I walk into yoga class wearing shrunken cotton pants that used to be black. A muted gray, the pants stop at my gleaming white ankles. I'm wearing a stained t-shirt that advertises my bungee jumping experience in New Zealand. I think the shirt might be cool enough to keep people from looking at my hillbilly pants.
My hair is nestled in a tangled bun teetering on the side of my head. I scan the room. Everyone is stretching and talking. They all look cute. Massive heater pipes are pumping steam from the ceiling into my face. The odds of my future husband noticing me in this sweltering Power Vinyasa session are slim.
I post up next to Lululemon Lady. Her $400 outfit is the perfect combination of pink and black stripes that synchronize at her waist. She is crisp, clean, and exquisitely fit. I feel like an old frumpy mom next to her, and yet I have no children.
The teacher stands in front of us and tells the group to begin with saying a collective, "Om." I always feel like an imposter doing this. If only they knew how much I enjoy foie gras, that I drive a huge gas-guzzling SUV, that I used to hunt pheasants with my daddy, they would kick me out for sure.
Some teachers want one om. Others have the group say three. I think it is three this time, so after the first, I launch into the second one at full volume. I am the only person doing this. I cut the om off at its knees as soon as I realize my mistake. Forty people stare at me. I fake cough and look around the room like I'm trying to find the person who over-omed.
The class is packed. A one-inch rectangular gap separates my mat from the four people surrounding me. I am afraid I will kick someone in the head. The guy behind me starts that weird, growly yoga breathing, and I actually do want to kick him in the head.
The teacher tells us to get into downward facing dog while he presses play on a slowed-down suicidal version of "Eye of the Tiger." The sad ballad fills the room, and I'm irritated. How could someone transform a song so inspirational into something so morose? The lady in front of me folds her torso over her knees into child's pose and starts to sob. A teacher's assistant rushes over to massage the lady's back.
I wait until he leaves and hit child's pose myself. The assistant returns to massage my neck. My plan worked.
I'm back up with a relaxed neck, hands on the ground, and one leg in the air. My partially painted toenails are about four inches from the head of the loud breathing guy. He has those metal circle things in his ears that stretch his lobe into a hole. I poke my big toe toward the hole. I want to push it through. Someone farts. I am the only one who thinks this is funny. I hit child's pose again to hide my laughter. I can smell the toothpaste on my shirt. The assistant is back rubbing my shoulders. I wonder if he can keep rubbing for the remainder of the class.
A couple minutes later, he leaves, and I'm back up balancing on one foot. Sweat drips into my eyes.
Heart pounding, I squat down into chair pose, and Assistant Guy is back adjusting my shoulder positioning. Oh, now he is underneath me. Yes, he has slipped his thighs underneath mine to model the position I'm attempting. His knees are poking into the backs of my knees. He is the chair pose to my chair pose. I am uncomfortable because I am now sitting on his lap. Can anyone see that his genitalia are smashed into my butt cheeks? I look around wondering.
Lululemon is focused and perfect with chiseled ass parallel to the floor. Holes in His Ears is breathing like a percolating coffee maker, and Sobbing Girl is up in the pose but still sobbing. They are all Stepford people. No one acknowledges how weird this is, so I relax and really rest my weight into the man I'm sitting on. He immediately breaks position, and I almost fall on him but catch myself. The class transitions into a flying airplane pose as Assistant Guy shuffles away.
I look in the mirror and see a robust woman wearing Alice Cooper makeup. She is me. Do I really like yoga?
A lady a few people up falls out of balance. Frustrated, she grabs her mat and storms through the side door. I want to tell her I didn't appreciate the "Eye of the Tiger" remix either.
The teacher is telling a story about overcoming obstacles. Always with the story. At this particular studio, it is apparent instructors have been told to speak a certain way. They elongate their o's and aren't really keen on saying s's or b's. So "You are starting something big here," inevitably sounds like, "Yoooou are tarting omething ig here." I don't get it.
The teacher's story about having a bad day and coming to yoga to let it all go, hits me hard. I'm leaned over in a sideways pretzel position about to pop, and I feel sad. I don't know if it's my dirty shirt, my shaking legs, or the government shutdown, but I start to cry too.
Assistant Guy is back. He isn't touching me. He just stands beside me, I think for moral support. Maybe he is an angel only I can see. Maybe my lightheadedness sent me to Crazytown for real.
The class ends with one om. I don't mess it up this time. Leaving the circus, I know I will come back. I get something out of it all. I just don't knoooow what that omething is yet.