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takes a yoga class

me posing next to my yoga hemorrhage

Heigh ho, Tom Turtle here on the mat, standing in downward turtle, my back arched oh so high. What a thing of beauty I am, my reticulated shell launched up toward the glorious sun! Although I feel very sleek and stylish in my tight pants and bare feet, there are many things I don't understand about yoga. It seems to me to be extravagantly irrational. The teacher is always saying things that make no possible sense, and she seems to be doing it on purpose, to turn my simple mind to mush. Right now, for instance, she is telling us to “breathe from our navels”, letting the breath start “from below the lungs”. What? Did she skip animal physiology in school, or is her body set up differently than mine? In my body, the breath can't come from above or below the lungs, or to either side of them. It has to come out of them. Try as I might, I just can't breathe from any place in my body except my lungs. The air refuses to pass outside the pulmonary walls, so what I am doing with my navel or my hips is not to the point.

Now she is telling me to push the insides of my thighs out and the outsides of my shins in, at the same time. Wait, my knee is in the way! I can't do that without dislocating my knee and popping my patella out to rattle on the floor. Like most vertebrates, my upper leg and lower leg happen to be in a line, attached with tendons, and I can't move part of the line in and part of the line out. If she wants to warp my leg like that, she is going to have to put it in a press, with wooden slats and metal clamps; I can't do it myself, from the inside. But before she does that, let me check to be sure my health insurance is paid and up-to-date.

Now she requests that we place our attention in our heart chakra, which is apparently really our thymus chakra (I am told by an initiate). But my attention doesn't want to go there. I can think about my heart or my thymus—though I am not sure where exactly my thymus is—but I can't for the life of me put my attention there. Do what I may, my attention stays in my brain, which seems to me to be behind my eyes. Since I think with my brain and see with my eyes, this makes perfect sense to me. But yoga is not about this perfect sense, it seems. It is about something else entirely.

Now I am supposed to “put my seat wide forward”. Put my what who how? It reminds me of the instruction on the airplane cushion that says I should put my “seat back forward.” I'm sorry, I don't bend that way. And if I did, I might be arrested for indecency, like Elvis the first time he hit Memphis. Apparently, this motion is part of what is called a “hip opener.” As a turtle who happens to be of the male of the species, this elicits a smile on my part, which I suppress and keep an internal smile. Outwardly, I must remain inscrutable. In a class comprised mostly of females, I feel like I am an interloper in some feminine secret ritual. As a male, should my hips really be opening like that? Will it ever be any use to me in bed? Is there a male class I missed, where we do completely different exercises? Sorry, a turtle can't help thinking these things.

Speaking of which, my teacher seems to be unaware that I am not a female as well. She does nothing to take my maleness into account. You may say that we are all equal in the desire for enlightenment, but even so, we are not all carrying the same passport. We have not packed the same bags. Which is to say, the junk in the trunk of the 7th chakra is not of the same square inches. I am supposed to stand, put my feet firmly together, then touch my toes. No problem if my name is Sue or Sarah, but if my name is Tom, this is an ouchee. Two little carry-on items have to go from front to back, and they are stuck. I guess Billy Bob is fine, since he has been riding horses all his life, but Tom has no space between the gams. I couldn't pass a dime through there, much less the jewels.

But I'm not the only one struggling, which is encouraging. Most of the ladies aren't following instructions either, which isn't surprising since you would have to be made of slinkies to do what we are told to do. A lady across from me, who appears to be built from the general mold of the wallaby, doesn't seem to know what to do with her stomach chakra, which is enlightened to astonishing degrees. Her two chest chakras are also bursting with prana and aura and so on, and they appear to be trying to merge with her stomach chakra, creating oneness. As is the case with such bodies, the arm and leg chakras seem to be too short, as a recompense, and as with a bassethound, it is a struggle just to keep the torso off the subtle earth. Plank pose, which is like the top of a pushup, should, reasonably, be a four-point pose, but with this lady it is a six point pose, seven if you count the belly button, eight if you count the chin hairs.

A woman to my left has a different hill to climb. She is normal, even lithe, down to the waistline, but below that she has grafted a whole other body, one equipped to deal with a planet of different gravity. Downward dog becomes for her a Hadean task, like rolling a giant boulder up a steep incline with only a slender reed. She looks like two leaning loblolly trees being supported by two dandelion stalks.

The one other male in the class has it no better. He is fairly muscular and is highly aware of it, but all the oil appears to have been removed from his crank case. He is like the tin man after a downpour. He can't touch his knees, much less his feet. He moans in pain and exasperation in downward dog, since he can barely get his butt above his ears. His waist has been welded tight, and you can almost see the rivets. All his joints seem to have been fused, as in some sad accident at a glue factory. Equally sad are the mats of black hair all over his body (except on the top of this head) which also prevent any residual mobility. Every motion appears to be impeded by some hair catching on some piece of muscle or clothing, and it is a miracle he managed the locomotion required to get to class, or to remove himself from the bench press machine.

Yes, I find that yoga is mainly a routine of slow and grinding humiliation, which could only be more painful to the average psyche if it were done, like ballet practice, in front of a mirror, or like comedy, in front of a hostile audience. As an exercise, it should probably only be done by pumas, a few species of gazelles, and very young giraffes. Anyone else is just begging for a general dislocation of bones and cartilege, vast internal hemorrhaging, and several weeks in traction.

In a pile
Upon a log
Over the water
Third from the bottom
Secreting my own hard shell
Tom Turtle

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