It wasn’t anyone’s fault, except it was absolutely mine, since she was about 5 feet tall and weighed about the same as an eight year old, and despite no doubt formidable powers of balance, due to her communication with her earth energies, she simply did not have the mass to stay upright when I toppled from an inelegant shoulder stand into an unsurprised heap.
I should have known that the place wasn’t for me, really. I liked the part about taking your shoes off, because I lived in Japan for a while, and have come to sincerely believe that most shows are 30% rubber, 70% fecal matter. But when I approached the desk and the smiling blonde began to talk to me about mindfulness and the spirituality of the class, my mind began to wander. Because my mind is full, already – full of the man on the train who stole my seat and then read Jonathan Franzen, thus confirming everything I already believed about men who read Franzen; full of Kanye West’s newborn son and his furled fists; full of the fact that the yoga studio had a display of gold necklaces right there on the front desk, valued at £70 each, some of them, and why had no one stolen them yet?
Yogis, I believe, ought to have faith in fellow man. I have no faith in the ability of most of my fellow men to see a carved wooden tree filled with filigree chains, and to leave them there. My yoga instructor, who spoke with a Canadian accent, and wore grey, and wore her hair sheared down to an inch of her scalp, probably had faith in her fellow man not to bring their kneecaps down upon her sternum. We all make judgments. We’re all wrong sometimes.
My mistake – one of them – might have been going to the class with my flatmate, who is strong in the way that saplings are strong: slim, and wiry, and seemingly blended at birth with titanium. She might have laughed along with me, when we had to pull the fat parts of our buttocks out, and spread them along the wooden blocks, but she was there, in the moment, in the shoulder stand, totally confident in her ability to hold herself rail straight. She didn’t fart, not even once. She is lactose intolerant. It is more of a struggle than you might predict.
What I should have been thinking about, as I reached down for the spaces between my feet, was my breathing. The in of it, the out of it. The travelling of it, down my pipes and tubes, to that hollow in my gut, and back up. I should have been filling that mind of mine with ohms and chants and a thankfulness for this body of mine.
What I say to that, though, is that if they wish for empty minds coupled with mindfulness (make up this half-empty mind of yours) in the echo-y, hot yoga studio, then leave out the mirrors. Because instead I looked at my new blonde hair, and admired it. I looked at the thickness of my thighs in their snake skin leggings, and admired them too. I also admired my tenacious breasts, making themselves known despite a worthy and expensive sports bra.
I didn’t topple because of any of this: the heat, or the mirror, or the distraction of a thousand bottoms lifted in salute. I toppled because that is what we do. That is what I do. Because I am mindful of gravity and my own weight and heft, and the inevitability of crashing to earth. And, to be fair, now, so to is my yoga instructor.