I started yoga. Did I tell you? Well I did. I took up yoga. As I type this, the paramedics are on their way to unwind my leg from behind my ears. It’s not pleasant at all! Many years ago, my best friend and physiotherapist, Clare-Anne Kilroe, suggested that her and I attend a yoga class together. Yoga was all that then so I agreed and off we went one summery evening to try out this very hip thing called yoga. Obviously, her being a physiotherapist, she knew what we were in for. Her being my physiotherapist should have given her some kind of indication that I would never have been able to participate in a meaningful and dignified way. But the two friends trundled off excitedly to our first yoga class together.
The middle-aged, hippy instructor, God bless her, tried to make it a dignified experience for everyone in the class, but not everyone in the class had compliant, stretchable muscles. I was the one exception to everyone else in the class. It was like the Rock of Gibraltar had landed in the middle of a pile of elastic bands. The Yoga instructor more than once said, “Oh dear,” with pity and astonishment. You see, I’ve never had hamstrings. I suppose they’re there. They just don’t stretch very far. For example, I am unable to sit cross-legged without leaning backwards on my arms or hands. I cannot sit with my legs straight out in front of me, again without leaning back at 45 degrees on my arms. Naturally, as you can imagine, I cannot touch my toes. Not even nearly. I can barely touch my knees….don’t laugh. So the hippie yoga instructor was probably met with something of an aberration when I walked into her studio.
I was expecting a mat and a little nap. I was met with a mat, blocks, a rope contraption which, on the one hand scared me and on the other turned me on just a bit, cushions….extra cushions and maybe just two more cushions and a bar fixed to the side of the studio, kinda like a ballet balance bar. For your info, I’ve never done ballet either. No hamstrings don’t go well with ballet. Or rather, girls with no hamstrings don’t go well with ballet teachers. Those bitches! The class was a series of grunts and groans from me, “Oh dears” from the instructor and a few sniggers from the elastic bands next to me. I swore I’d never go back. I’d never ever do yoga again. What use was that ever going to be for me? I’m not sure what Clare-Anne was thinking. I’m also not sure Clare-Anne ever went back again.
So with this whole running gig, it has become something of a problem that I don’t have hamstrings. Yes, they’re there. They remind me regularly that they’re there. And their being so unstretchy probably has something to do with their being able to remind me of their existence. I have a colleague at work who has the most incredible legs. She’s not a runner, but she has the most shapely, sexy legs I’ve seen. She does yoga. In fact, she has travelled all over the world doing yoga. God bless her! She inspired me to do something about my unstretchy hamstrings. Never again was I going to suffer the humiliation of doing yoga in a class, however, so I went to Game in Cresta to buy a yoga mat. By the way, I am never going there again. I’ve only had worse service at a government hospital. Wait! No. Game in Cresta’s service was way worse than that. I just wasn’t sick at the time. Although, one might have thought I’d come down with a brain aneurism (nearly did) which had eradicated any memory of my previous yoga experience, buying a bloody yoga mat. Turns out this yoga thing is a bit of a minefield. There’s all sorts of equipment you need. Again, I’d forgotten about all the bits and bobs that had met me in that studio. So I left it to the experts and just bought a box kit with ten things and a smiling lady using the things, making it look like the stuff in the box was going to make this much easier than I remember. I also bought a DVD which confesses on the cover that the exercises are “suitable for all skills levels”. You remember that I’m a bit of an aberration, right? So technically, this is false advertising on the part of the DVD manufacturer, but I’m sure there are all sorts of small print on the DVD which explain this.
I unpacked the paraphernalia in the box at home. It claims it is a pilates and yoga kit. Oooooh! So much excitement. Gonna fix those hamstrings one time! I put the DVD in the machine. I’ve hooked up a new non-wireless wireless (again that false advertising) DVD player/surround sound system in my house. My son is working away from home at the moment so I had the whole lounge and new system and new DVD and new
instruments of torture yoga/pilates kit to try out. The yoga instructor on the DVD was dishonestly beautiful.
She told me to sit up straight in a relaxed position “Like this,” she said, sitting cross-legged with her hands palm up on her knees and her back nice and straight. “However you feel comfortable,” she kindly told me. Naturally, I was not able to copy her 100%. I crossed my legs with a little groan and leaned back on my hands, back as straight as possible. This would have been fine, except then she told me to lift my arms and stretch to the side. This had me falling backwards with my legs still crossed up in the air. By the time I was able to roll myself over and up straightish again, I had missed three yoga positions and I had to find the remote and rewind the DVD. That woman kept telling me “as much as you feel comfortable” and “add another block if you aren’t able to stretch the whole way”. She was gliding in and out of the Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, the Sage’s Pose, Downward-Facing Dog (I ate yoga mat when I tried this one), Dolphin Pose (yoga mat eating here too), Warrior III and, my personal favourite, the Plow Pose I felt like I was running and falling from one pose – oops, missed that one, rewind or oh bugger it, I’m just going to miss that one and do this one – to another. I was sweating on my new yoga mat. I was stressing and that bitch on the DVD looked like she was having a picnic with her nearest and dearest friends. I switched the sound off because her calm voice started to sound like ridicule. All skill levels my ass! What was I doing here, I asked myself. This was as useless as that bloody first lesson. I felt no benefit whatsoever. Yoga was, in fact, making me a worse person. I was throwing things at my TV. I was calling the instructor all sorts of heinous adjectival names. This yoga thing was not for me. I’m going back to my couch. I nearly gave up running! So I switched off the DVD as she swanned from the Cow Face Pose (she did this one exceptionally well) into the misnomer Easy Pose, advising me to breathe in slowly and deeply and feel all the stress and bad energy leaving my body. I think I may have thrown the DVD in the dustbin.
In my misery, I slumped onto the yoga mat and found, lying next to me, a book with easy beginner poses for pilates and yoga. What a find! So I’m using those poses that target my hamstrings and glutes and I’m happily doing those daily. They seem to be helping and I’m getting better at them. I still can’t touch my toes or sit in the not so easy Easy Pose, but I can touch my knees and I’m feeling less like a yoga school drop out.
Clare-Anne is going to be making some more money out of me as she continues to morph my Couch Potato self into a runner, but at least I have this somewhat kinky set of gear to help reduce the bill just a bit.
Yours in the love of running…..and, I suppose, related activities.
The Slow Coach