PJ learns to say “ohm”

I went to yoga today for the first time since my accident. Being that I’m fairly accident prone, I should specify as to which incident I am referring. In high school, I was a tad competitive. Pathetically competitive. Mega-addicted to adrenaline, coffee, and working too hard, a friend recommended I do yoga. You know, to calm me down. Curious, I decided to attend. I’d never practiced the sport (art?) before, but was eager to be super good at it and win the gold medal at the Olympics…at the time I was sure this existed. Unsurprising. Cut to when we did headstands: I did not heed the advice of the instructor and instead kept turning my head to look at the women next to me. Were their legs straight up? Were they wobbling? Were they pulling off their yoga outfits better? (See, pathetic.) I fell over and knocked down the girl next to me. She was fine, but I sustained a pretty major neck injury. I had to wear a brace for nearly a month. Half of that time the brace included a shiny head piece which encompassed my head, which was super inflated due to my massive ego. That was the month of my international debate competition. I charmed all those dorky master debaters. If you take “charmed” to mean relentlessly fought to the death each and every one of them until victory was mine. I may have choked on my ohm’s, but I made my opponents choke their words. After a long weekend of refutation and speeches, I stood on stage and accepted a trophy just as shiny as my neck-armor. Some girls work events like that, preying and praying on the inexperience of their male peers. Debate tournaments were not the ideal for me to pick up guys, since I was typically the one knocking them off their feet. Unfortunately in a strategical, argumentative way, not a sexy rom-com way. One guy did actually say to me, “Here, you should use this” and handed me a slip of paper with a phone number and winked. When I called, it was not his phone number, but the number of his father’s office. Turns out some of my teammates were going around telling people I was hurt in a bad car accident (much less embarrassing; I was grateful) and this boy’s father was an injury attorney near my hometown. I think the wink was actually him squinting at a reflection from my head brace. Charming.

Anyway: My friend Rosa asked me to come to a yoga class with her today. We’d been talking about it for a while since I’m on this new path to detachment and relaxation. I met her at the studio fell in love. It smelled good, there was warm peppermint tea, and everyone was in comfy clothes and bare feet. My high school self would have looked at this and thought: where’s the trophy case? Not today. Today was all about me and Rosa learning how to down dog and lotus and whatever.

My knowledge of yoga was pretty limited to the following: headstands = dangerous, child’s pose = wonderful. But I was eager to get into it. Jess, our teacher, was a strong looking lady with a tattoo of a cherry tree on her back. She began the class by telling us to close our eyes and set an intention for the practice. “We’ll be working on balance today,” she said. “So get ready to fall down. As adults we don’t often know how to laugh at ourselves. We’ll work on that today.” I was worried. The last time I walked in to a yoga studio, I was carried out on a stretcher. Couldn’t we just touch our toes, or cross our legs, and call it a day? Nope. Our instructor was hellbent on assuring us that yoga is not a sport for weaklings. It involves planking and push ups, intense focus and flexibility. Jess kept calling out certain people in the class: Way to go, June. Niiiiice work, Stacy. Barbara, you’re rocking it. Rosa and I were no where near  worthy of shout-outs, but that was fine by us. I took advantage of every “modification” that Jess offered. I used blocks when I couldn’t touch the ground, and took child’s pose whenever I got tired (once every five minutes or so…) There was a lot of stumbling and giggling. I couldn’t keep a straight face when Jess would say things like “shine your leg” or “breathe into your tibialis muscle.” It sounded like bogus. What does that even mean, shine your leg?! I had and have no idea. I definitely challenged myself, but I came away feeling stronger and more whole. I’m comforted to know that I have grown up since age 16, and that I now embody new principles and perspectives. Weird as it was, yoga was pretty cool. I think I’ll be headed back soon!

Until next time, yours truly,

P.J.

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