By Wayne Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly
Excuse me, I was concentrating on a yoga pose.
The surprising thing is, even as a beginner, I do see the value of it. I think I always did. Everyone I’ve seen who does yoga seems so limber and at peace. My impression was that yoga was terrific, as long as I wasn’t the one doing it.
Not that I think there’s anything wrong with it. I think it’s my own Neanderthal male perception of things. Yoga is primarily for women, while men are supposed to play basketball, football, and later in life, we are supposed to take a set of clubs and knock a little white ball around a huge lawn while wearing funny looking shorts.
Actually, the real problem I had with yoga was my valid belief that I wouldn’t be able to do any of it.
You see, after 45 years of playing football, basketball, and tennis, my body is very tight. I have a limited range in my muscles that allows me to do the things I do on a daily basis. Sitting, standing — no problem. I can walk, reach for things, pull things toward me, and sit back down. These motions allow me to walk to the refrigerator, pull it open, reach for a submarine sandwich, and sit back down in front of my plasma television.
A few weeks ago, I purchased a few yoga DVDs for my wife Maya to help her relax and work on keeping her back limber since she gets a bit stressed. Thoroughly enjoying it, she persuaded me to give it a try. Talk about Karma.
So it should come as no surprise that my first few attempts have been, to say the least, a challenge. I’m sure you’ve heard from people who have taken up a new sport that they “seem to have used muscles they didn’t know they had.” My first reaction to yoga is that I’ve been able to cause pain in parts of my body where I’ve never experienced pain.
To give you an idea of how tight my muscles have become, the last time I was able to stand, bend over, and lay my hands flat to the floor was circa 1995. The last time I could bend my leg and bring my foot near my head in any position, the Berlin wall was still standing. Nobody had heard of the Internet yet. Cell phones were the size of a loaf of bread. Yahoo was something you said if you won the lottery. A television remote was basically yelling at my little brother to get up and manually change the channel. You get the picture.
I try my best to follow the trainer’s instructions. Push your hands out. Raise your right leg. Lift your left leg and cross it over your right leg. Breathe. Now lift your head up and turn it to the right. Open up your muscles.
Although the trainer is on a DVD and cannot hear me, I still find it worthwhile to blurt out, “It is anatomically impossible to make that move. There must be some special effects or CGI on this DVD that lets this guy make that move. He’s defying the laws of physics and gravity!”
I’m sure I say these things primarily to cover up the fact that I can’t come anywhere close to stretching my muscles like this trainer can. On the other hand, I doubt that he can do the “refrigerator and submarine sandwich maneuver” nearly as fast as I can.
Monitoring your breathing seems to be an important part of yoga as well. I understand that regulating your breathing while going in and out of a yoga pose helps in letting go of the stress in your body as well as being aware of the muscles that expand and contract while you are breathing.
My problem is that in any pose that requires me to bend at my torso, I can’t control my breathing because there is no remaining air in my body. I look around and the room looks like it is going dark. I had no idea that the gracefulness of yoga could make me pass out. Technically speaking, any sport that induces oxygen deprivation ought to be considered an extreme sport, wouldn’t you say?
On the other hand, maybe it’s just me. ♦
Wayne Chan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.