Friday, June 18, 2004

Me and my dead bugs

There is a perverse gleam in my yoga teacher's eye on certain Wednesday afternoons. When I see it, I know that I'm in trouble.

"Today we're going to do hip openers," she will blithely proclaim, minutely adjusting her impeccable posture and exuding blatant, shiny good health. Sometimes she'll even look me in the eye, smiling slightly, when she says it, pretending to be oblivious to my plaintive looks and silent begging.

Now, I should start by saying that I am a yoga novice. I've only been doing it for a year, and only once per week. But I have been a devoted attendee, eagerly donning my stretchy pants and workout top; painting my toenails so as not to offend (no socks allowed in yoga, even in the chill of January). However, I do not, in any way, consider myself an expert. I do have a theory, though: If you have a particular, peculiar pain--say, weak ankles or an inflamed sciatic nerve--the yogi will find it, exploit it and use it against you. She will make you pay for your imperfection, and she will take pleasure in your agony.

And so I am faced with the Dead Bug.

In the Dead Bug, you lie on your back, bring your bent knees toward your shoulders, lift your feet up to be parallel with the ground and firmly grasp your insteps. It's a helpless position, reminiscent of a dog waiting to have its belly scratched, or, indeed, a dead fly on a windowsill.

The Dead Bug position sends most people into a nice, comfy meditation; a relaxing interlude between the more strenuous poses. For me, however, it sends a special expedition team, fully outfitted with ice picks and axes, to my right hip joint. The pain is so intense that I have to do pseudo-Lamaze breathing just to hold it for the first thirty seconds. For the remaining three and a half minutes, I simply give myself over to pain, allow my face to contort like a Munch, make small whinging noises and let the tears stream unchecked.

When I groped for a Blog name a few weeks ago, the first image that came to mind was myself in Dead Bug. Certainly not a pretty picture, but vivid. Very vivid.

First, the name itself sang a siren's song to my inner pessimist. I pictured squashed mosquitoes on my windshield, those flies on their backs. And I've been feeling like a sort of bug lately, too; a larva in a thick cocoon, maybe, hoping for the metamorphosis but expecting to get eaten by a peckish scrub jay instead.

Then there's the pose itself: so easy for others, so difficult for me. Those damned lucky others just don't understand why I can't do it. I, of course, am intensely jealous and can't quite imagine what it feels like to have it come so easy. Seemed like a pretty good metaphor for infertility.

Oh, and there's one more reason I should mention. The pose has an alternate name: the Happy Baby.

A little sop to that shard of optimism that likes to lodge itself in my head sometimes.

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