So, I started going to 4:30 pm yoga because one day I missed, and then it became too easy to sleep in and accept the entropy of my self-discipline.
You’d think the place would be crowded with stragglers and late-sleepers like me, but when I arrived, only one other person waited. He was a young boy surely not out of his teens. He didn’t say a single word of recognition to me. He was already in the lotus position when I arrived. I unrolled my mat, making it just so, next to him. No one else came but our yoga instructor. Our number made us competition. So he could touch his palms entirely to the floor while standing? So what? I was going to take him down in defeat further than his flexible little spine could ever reach.
“Where is your other friend?” The yoga instructor asked. Anne hadn’t wanted to come. I am not the yoga watchdog, man.
I stared back resolved to end this questioning for good. “She couldn’t come today,” I said flatly, “…but I am here!” with a wry smile.
To my surprise, the instructor gave a staccato laugh without breaking my gaze. I had made the yoga master laugh! I didn’t even know he could, let alone would! Okay, get into the position. Not for long, though. I started doing the Pranayama breathing exercise. I breathed in my right nostril, held it close with my thumb, and the breathed out the left. I lifted one lid and monitored Yogenemy from my periphery.
I liked the afternoon session much better. I learned exactly what muscles should be stretching with the individual attention, and I didn’t have to wait so long for the instructor to check everyone else’s position before moving on. However, the instructor, having assumed that I had learned the native names for the positions, spoke mostly in Sanskrit. Yogenemy was always one step ahead of me in silently moving to the next position. My body fumbled around until I heard in short English “you, leg there” or “arms up!” from the instructor.
Once in the final position, however, I was determined. “Excellence!” The instructor said to me when I had my feet all the way on the ground behind my head. Hah! I snuck a glance at Yogenemy through the pinhole between my arm and my knee. Controlled breathing and close eyes? Ho ho, what excellent cover for jealousy. Well played, sir.
Then, we tried the squatting prayer pose. The fleas bite hard and frequent at this time of day. I attempted to balance my right ankle on my left squatted knee. By now, I had sweated so much that flea fleet descended on all areas of my flesh. I tried to hold my hands in prayer, balancing, but I couldn’t stop swatting at them. If I couldn’t levitate from nirvana, I could have lifted off from the spinning of my swatting wrists. I toppled over in a fury of flailing hands. Yogenemy had swatted just once. Maybe he wasn’t sweating. Maybe he had found more serenity, that jerk.
I salvaged my abilities for the rest of the session. When I left, I waved goodbye to the yoga instructor with a controlled smile. He waved back. Yogenemy said nothing.
Then, two afternoons later, I found an empty room. The caretaker had opened up the building and was waiting on the steps with his chin on his palm. We waited some time. After twenty minutes, I told him I would just come back tomorrow.
“You will practice?” he asked and gestured toward the mats. “Sir is not coming it seems.
“Oh, no, no, I am not good enough.” I said, getting on my bike.
“You don’t know yoga?” He questioned. Why wouldn’t I just stay? I didn’t need a referee to regulate my lunges, after all.
How could I explain? I know the asanas; that wasn’t the problem. But I needed my fierce, imaginary rivalry of Yogenemy to motivate me. I needed Sir to ignore at my asinine jokes, and to laugh at the unexpected ones. I needed him to tell me to hold the positions longer than I wanted to or thought I could. I needed everything but self-reflection. No wonder Sir is always on my case.