Some dogs are blooded, papered, well groomed and perfectly behaved.
They are the canine equivalents of the fit, flawless, sports-bra clad (if female), and perfectly yogic regulars in my yoga world. They make a yoga practice look as classy and orderly as the Westminster Dog Show.
Some dogs are pound puppies, of uncertain age and dubious background. They are a bit dinged up and ungainly. They want to be ingratiating, but they shoot themselves in the paw. They try too hard, making noise at the wrong time and tug at the leash. Sometimes, they snap at you. And they have to pee at all the wrong times.
I come to the yoga world as a rescue dog. I wear a regular bra and a t-shirt atop my high-waist mom yoga pants, just what my 54 year old boobs and butt are accustomed to. I grunt and groan when moving from seated to standing because dang it, it is work, or at least my knees think it is. I gripe aloud about the vinyasa that everybody else is grooving on because it is killing my torn and haphazardly healed rotator cuffs.
In spite of my best efforts at tiptoeing past the mats between me and the bathroom, my bladder has blown more than one shavasana, I am sure. And what my hot flashes have done to a hot yoga class does not bear thinking about.
I suspect that my antics in yoga class make my more well-bred classmates wish, sometimes, that the yoga world was not like one great big cosmic no-kill shelter.
You can teach an old dog new tricks. At least, this old dog is trying to learn some. She knows, though, that she can’t learn much if she circles around endlessly in beginner classes and never tries to ramp it up. So, in the light of ahimsa (compassion for all living things) I am making a few requests—if not actually sitting up and begging—for a few accommodations in an all-levels class.
When I bring my foot through from down dog split to the front of my mat for warrior one, and the room reverberates with a thud like someone just dropped a 50 pound flour sack––pretend you don’t notice.
When you are all binding with arms around legs, and my attempt at the bind puts my arms around my crotch somewhere, try not to giggle. Or at least, smile my way, then we can both giggle together, maybe.
Do what you can to make room for me in the back of class. My butt has been past its prime for as long as you have been alive, and I am self-conscious about it when in down dog. Spare us all the trauma of my butt in the front of the room.
My past fitness incarnations include things like Jazzercise, kickboxing and step aerobics. The habits of camaraderie that went with them will sometimes lead me to make a joke or a comment during class. I know it is unyogic and I try to resist the urge, but sometimes, it just pops out. If you can, smile when you roll your eyes, and please don’t look down at the floor as if someone has farted. Take it for the casual friendly overture that it is. I will not try to follow you home or to the pizza place after class, I promise. That would put me out past my bedtime.
Forgive me if I sing along when there is pop music played in class. Refer to previous request and past incarnations. I do try to keep it audible at mat width only, but if I misjudge, please forebear, or maybe even quietly join me in a duet for a few bars. They do, after all, keep telling us that in yoga, we are all one with the universe and each other.
If I do not meticulously sanitize my mat after each practice––please do not judge. I come of a time and place whence we were told that we had to eat a pound of dirt before we died.
Sorry if I hog all the props. It really does take no less than three bolsters for me to even approximate a back bend. And if I am going to get my hips higher than my knees in easy seat like the instructor says, that is going to be four blankets under my butt, at least.
They say that rescue animals make the best pets. My favorite yoga instructor says that people who struggle the most with their practice make the best teachers. I am not sure what my long-in-the-tooth down dog and I have to offer the yoga world in the way of instruction. Someday, though, I hope to find out.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: JoAnn Spears
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Bill Wren