January 10, 2011
I’ve heard good things about yoga. People say it’s an excellent way to manage stress. I convinced my wife, Shelly, to try it with me.
Shelly sensibly suggested that we try a yoga video at home before we sign up for classes. Let me tell you how well the yoga video managed my stress.
First we had to find thirty minutes that we weren’t using for something else. I found that stressful because I had a lot of work to do. And we didn’t have a clock in the designated yoga room, so we kept wondering what time it was and if we’d be late for our appointment at the Apple store to get repair service. Stress-wise, we were off to a bad start.
I nervously put the DVD into the player. The DVD player is my biggest nemesis. I have had epic battles with it over the past year. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it simply doesn’t. I was instantly reminded of every ruined movie night that this demonic machine had caused. My blood started to heat up as I placed the DVD into the unit and pressed PLAY. Amazingly, it seemed to work. It was smooth sailing so far. I had only doubled my baseline stress level to get to this point. I was optimistic that the yoga would set me right.
Shelly noted that there were five yoga classes on the DVD. Logically then, there was only one that was best for us. This was a bad turn of events. My simple yoga plan had turned into a shopping experience. Regular readers of this blog know that for me, shopping feels like being beaten to death with a salted porcupine. This was bad. This was very bad.
I suggested that we randomly select one of the classes and just see what happens. But this, my friends, is not how shopping is done. First you read each of the descriptions then you read them again. Then you read them aloud. Then you discuss. Then you narrow it down to two. Then you forget what the other three were, and wonder if maybe they were better than the two you had first selected, so you start over. Halfway through this process, my tension could have powered a Chevy Volt. I was red and vibrating. I wasn’t getting any of my cartooning work done, we would be late for the Apple Genius Bar, and I was shopping in my own home. I was so tense that I worried I would actually snap in half if I tried anything bendy.
Eventually we picked the class we wanted. It only took a few minutes, but in shopping years, I was 106. We fired up the DVD menu and looked for the class we had selected on the DVD cover.
Instead, they had numbered chapters with no descriptions. We quickly determined that they weren’t even in the same order as the descriptions on the back of the box. There was only one thing to do.
Now we had to sample each of the five classes and compare them to the descriptions on the back of the DVD. To do otherwise put us at risk of doing the wrong yoga and just maybe being crippled for life. Or maybe that would have been some sort of shopping foul. At this point, for obvious reasons, I was not part of the decision-making inner circle.
On top of this, my stress level spiked because my biggest pet peeve is poorly conceived interfaces. The more I thought about this yoga DVD, the angrier I got. No titles for the chapters? Really? Maybe the people who made that DVD would have been more productive if they had some f***ing stress. Perhaps a little bit of worrying would have helped them put in the extra five minutes it would have taken to label the chapters. I hated them. I wanted them dead. I hoped the yoga would balance my energy before I killed someone.
With each chapter we sampled, I had to coax my nemesis, the DVD player, beyond its normal tolerance. I worried that it would turn on me at any moment. I fantasized about going up to the roof and hurling it toward the driveway, thus winning once and for all our yearlong battle. I hated that DVD player. I wanted it dead. I wanted to kill the yoga people with it. I’m saying my head wasn’t in a good place.
In time, we found the yoga chapter that was for us. By now I felt like the Tin Man, begging for my oil can. I’m saying I was stiff with stress. I needed the cure, and I needed it bad.
A granola-eating, bare-chested yoga dude appeared on screen. He was on the beach of some sort of tropical ocean paradise. I call that cheating. I wouldn’t need any yoga at all if I were on that beach. But whatever.
We soon learned the flaw in the yoga-by-video method. Half of the poses require your head to be turned away from the screen, and you have to quickly go from pose to pose with each breath. I couldn’t stop trying to calculate the risk of death or paralysis from posing like a demented downward dog while being a spastic cobra at the same time. Logically, if there is a right position for reducing stress, and I was necessarily in a different position to see the screen, wasn’t I just making things worse? Now it was in my head. I wondered if anyone had ever died from yoga. And if someone has to be the first, that’s exactly the sort of thing that happens to me.
By now my mind is boiling with rage about the poor user interface. And granola dude is four poses ahead of me. Every time he tells me to inhale, I’m halfway through an exhale and I have to choke it off to catch up. If proper breathing reduces your stress, I was snorting and huffing my way to a stroke.
Granola dude lies on his back and tells me to bring my knees up to my chest. My legs reach a 90 degrees angle with my torso and refuse to go further. I glance toward the screen and granola dude is rolled up in a ball so small he would fit in his own recycled shopping bag. He’s making me feel like a yoga loser. I’m competitive, so this is totally pissing me off.
Now he sits up and tells us to put our heads down to our knees. I decide to make this work, no matter how much it hurts. I managed to get within visual distance of my knees, but I couldn’t reach them with my forehead. Or my hands. Now I’m having self-esteem issues. I look over and see Shelly, limber as Gumby, following along as if it’s no big deal. I was in last place in the yoga competition. Damn it!
Our next pose is more complicated. I’m looking at yoga dude, rotating him in my mind so that his right side is my right side, and trying to balance and breathe all at the same time. Shelly points out that I’m in the wrong position. As you know, the very best way to relax is by having your spouse tell you that you’re doing something wrong.
Now the yoga dude produces two plastic bricks to balance his hands on. Apparently we were supposed to have our own bricks. Nothing is more annoying than trying to do a job with the wrong tools. I’m a little bit pissed that the video didn’t warn us that we needed bricks. Our cat wandered into the room at about this time and I tried to use her as a sort of furry yoga brick. She was surprisingly okay with this arrangement as long as I didn’t put too much weight on her. In fact, she seemed to enjoy it. Even the cat was getting more stress relief from the yoga than I was. If you count my wife, the cat, and yoga dude, I was in fourth place in terms of yoga benefits. I hate losing, especially to the cat.
When the yoga class was over, I told Shelly that I felt centered, and I was sure I doubled my chi. That was a lie, but I needed a win. Shelly said all she got out of it was a good stretch, and I said, “Well, maybe you’ll get it next time.”
The weird thing is that my unscrupulous claim to yoga victory made me feel pretty good. I’m looking forward to doing yoga again. Next time I plan to tell Shelly that I feel nature’s energy flowing through me. I might add “But being limber is good too. Keep up the good work.”