HE WANTS TO BE
A HUMAN PRETZEL
I first noticed I had a problem
when I was in Kindergarten. My teacher, Mrs. Brauer, would gently tell all
the children to sit on the floor in a semi-circle, Indian style.
All eyes would turn to me as I struggled to cross my
little legs. I can still remember the cruel giggles and finger pointing
from my more flexible classmates as they watched me topple over onto my
Mrs. Brauer, of course, was not amused. "Now
children," she would say in her singsong voice, "itís not nice
to make fun of stiff people."
But I knew, deep down inside, even kind old Mrs. Brauer
was laughing. She can probably still remember the scene of 17 kids sitting
perfectly upright, legs crossed, and one kid, me, resting on my palms with
feet stretched out and planted into the back of little Susieís nice new
If nothing else, my lack of flexibility usually got me
into the front row.
Now that Iíve grown, not much has changed. I still
canít sit in an Indian position and people are still laughing at my lack
of flexibility. In fact, people gather round to watch me get out of a car
after a long drive.
"Thatís him," Iíll hear them whisper as I
pry myself out of the vehicle. "Heís only 45 and heís walking
like heís 92. Isnít that bizarre?"
After the first 20 or so steps, the blood begins to
flow and I straighten up and walk normally. The laughter and
finger-pointing comes to an end, and I proudly walk, or sometimes run, to
my next resting spot, where I promptly stiffen up again.
The more sympathetic snickerers suggest I take Yoga
classes. For at least 20 years, usually as Iím limping off the court or
field with yet another strained hamstring, groin or calf muscle, someone
tells me I should take up Yoga.
I nod, quickly agreeing. It became my mantra:
"Take Yoga, Take Yoga, Take Yoga." But thatís as far as I got.
Iíd keep chanting my mantra but Iíd never find the time to actually
take a class. Until this morning.
I was lured by my neighbor, who claimed his stiffness
was cured with Yoga. One night while our dog was walking me, my neighbor
smoothly handed me a brochure for the Yoga classes he attended, which
advertised "Beginners Welcome." The brochure also had a picture
of a Human Pretzel on its cover. Clearly, considering the position of his
legs, this man was an alien.
Despite my concerns, I showed up anyway. I was the only
beginner, but I was thrown in with the Pretzels right away. The
"Poses" are the same no matter what your level--itís just a
question of how far you take them.
In this class, there are 26 different
"Poses." I mastered two of them right away, the Standing Deep
Breathing Pose (#1) and the Dead Body Pose (#13). To be honest, I had a
little trouble with the Standing Deep Breathing Pose (something about
locking elbows) but I could have been on the company brochure for the Dead
It was the other 24 poses I had real trouble with. The
Half Moon Pose (#2), the Triangle Pose (#9) the Cobra Pose (#16) and the
Rabbit Pose (#23) are noted primarily because they have cute names which
mask their wickedness. More aptly named is #25, the Spine Twisting Pose.
Now Iím not naÔve enough to think that I would master Yoga
in one lesson. I know it will take many months, and perhaps years, of
intense pain, buckets of sweat, and focused commitment on my part if I am
to become a Human Pretzel like my instructor and many of my classmates.
I can handle that, but Iíve decided I donít want
witnesses. The first thing Iím going to do tomorrow morning is go out
and buy a Yoga tape, which I can watch on my VCR at home, alone.
And when I can sit in an Indian position, first Iím
calling Mrs. Brauer and then Iím going back to Yoga class.