downward-facing what?

on saturday i went to yoga with ari and the kids (gabriel and julien).  i’d never been to a yoga class before, so i (erroneously) thought that we’d all be in a class together.  but did you know they have yoga for kids?  they have yoga for kids!  so the kids went to their class and ari and i went to a grown-up one.  in retrospect, i don’t know why i thought we’d all be in one together.  how would that even work?

ari and i were a few minutes late to the class; everyone was sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, listening to the instructor chanting at the front of the room.  the only spots left on the floor were in the front of the room, so we put our mats down and sat.  i’ve never been a front-of-the-class kind of girl, not because i don’t want to pay attention, but because it makes me feel like everyone’s staring at the back of my head.  and in this class, sitting in the front meant that the instructor had a front-row seat for all my mistakes.

and i made a lot of mistakes.  for each pose, the instructor demonstrated once and then walked around giving vocal instruction.  sometimes he demonstrated things too fast for me, and i had to watch ari or the girl on the other side of me before i could get it right.  the girl on the other side of me was intimidatingly good; she was wearing fancy matching yoga clothes and did each pose perfectly, as if she were doing it in her sleep.  i felt awkward by comparison.  in my threadless t-shirt and pajama shorts, i couldn’t figure out what to do with myself.  with my glasses off i couldn’t see the instructor, with my glasses on i couldn’t put my forehead to the mat.  leaving my hair down meant it got in the way, putting it up made for an uncomfortable bump in the back of my head when i was laying down on my back.

using the girl next to me as a proxy instructor made me feel conspicuous.  what if someone was looking at me?  was my shirt riding up in the back?  could everyone see my undies?  we did one pose with our eyes closed.  i was staring at my eyelids and trying to do it right when i heard the instructor’s voice next to me.  “keep your back on the floor,” he said.  his tone made it sound like he was talking to everyone, but my back was off the floor, so i knew he was talking to me.  for another pose, he suggested that those of us who needed support put our hands on a nearby wall.  since ari and i weren’t near a wall, i had to walk over to the side of the room to do the pose.  as i put my hand on the wall, i wondered: how often do they have to paint this wall?

all of this makes it sound like i didn’t enjoy myself.  but i did.  my capacity to compartmentalize my neuroses and enjoy things in spite of them knows no bounds.  i bet i could stand naked in front of a large audience and still say, hey, this stage is really well-lit.

but any form of exercise makes me think about my body in a way i’m not entirely comfortable with.  exercise makes me sweat and ache and feel all the muscles i’d rather not know i had; exercising with other people makes me feel like they’re all watching me, even though they aren’t.  most of the time i think i’d prefer to be a head in a jar, but then i’d probably miss all my clothes.

after it was over, ari and i went to get julien and gabriel from their yoga class.  we found them making tall stacks of yoga blocks and punching them to make them fall.  another kid was doing a handstand against the wall.  “look!” he said to the instructor.  “look at me!”

at what age do we stop wanting people to look at us?