions on the floor while in the Sideways Splits. I was back bending and shoulder standing like I’d celebrated my thirteenth birthday yesterday, until my back went out and I ended up in five years of physical therapy.
The official diagnosis was “Hyper Mobility,” i.e. I could stretch my body too far for my strength (GREAT line, by the way, guaranteed to clinch the deal) but I never understood exactly what that meant (I mean, I got the concept but not what the repercussions were for me) until my brother, The Oracle, explained it to me.
Okay, a quick aside about my brother. He is, in my eyes, Iron Man, Superman, Yoda and Ricky Gervais all blended together inside a dark-haired Brad Pitt. He is simply the strongest, kindest, smartest, funniest guy I’ve ever met. Yes, this is why I am still single; a guy’s got too much to live up to. About 90% of my female friends have had a crush on my brother at some point. Most of them still do – even if they’re now married with two children (especially those married with two children!) The irony of bringing up my brother in this way, right now, is that he just got engaged. I seriously did not think there was a woman good enough for him out there. But there was. Just one. And he found her. She’s awesome; I adore her. But I digress (on a truly happy topic – they are going to make some damn fine babies, that’s all I know!)
So my brother, the guru of physical fitness, The Best Golf Coach In The World (I swear he knows nothing of this post at time of writing, and is not paying me... but I’ll not say no to a little commission if anyone reading this tracks him down and books a course of lessons), explained what it meant to have a Back Problem.
“Imagine your core abdominal muscles like a rope,” he said. “Now, every time you do an exercise that builds those particular muscles, especially those you do in Pilates, or like basic small movement crunches, you are weaving another thread into that rope. Conversely, every day that goes by on which you do not do any exercises, one thread will fray. If you go too many days without doing your exercises, imagine all those frayed threads. One day – and you may not get a warning – the final thread will break and your back will go out.”
I followed his logic and (with my wrists firmly touching my wooden-topped desk as I write) I can tell you I have not had a Back Episode for 7 years now. I’ve even been able to take up yoga again, because I know how to stretch while supporting my body (an even BETTER line!)
Which brings me back to my Saturday morning yoga class. What I’ve always liked about yoga is that blend of physical exercise and mental relaxation. In fact, of late, I’ve been getting more and more into the whole Shanti Shanti Chanty Chanty aspect of it. Seriously. I even took part in this “Healing Circle” at a new yoga space that was opening up the other day. We “blessed” the space and “healed” ourselves simultaneously by doing a Group Chant. It was all rather magical and I did genuinely have An Experience and let go of an embarrassing amount of tears.
But I guess everyone has their own personal Threshold for everything.
So there I was, lying on my mat at the end of a particularly gentle yoga class with a particularly heavily tattooed yoga teacher, and we’re lying in Resting Pose (Shavastna I think it’s called, and I’m going to run with that, I’m not going to pop off to Google it, I’m going to live with my authentic interpretation of its Real Name), or as I like to call it, Extra Sleep Time, and I’m listening to his Chanty Chanty Harry Harry music and he’s talking about us all being At One with the Universe, and part of the Collective Consciousness, and I’m loving it and I’m smiling, and thinking this is really setting me up nicely for the weekend and his soothing words are saying,
“Now imagine your body...” yes.... “Just drifting...” yes... lovely... “And remember, you are pure spirit, you are an eternal part of the universe...” yes... indeed... “And now imagine your body...” yes... “Decomposing.”
My eyes sprung open and I looked over at the dread-locked tattooed Yogi to see if he was being serious, and of course his eyes were closed and he was swaying slightly and he was being completely serious.
I closed my eyes and lay there, as he repeated the instruction and started to describe to the class the process of dying and “giving up” our bodies to the earth and allowing the natural decomposition process to take place, and I have to confess, right then and there I made a Mental Note To Self to remind my family I wanted to be cremated and have my ashes scattered into the Pacific Ocean off Santa Monica Pier. Not very original or glamorous, but I can’t get my head around the whole “rot in a box” scenario. I’m a donor, of course. Really, take everything you need, strip me of eye balls and kidneys, and heart valves, but then PLEASE put me under the broiler and roast me to a crisp and feed me to Nemo and his buddies. Seriously. And now I’ve said all that I’m not thinking about it again, thank you very much.
I knew we were at least ten minutes from the end of class, and he was still harping on about our decomposing bodies. Somehow I managed to block him out and focus all my thoughts on what I needed from the Farmers’ Market to make bruschetta: juicy tomatoes, French bread, basil, and garlic. Maybe I won’t compost the stalks and skins this week. Maybe I’ll just sneak them into the trash. Or throw them over the end of the pier.