My life-enriching assignment today comes from the Post’s breaking news and general assignment reporter and dominatrix Valerie Osier, who used her power of assignment to force me to tune into and follow a live yoga session led by Dharma Shakti, who, in happier times, led the Yoga on the Bluff classes on Ocean Boulevard. Now, of course, her classes are remote, so I could follow along starting at 11 a.m. Saturday, in the safety of the bluff in my backyard.
“Try your best to follow along,” advised Valerie, “but don’t push yourself too hard—I don’t know how hard of a flow Dharma does and I don’t want you to get hurt!”
Yeah, well, if Valerie was concerned about not wanting me to get hurt, she could’ve come up with an assignment that didn’t have the potential to snap my spine and puncture my lungs. Something, perhaps, like, “binge watch Season 2 of ‘30 Rock’ with a delicious sandwich and a jug of Gatorade.”
I tuned in to Dharma Shakti’s Facebook live session and, to be perfectly fair and honest, she didn’t go all boot-camp yoga on us right away. There was a long, maybe 15-minute, session of breathing and meditation, and I handled those with the exceptional grace and aplomb for which I am known.
Then she progressed into what I assume were beginner poses, just holding your arms out, and twisting your torso back and forth. Then, stretching out and touching your toes, which admittedly isn’t the easiest thing for me to do on account of my toes are located quite a bit farther than arm’s reach, but I persevered, with a minimum of knee-bending.
So we all did fairly simple twists and turns for a while, then suddenly Dharma’s legs and arms were at impossible angles from her body, and I missed what just happened. I tried to follow, but it was useless. It was like she was pantomiming an Escher drawing. Nothing made physical sense, but I nevertheless tried putting my various appendages in places where they didn’t logically, or painlessly, belong.
“Deep breaths. Inhale…. Exhale through your nose….” Dharma cooed. She does have a pleasant voice and a nice, relaxing cadence, though she was difficult to hear on Facebook, but I just assumed she was generally just saying, “Here, do this now” as she tossed a leg over her shoulder.
Now, I’m really the wrong guy to ask about the quality of Dharma’s lessons, or sessions, or whatever a unit of yoga is called, but the comments on the page were all glowing and full of love and gratitude, so I’m guessing she’s capable.
After about 20 minutes of brutal poses, which I tried to roughly follow, and for sure I was doing them wrong, but my effort went rewarded with what felt like pleurisy sometimes, a snapped spine at others, while Dharma twisted her body into a human swastika effortlessly and gracefully. Maybe if I practiced this for a few months I’d get good at it, too. I might almost paralyze myself. I’m going to err on the side of caution.
Although I have every legal reason to drag Valerie into court on a variety of charges ranging from assault to elder abuse, I’m grateful for the experience, painful as it was and I’m never going to be the same person after this. I’ve always sort of admired the people doing yoga on the bluff as I’ve driven countless times down Ocean on my way home from work. Sort of admired, but not to the point where I’ve felt tempted to pull over and join them. My body’s my best friend, and we’ve looked after each other for a long time now. And a key part of our unspoken pact is we never ask each other to do things that we know we can’t do. Like that thing Dharma does where her legs look like they were put on backward.
So, after two days of enforced self-improvement projects that I’m being asked to undertake during this hiatus in real life, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a much better baker (as horribly as that experience turned out) than I am a yogi.
And, while I might attempt another baking project one day, I think my yoga days are all behind me now, unlike my legs.