It was 2009 and my chiropractor, at the time, recommended that I try yoga. I had been dealing with chronic back pain for a while and none of the hot, cold, electronic or mechanical contraptions in his office seemed to be having any effect on my L5. Of course, this recommendation came after 15 or so appointments and a lot less money in my bank account, but that’s neither here nor there.
I tried acupuncture instead and got zero results.
So I decided to ‘look into’ the yoga thing. I knew enough to know that real Yogi’s originated in the east, India to be exact and that their ranks were primarily comprised of men. But for some reason yoga seemed like something only skinny white girls did in western countries. The few guys that I’d ever seen carrying around yoga mats where the sort of tree hugging, earthy, bohemian types that I didn’t really identify with <–this is me being PC. So in my mind, and I’m guessing a whole slew of other folks, yoga had kinda become associated with femininity (at least) and whiteness (at best).
BUT….my chiropractor was a young, black (well…biracial) doctor who I generally liked and respected so I figured his word was good for something. Luckily, my gym had free classes so I could try it out with no commitments. Of course, this wasn’t this sorta thing I was gonna mention to any of my boys. That was not happening.
Anyway, I eventually found my way to my first class, making the walk of shame past the meathead section where all the squat racks were. There was only one studio in that direction of the gym and everyone knew it. But I manned up, mean mugging anyone who gave me the side eye the entire way. My face was still tight when I reached the studio door and entered the class just as it was starting. I can only imagine what I looked like to the instructor and rest of the folks there.
Here I was, this bald headed, well muscled, angry faced, dark skinned black guy, with baggy sweat pants and socks on, rummaging around in the back of the class for a mat. I must have looked unsettled as I set up my mat in the back because the instructor broke protocol and extended the “you must me new, please introduce yourself” invitation to me after the class had started.
I looked around and, for the most part, saw what I expected to see. Of the 20 or so folks in attendance, there were 2 other guys besides myself (although one was black). I also noticed 2 black women.
I was happy to respond with my ‘injury’ story as my reason for showing up. I mean, why else would I be there? I wasn’t like the the rest of them. I just wanted to bang this class out, ‘real quick’, just so I could say I had at least tried it.
Needless to say, 15 minutes in, I was sweating through my Nike “Just Do It” tank top. I knew I was in trouble when my legs starting shaking during one of the many Warrior Pose’s (that seemed to go on forever). And by ‘shaking’, I mean violently. Naturally, I had just worked legs the day before, maxing out at 10 reps of 675 pounds on the leg press machine. Bad idea? Never even crossed my mind.
Yep, we weren’t even halfway through class and I was already hurting. Hurting bad. But my pride wouldn’t let me quit so I pushed kept pushing. It was even more of a shock to see, what seemed like, everyone else in the class hitting and holding all of the poses with ease. And then it happened: my shoulders finally turned to jelly and gave out during a Down Dog Split pose.