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 back.
    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 white dress.
    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 Body Pose.
    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.
 

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