I started yoga at the urging of my mother, who insisted that my life was pretty good, but that I needed to find a way to deal with stress. She had never done that (yoga or dealt with her stress) and didn't want me to fall into the same patterns. I took my first yoga class the month after she died with a tremendous deal of reluctance. Although a gymnast for many years (a dedicated one, if not very good -- all I had garnered for years of effort was second place on my floor routine, a zippy little number to the theme song of "Dallas" -- big whoopola as we used to say in those days), I wasn't into exercise except as a means of weight control. My diet, such as it is, is pretty abysmal by most standards -- Dr. Pepper, Count Chocula (until they stopped making it --I have three boxes in reserve), cocktail garnishes, and low-fat foods, such as low-fat Twinkies. My friend Cal convinced me that he had a great yoga teacher, and that I would love this guy and become addicted to the class. The teacher, Timothy Clark, allayed all my fears that the class would be taught by someone who spoke in a loathesome new age rhetoric. He says really smart, funny things all during class, and I have become a convert, one of those crazed types who tells everyone -- You've really got to take yoga! From Tim! He's great! Tim is also a an actor and a musician, and it's difficult to like someone so talented, but I do. My yoga name is Bad Tiny (my sister Beth is Good Tiny -- ha! She takes classes when she's in town, referring to herself as the Carol Burnett of yoga), evolved from Tiny Texan, then Tiny, and now people will joke and call me "The Artist Formerly Known As Michelle." Everyone should have a yoga name. My favorite part of the class is the last five minutes when we're all in corpse pose. What's not to like about something called corpse pose?
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear?" Tao Te Ching
1 strawberry-banana smoothie
two shots of vodka
Benedictions and Maledictions
First appeared in the New England Anthology:
The Evil Eye
To guard against it, one must give away
that which others want. The books warn
of jealously, rage, the way other people look
at your plate and wish they could order again.
In yoga class, I pick the spot next to the wall
because no one forces me to move as new
bodies enter, as I have gone as far as I can.
I have come here not to confess my sins
but rather because I no longer care what other
people think. Father, forgive me, I know
precisely what I have done and to whom, not
the bride of Christ, exactly, but it’s the best
I can do, an excuse my mother would never
accept. Things are funny until you see them
close up, like the one-armed dwarf at the gym,
trudging along the treadmill, not in search
of perfection, or anything approximate,
just the pounding each mile provides on a machine
that can take you nowhere for as long as you can stand.