Yuletide


Not Yogatide, Please.

By Joey Kennedy

It’s the Christmas season, and for most of the month, we’ll be dropping hints to our loved ones about what gift(s) we might like under the tree, if we have one, or in the stocking, if we don’t have a tree (the Kennedy Compound).

Veronica and I can’t put up a Christmas tree because we have a couple of dogs we lovingly call “The Destructors.” One is a ginormous Chug (Pug/Chihuahua mix). The other is a small YorkiePoo (Yorkshire Terrier/Poodle mix). They are, indeed, destructors. No matter how much we “dog proof” our house, The Destructors manage to get on top of something and destroy whatever is on top of that something, which usually involves food. We believe Winston and Johnny work in tandem. Somehow, Winston lifts Johnny up, Johnny plays havoc with whatever is up where Winston has lifted him, then they play like nothing happened. Except they have not learned to throw away the empty cracker or potato chip wrappers yet.

So the hint from me to Veronica for my stocking – that is, if The Destructors don’t get to my stocking first – is characteristically subtle: AirPods. They’re wireless earphones for my Apple devices, and I’ve wanted some since they first came out.

If Veronica can’t swing the AirPods (Please! Please! Oh, pretty please!), most anything else will do. I’m not really that picky.

What I do not want is a gift membership to a yoga studio. I will gladly forego the AirPods as long as Veronica doesn’t get me a yoga card. I do not want yoga. No-ga to yoga.

I have nothing against yoga for somebody else. Live and let live, I say. If you want yoga, knock yourself out (which is, by the way, an actual possibility at yoga). But friends, I speak from vast, personal yoga experience.

Yoga can kill you or, at least, seriously maim your muscles.

A short time ago, I visited newlywed dajas (daughters) Nicole and Sara Kate Denton at their home in San Diego. While there, Sara Kate, an actual yoga instructor, got me a membership to her yoga den or cloister or lodge or whatever yoga places are called.

OK. It was a free, one-week, trial membership. I was only there for four days. But for the first time in my life, I went to yoga. 

I’ve always been curious about yoga and was looking forward to giving it a go. Yoga is huge in San Diego, which to me explained why everybody I met was so cool: Meditation (I thought), peace (I thought), deep, calming breathing (I thought). Nicole attends many of Sara Kate’s classes, so they both had a hand in convincing me to attend a one-hour beginner’s session Sara Kate teaches. 

As ordered, I left my cell phone and shoes in a cubbyhole, grabbed a complimentary yoga mat, and joined the women (I was the only guy there on this night). This’ll be cool, I thought. And it all started well enough; we were told to “lie on your mat, relax, and breathe.” I’ve got this.

Namaste.

Except, I learned, namaste (“I bow to you” in Sanskrit) only comes at the very end of the class. That should have been a warning sign. I should have namaste’d right out of there.

After we really got started, everything went downhill. Or, I should say, everything went Downward Facing Dog. This is a yoga pose where you put your hands and feet on your mat, stick your butt high into the air, with your eyes facing your feet. I should have known something was amiss when there was no dog anywhere.

Said Sara Kate, later: The pose “lengthens and relaxes the muscles on the backline of your body, and relaxes your mind and nervous system.”

No, it does not.

While a fairly simple pose, Downward Facing Dog becomes overly complicated when you have to lift your right leg up and hold it, then repeat with the left leg. I was already huffing heavily at “lie on your mat, relax, and breathe.”

And then it all became a blur. We did some other poses – Mountain Pose, Eagle Pose, Bridge Pose. At one point, I remember glancing at my watch (which, for some reason, they didn’t seize when I entered the yoga dungeon), and it was only 6:28 p.m. I had been doing yoga seemingly for hours, yet my watch said I still had 32 minutes of the hour to go.

More poses. More Downward Facing Dogs. I felt faint. At one point, the ladies, including Sara Kate and Nicole, actually lifted their entire bodies OFF THEIR MATS! I watched, in stunned disbelief, convinced I was hallucinating from exhaustion. When the hour was up, Sara Kate and Nicole said they were proud of me. “You did well,” Sara Kate said, without laughing. Nicole pointed out that Sara Kate’s father hardly did any poses when he visited a yoga session with them. “He mostly watched,” said Nicole, condescendingly patting me on my sweat-soaked back.

Sara Kate’s dad is a pediatrician, and clearly much more intelligent than I.

The next day, I was sore; the day after, very sore. My yoga curiosity is fully satisfied. Still, I appreciate and respect yoga philosophy, as expressed so well by Sara Kate:

“I like to encourage my students to push beyond their mental barriers,” she said. “You can be a first-time student or a seasoned practitioner, and yet both have the presence of ego telling us that we aren’t good enough or we need to try harder or do better. Yoga is a space to allow ego to fall away, to come to your mat and breathe.

“Yoga isn’t about touching your toes, getting upside down, wearing expensive pants, or posing for that perfect Instagram shot,” said Sara Kate. “Yoga is about quieting your mind and learning what you are capable of.”

That was a hard lesson for me. Maybe I’m too old for yoga. Or my mind-set is all wrong.

So please, Veronica, if you love me, no yoga membership this Christmas.

And thanks to Sara Kate and Nicole, where yoga is concerned, I know exactly what I’m capable of. I’m capable of AirPods.

Namaste.

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