Home > Uncategorized > Yoga Means ‘Union’. It Also Means ‘You’re Totally Fucked’.

Yoga Means ‘Union’. It Also Means ‘You’re Totally Fucked’.

My sister has a very strange and specific form of epilepsy. It’s confined only to her wrists, and only seems to manifest itself while she’s driving. I’d forgotten this until I’d climbed in the backseat of her car and we’d merged onto the highway, at which point I became violently car sick. My sister drives with infrequent, but severe, course corrections, moving the steering wheel not at all for several minutes, then making sudden, severe course corrections that throw passengers from one side, then to the other.

What amazes me, though, is that despite these jarring gyrations, my mother, who sits next to me, doesn’t say a damn thing. This is in stark contrast to my mom’s behavior when I’m driving, which can charitably be described as overbearing. “Watch out!” She’ll scream as I’m easing through a parking lot at 5 mph. I’ll turn to see where she’s pointing, and discover a pedestrian several hundred meters in the distance. “You’re driving too fast! Slow down!”

For the record, I’ve only ever received one moving violation in my life, which came when I was seventeen, driving my mother from a doctor’s appointment, as she insisted that I make an illegal left hand turn.

Both of us are in North Carolina, a surprise visit arranged by my sister’s boyfriend to celebrate her receiving her Ph.D in psychology. While I’m proud of her for this considerable accomplishment, it makes any argument with her absolutely pointless, as she’s taken to trotting out the phrase “well, if you review the literature on the subject I think you’ll find” before asserting whatever point she’s trying to make. She’s even taken to emailing me longitudinal studies, as if I actually cared enough about whatever we were arguing about two months ago to wade through seventy pages of chi square analyses and charts.

I greet my mother at the airport after my flight lands. It’s good to see her again, but, as with every reunion, I wonder how long it will take before one of us will say something incredibly offensive to the other. In this case, our grace period lasts about eight minutes.

“Did you hear they’re going to build a mosque by Ground Zero?” she asks me aghast. “I think that’s in very bad taste.” I feel my blood pressure jump about seventy points and I begin to argue with her, pointing out that there are probably more Christians in the world who want to blow up the U.S. than Muslims, that forbidding a mosque near the site of a terrorist attack is about as dumb as prohibiting a church in Oklahoma City (Tim McVeigh was a Christian), or preventing Polish Embassies near University campuses because Ted Kaczynski is of Polish descent or Spanish cultural centers in Washington D.C. ‘cause, hey, those fuckers bombed the Maine. But my mother’s never been able to grasp the logical syllogism that, just because all dogs are mammals, not all mammals are necessarily dogs. Presented with the idea, she’ll assume not only that all mammals are in fact dogs, but that koala bears should probably be barred from entering the country because you can’t trust an animal that has its own pouch.

My mother and I are, of course, far too similar to get along peacefully for extended periods of time. Holidays and family gatherings are always fraught with potential conversational mine-fields, usually having to do with mom’s insistence that, whatever job I have at the moment, it probably isn’t a very good one. “Freelance writing,” she says to me with narrowed eyes. “Are you sure that’s the right career for you?” She has, at various times, said the same thing about acting, journalism, and all of my girlfriends. In fact, I’m relatively certain I won’t be able to get through a Thanksgiving dinner in peace until I’m an unmarried, tenured physics professor.

Which explains why I’m painfully hung over the next day when the family awakens in my sister’s condo. She’s scheduled to teach her last yoga class that day, and insists that we join her. “You’ve done yoga before, right?” I say that I have, but what I really mean is that I get tired trying to hold Child’s Pose. Warrior One makes me break down in tears. But literally everyone else is going, my mother, my sister, and her boyfriend, so I have little choice.

I know I’ve made a terrible mistake when, in the yoga studio, my sister gives my mother and I a horrified look. I stare down at our feet, and realize we’re the only two people still wearing shoes. We can tell we’ve made some sort of serious yoga-related transgression, and sheepishly remove our flip-flops and place them with the others outside.

My exaggerations regarding my previous yoga experience become obvious after about ten minutes, at which point my sister graciously and discretely places two yoga blocks near my feet. I watch as the women around me bend themselves in pretzels, and I struggle to tough my toes. I try to rationalize my poor performance: I’m a guy, we’re naturally less flexible. This fiction lasts about thirty seconds, just until I turn to my left and watch my sister’s boyfriend twist his entire torso 360 degrees.

I try to be angry, but it’s like comparing yourself to superman. The guy has a Ph.D. of his own, teaches himself how to develop apps for the iPhone in his spare time, and always has three insanely brilliant new ways for me to drastically improve my productivity every time I see him. Also, he looks like Orlando Bloom. I’d be insanely jealous of his omnicompetence but, really, I’m usually too busy interrogating him for all his brilliant ideas. Also, he has to put up with my sister’s driving.

My sister demonstrates an impossible looking headstand that involves dangling your legs behind your head in a precarious balance. I give it a try, and am shocked when I’m able to hold it for five seconds. I’m not at all surprised when, at six seconds. I fall screaming on my back. “That’s actually pretty good,” little Vagabondette informs me. “It takes some people months to even get that far.” I’m partially mollified by her compliment, and I’m surprised to find my hangover is somewhat improved at the end of the class, even more surprised when I realize I’m sorry it’s over and immediately want to do it again.

Dr. Vagabondette, teacing yoga

That’ll have to wait until I’m back in the New York, though. In the meantime, Vagabondette takes my mother and I on another hair-raising car ride back to the airport that whitens my knuckles and reminds me of the chase scene from The Connection. At te airport, we find that my mother’s gate is about two down from mine and leaving at approximately the same time. When my flight is delayed, my mother tries to convince me to arrange another flight to New York, by way of Detroit. She’s convinced that any flight within the continental U.S. can be made quicker by a connection in Detroit. When I tell her I’m flying to Toronto the following week, she again recommends seeing if I can fly through Detroit.

“Uh…Detroit is several hours west of Toronto,” I try to explain, but geography is right up there with logical syllogisms for her. My flight finally boards, and we hit severe turbulence on the way back. The girl to my right looks at me and smiles weakly. She’s not a good flyer, she explains, but expresses some amazement at how calm I am as we bounce around in our seats. “Oh, this is nothing,” I chuckle. “I’ve been dealing with family all weekend.”

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