Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I Hate Yoga

It seems like everyone is doing yoga. Even I wear the comfortable clothing when I’m writing. I do some of those stretches in the morning. I have nothing against the culture that produced it. My husband teaches in the East Asian Studies department at Bowdoin College, and yoga has done wonders for him.

Maybe I just had a bad first experience. It wasn’t the teacher’s fault, and the Bowdoin yoga club couldn’t have been more welcoming. Imagine this: a room full of 30 willowy women between the ages of 18-21 in spaghetti straps and drop-waist pants. A fantasy for any man, but a bit intimidating for a woman twice their age. I squeezed my mat into the far corner of the cavernous room.

In college, my roommate and I used to hang in the back row of aerobics with the men’s hockey team. We didn’t want to be anywhere near that wall of mirrors reflecting “the Goddess” and her bare-midriff attendees. Remember Jane Fonda in skimpy spandex and big hair? My roommate wore her splattered house-painting clothes, and I hid in shapeless sweats. We needed someone to shout at us to get in shape. The Goddess was from California: tan, fit, perky and blond. That might have explained the hockey team.

There were no male hockey players in the yoga club at Bowdoin. The only young man was the president of the outing club and could bend a mean bridge. The students all looked happy to be there and relaxed, but not I. My doctor had recommended yoga for stress and insomnia. Every week at yoga I discovered a new muscle to strain.

Was yoga at least relaxing? I’m writing a book called Moose Crossing, and there’s this enormous moose head on the wall. I tried a different location, but like in a Renaissance painting, the glassy eyes followed me around the room. If you read my novel carefully, you’ll find that very moose head, insinuated upon one page.

It wasn’t just the decapitated moose; I’ve never been much of a joiner. At school I signed up for dance to avoid being the second to last girl picked for team sports. I wasn’t a couch potato either. I enjoyed skiing, swimming, biking and horseback riding and still do. It makes sense. As a writer, you have to like being alone and not following the pack.

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