Saturday, October 29, 2005


Category: Humor Winners, Issue 1

It was no big deal I thought. I’ve been toying with the idea of easing my way back into fitness with dignity. Years of following a philosophy of manana had taken their toll on a slim, toned, footballing physique. The thought of pounding the roads around the village, with the risk that brings of becoming road-kill, and the jarring, mind-numbing boredom of endless stretches of tarmac didn’t appeal one little bit. So, when the leaflet landed on my doormat, I was delighted. Yoga, I believed was the easy route into body beautiful and, having seen what it did for Gerri Halliwell, I was as keen as mustard to get some.

My bravado was diminished a little when the other students began arriving. Women, and loads of them. There was not a single bloke amongst them. Still, I thought, as I pulled my shoulders back, sucked in my tummy and adopted a friendly, fixed grin, I’m no boy any longer. They don’t intimidate me. Small groups of chattering women encompassing a wide range of ages, formed around the registration table laughing. Rather than push through the melee I hung back, wandering the creaking wooden floor of the village hall, examining with exaggerated interest, memorial plaques and the flyblown photos of parish councillors long dead.

Whether it was my imagination or not I don’t know, but when I did come to the notice of one of the women, the look directed my way was one of citrus-lipped disapproval. A sort of, ‘What’s a man doing here?’ look which caused my face to flush. Brazenly, but on leaden legs, I walked to the table.

Our instructor was gorgeous, with the flattest stomach I’d seen in a long while. It occurred to me that her students (especially me) were surely living in cloud cuckoo land if they thought they too might eventually look like her. Our combined, average age was forty plus, mirroring, I believed, the average waist size present.

Each of us stood on our individual exercise mats facing the instructor. A wide variety of clothing reflected the personalities of my companions. In front of me, the lady was well-groomed and wearing expensive jewellery. She had what looked like the queen of exercise mats: sleek and shiny and covered in Logos. Her huge backside strained against the lycra cycling shorts which blocked my view of the front.  My scruffy jogging pants and too-small fleece had already, I was sure, badged me as man trash. Off to one side was one of the slim ladies whose functional trainers and tracksuit looked new but not at all showy. I liked the look of her. To the other side, a lady of around sixty years of age looked very business like in shorts and rugby shirt. Oh, and over on the other side of me, one of the youngsters stood expectantly for the session to start. Her cut off tee shirt and joggers rusched at the waist proclaimed her youth and vitality as if to say ‘why am I here? ….Oh that’s right, to show off.’ I glowered at her.

The instructor clapped her hands to get our attention while I looked down to where my weight was digging holes into the borrowed exercise mat. Eagerly I awaited the command to sit down. I had been practising cross-legged sitting and was pretty sure I could hold my own against even the youngest. That command was a long time coming. The instructor began to instruct. She directed her attention, it seemed to me, at everyone but me, and the reason why was soon to become clear. Only women can do it. Pilates/Yoga that is. I’d never heard of it before, but from the outset, the vocabulary used had me at a disadvantage.

Now, I know I possess a pelvis but I’ve never thought of it as being anything other than a funny shaped bone from which my legs hang. However, my companions were quite happy with the notion of tilting their pelvis this way and that until they had centred it. I had to learn quickly. In a parody of Elvis I did what I thought was required and I am sure I heard a snort from somewhere behind me. The instructor allowed herself a look in my direction but swiftly averted her eyes from the fool in her view. More bewildering stuff was still to come. Next, we needed to focus upon our core. To my satisfaction, I have to admit, there were a few blank stares from others in the room. A hand was slowly raised and the question asked. The answer seemed to please my companions. They were at home with it. I, however, cast a raised eyebrow at the lady in the rugby shirt causing her to smirk at me. In a quandary of indecision I fretted. Should I expose my ignorance and muddle along, or be brave and draw attention to myself? I raised my hand attracting the instructor’s attention as well as everyone else. Expectantly they waited to see what the man was going to ask.
‘What, is a pelvic floor exercise?’
The instructor seemed to be struggling with an appropriate response. Had colour risen into her cheeks?
‘Are you married?’
‘Divorced.’ I shrugged in apology expecting someone to boo or hiss.
‘Well it’s what your wife did after giving birth.’ She turned away from me. ‘Now ladies ‘
Blankly I struggled to make sense of what she’d said. She couldn’t possibly mean swearing. I turned to look at the rugby-shirted lady who, shrugged at me and redirected her attention to the instructor. Out of the side of her mouth she hoarsely whispered.
‘Squeeze the cheeks of your bum.’

Squeezing the cheeks of my bum together I tried to follow the warming up exercises as shown but it just didn’t feel natural to me. The instructor and all the ladies swept elegantly bowed arms out to the side of their bodies as practised ballet dancers do. The best I could manage was a stubby stab in a vaguely Saturday Night Fever sort of way. I could tell the instructor was getting irritated because she devised even more movements of humiliation for me to fail at. Where the hell was the lotus position and the meditation? I sweated and fumed as I tried to follow the choreography. It wasn’t fast which was a blessing I guess but, the slowness of the movements allied to the agony of keeping my cheeks squeezed caused me to keep leaping from my mat in an effort to remain standing upright. I heard someone tut.

Eventually, the main humiliation. Relieved to finally be allowed to sit down I was stunned to hear her ask us to sit on our sitting bones. After further discussion at the front I was enlightened though not comforted. Sitting on one’s sitting bone requires the sitter to reach down and pull the cheek of each buttock out to the side as far as it will go. Assuming that you are wearing a pair of lycra knickers that may be achievable but, if your bottom is encased in tautly stretched boxer shorts, it is impossible. Especially if the agony of clenching your cheeks together is bringing tears to your eyes.  Rugby shirt intervened.
‘Unclench your bottom.’ She whispered again.

The end could not come quickly enough for me and I couldn’t wait to get back in the car for a fag. However, we couldn’t leave until we’d had our quiet time. Lying flat on my back with my eyes closed, I listened to the indian chanting on the cd and paid attention to the instructor’s commands. I told my face to relax and allow my nose and eyebrows to slide off it. Disconcerting if you believe it’ll really happen. My breathing slowed and my eyelids dissolved upon command. I gave myself up to the gods of relaxation and all became blank.

I awoke at the prod of a toe. I looked dreamily into the instructor’s pretty face.
‘You’re not meant to snore.’

Posted by aardvark on 10/29 at 06:39 PM | Permalink
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