It is January, the month of resolutions. You have resolved to become one of the people that drinks spinach, owns multi-vitamins of the non-gummy variety, and does yoga at six in the morning. You are here because you want to be, or so you keep telling your bleary-eyed self as you walk into your first class at Namastay Awhile, desperately clutching a large coffee with only one sugar, please, thank you very much. You are going to be healthy.
Slipping off your sandals at the door, you wind through the maze of oiled, humming yogis to an empty spot, unrolling your brand new mat with a sticky thwop on the studio’s hardwood. The unforgivingly acrid smell of never-been-used plastic wafts around the small room. You receive sympathetic smiles from experienced yoga students who are secretly cursing the New Year, waiting for the thicket of resolution-makers to be weeded out by laziness so they can again practice comfortably.
The yoga teacher stands at the front of the room, smiling cheerily through a haze of incense. “Alright, class. Let’s start with some deep breaths.” You realize you have forgotten to take the tag off of your sports bra, and the cardboard starts to dig into your rib cage.
You breathe in. You belong here. You breathe out. You need a cigarette. You breathe in. You start coughing, bringing up a viscous mass that you momentarily chew and then swallow. Your eyes dart to the clock, checking how long you have been here. You breathe out, and once again resolve to quit smoking. What you assume is a gong chimes loudly, its deep, metallic clangs echoing around the room. You look around but cannot find the source of the sound.
The deep breaths continue, a steady rhythm marching you toward lightheadedness. You notice the woman in front of you is using one of the studio-provided mats. Is no one worried about staph infections? Her bright purple yoga pants look expensive, and you are suddenly self-conscious about your own baggy sweatpants and greasy ponytail.
The yoga teacher clears his throat. “Now we’re going to move into downward dog and from there into our sun salutations. Remember, everyone, just do what you can! This is a no pressure environment.” You pull yourself into a shape that resembles a triangle, every bit of your fleshy calves screaming for mercy. The invisible gong chimes again.
Expensive purple pants are now completely upside down, anklets slipping down her defined calf, eyes closed. She contentedly hums a small tune, seemingly unaware that she is now standing on her neck. Her hair cascades onto the top of your mat, and you notice she smells of jasmine. You decide that you have a prettier face, and contentedly go back to focusing on your aching body.
The teacher wanders off of his own mat, looking for students to adjust. You start to sweat. Please. Please don’t move me. Your arms wobble. The teacher steps in front of your mat. No, God, no, don’t MOVE M— His arms reach down and yank your stomach higher into the air.
“Take it at your own pace!” he chirps before letting go, leaving you to collapse onto your mat.
“I— I was,” a desperate shout bursts from your throat, but your teacher has already wandered off into the incense clouds. The gong chimes, and you wonder if you are simply imagining the sound. “Excuse me, but where is your gong?” you call out to no one in particular. The yoga teacher emerges from the fog and presses a disapproving finger to his lips, silencing you.
Expensive purple yoga pants have moved through most of her fifth sun salutation and kicks backward, her anklets jangling as her foot heads straight for your nose. You duck your head to avoid a collision and your sweaty hands slide out from underneath you, your face smashing into the floor. Blood pools on your blissfully staph-free mat, a nauseating aroma rising into the warm studio air around you. You pinch your nose to stymie the bleeding, but it only gets worse, the steady stream gushing down your shirt onto your unflattering sweatpants. Black edges into the corners of your vision. Purple pants see you through her spread legs and gags but do not break her pose, her flat stomach heaving. “Oh my God. What happened to your nose? You’re bleeding everywhere,” she says, disgusted. You remember how you have a prettier face than she does, and smile through the pain.
You roll onto the hardwood to better unstick your mat from the studio floor. You start a slow crawl toward the front door, shuffling forward on your hands and knees, limply pulling the mat after you. Twenty inverted heads swivel to follow you out the door, a delicate blood trail dripping on the rainbow of syrupy plastic as you slowly move forward. The yoga teacher looks up from his pose and trains his eyes on you.
“Are you alright?” he asks, his mouth falling open in surprise. You give a half-hearted nod, pressing your hands together and whispering “Namaste” to the room before reaching the glass door of the studio. You clamber to your feet on the asphalt and start down the street to your apartment where your cigarettes wait. Somewhere, a gong chimes.