When I returned to the United States after living abroad for a year, I immediately gained what I like to call the “Freedom Fifteen.” The Freedom Fifteen is a phenomenon in which travelers put on about 25 pounds of weight upon crossing the borders of the United States of America, lie to their family and friends by adding 10 pounds to their pre-America weight, and then make remarks about the “shitty portion sizes” in developing countries. We Americans have always had large portion sizes. It’s a cultural remnant of the days when we had to shoot 100 pounds of meat on the wagon trail and eat it all before it either spoiled or the leader of our wagon party decided to ford the fucking river only to lose all of our shit.
This genetically inbred waste-not mentality made “eating less” an unacceptable weight loss option upon my return, so I began to look for exercise regimens that would allow me to drop back down to my abroad weight while still gorging myself at every meal. The problem, naturally, was that I hate running, walking, biking, lifting weights, swimming, climbing, gymnastics, and virtually every other type of exercise except for chewing. So I was stuck with my newly acquired paunch until I went over to my friend’s house and saw a yoga mat sitting in front of her TV.
“That’s cool,” I said. ”Do you do a lot of yoga?”
“Huh?” she said. ”Oh… yeah, I guess. Mostly I just sit there to watch TV and eat ice cream.”
This sounded perfect. I immediately bought an ice cream eating mat. My new workout regimen consisted of sitting on the mat, eating ice cream, and downloading workout apps. A few weeks after that, I downloaded an app that gives you a bunch of short workouts that you can do when you have a chance throughout the day, and some of the workouts were pretty yoga heavy. I did them for like, 6 minutes, and immediately had way better self-esteem than I’d had 6 minutes before.
I told my girlfriend about it, and we decided to start going to yoga classes together.
Yoga’s my thing now. I haven’t lost a pound in the year since I started going, but I can do two push-ups. Push-ups in yoga are way more complicated than regular push-ups and are called “vinyasas.” Vinyasa in Sanskrit means, “to place in a special way,” and this is a very accurate description of what all of yoga is like. It is a much better description than the word “yoga,” which means “union with the divine.” I haven’t once met any divinities during yoga, but I have absolutely placed myself in special ways.
Yoga, for those that don’t know, is an ancient spiritual practice used by Hindus and Buddhists that is now used by westerners to get sexier butts. It involves entering many different “poses,” which help your body become, stronger, more flexible, and absolutely drenched in sweat.
Yoga is perfect for me. I feel amazing at the end of it, and farting in class is encouraged. It’s also a totally personal sport, which is great, because anything that has a competitive element in it makes me into a horrible person. Also, yoga is led by very calm, possibly stoned people, and it always ends with a nap. The nap (or “meditation” as people who aren’t attending the 6 a.m. class call it) is also known as the “shavasana,” which, translated from Sanskrit, means – and I am not making this up – “corpse pose.” Corpse pose is the best.
Unfortunately, corpse pose comes at the end of the yoga session (or “practice,” as the people who do it more than once a month call it). You have to work through a whole bunch of other poses to get to corpse pose, and some of them are excruciating. Yoga teachers also prefer to refer to the poses by their Sanskrit names, which makes them especially confusing. Sanskrit is a difficult language to exercise in. There are absolutely no Jock Jams that are written in Sanskrit.
Some of the poses are spectacularly easy to figure out. Like Bhujangasana, or “cobra pose,” which you can practice now by yourself by getting on the ground and trying to look like a cobra. Do you look like a cobra? Good. That’s cobra pose. Hissing is not encouraged in class sir, please stop it. Others are less intuitively named, like “downward facing dog.” Downward facing dog looks nothing like a downward facing dog would actually look, which is on your back with legs spread for optimum belly scratching. Instead, you are basically trying to look like a fat fifth grader doing a pushup. Butt as high in the air as possible, arms locked.
The instructors are very soft and gentle, making this the most calming workout you could possibly have. All of them are skinny young women who believe the world is full of light and love and want nothing more than for you to get the best out of your “practice” so that one day, you too can’t imagine there being any evil in a world that contains a butt as perfect as yours. If the whole world did yoga, there would probably be world peace, but the psychological value of having a great butt would probably be diminished due to a market flooded with great butts.
At the end of the practice, the instructors lead you into shavasana, and after several minutes of posing as a corpse, they ask you to sit up, and then they bow to you and wish you “namaste.” Namaste is Sanskrit for “the light in me bows to the light in you.” I bow back to be polite, not telling them that I saw that video of my colonoscopy: there’s not a whole lot of light in there.