US Visit Part 2: Thanksgiving and Torture

So the drive up to Maryland wasn't so bad.  The ceremony in Georgia was nice and we were all ready to gear up for Thanksgiving.  We put on some Pandora comedy and cruised while laughing.  We played a fun game where you name a food starting with letter... We made it all the way to the letter "F" before we decided to take a break.  Take a break really means never do that shit again.  Plus the game always turned into the sad and not-so-subtly competitive duel between my brother and me.  Both of us wanting to outwit each other and end up the victor.  Only to be named the smartest person in the car full of barely interested people.

We get to my sister's and woah is her belly big!  She looks like she is about to pop.  The baby is due in a couple of weeks and it's so beautiful and strange to see her like this.  My little sister with her first child.  I got to see what's coming our way pretty soon.  I am to expect my wife to waddle around like a penguin at that stage of pregnancy.  I should be able to see the belly protrude as the baby moves around.  I should also expect to witness five extra steps added to the process of getting up from a seated position.  It was kind of funny seeing her roll and shift her body weight in order to negotiate into the next level of "up".

This trip was packed with things to do.  We would have Thanksgiving dinner, a wedding party, a family night out, a baby shower, card games, everybody collectively beating one particular trash-talking person at EVERY SINGLE GAME he played, and a trip to Krispy Kreme.  That last one was a very welcome surprise to me from my mother.  I don't know what it says about me when my mother's idea of a nice surprise is taking me to a donut shop.  We squeezed in a lot over that time.  It was fun.  I was disappointed that I wouldn't get to see more of my friends and even some family.  We'll catch them next time.

Naturally, my mother threw down on the food at Thanksgiving.  I was trying my best to fight off the numerous temptations all around me.  There was so much to snack on.  So many shiny and delicious things around me at all times.  I think I did a pretty good job.  I even worked out twice with my brother-in-law while I was there.  That's not as much as Swedie did, but I've got nothing to prove here.  Plus she's working out for two so she needs more sessions.  Plus I was going to do a hot yoga class while I was there.  She couldn't because of the pregnancy, so we would be even after all!

My cousin owns a Bikram Yoga studio in Columbia, MD.  If you are ever in the area, you should check it out some time.  It's a glorious establishment! [my first official plug] Bikram Yoga is the one where they stand there and tell you to twist your body into uncomfortable positions as they watch you contort and try to breath in through your nose in 105 degree heat.  Yeah, that.  That's what I was going to do Sunday.  Mind you, I had taken the classes quite regularly when I was living in Maryland.  I had gotten decent at the poses while I was there, and back then I wasn't in nearly as good shape as I'm in now.  I would go in there and be a BEAST!  I'd show my cousin how far I've come.  I know the poses, so now I was going to try and push myself to have the best Bikram ever. Plus the Dolphins were playing the Jets later that day, so I would probably need to find a state of zen before watching a likely stressful football game.

My brother-in-law and I went to the class.  It was going to be 90 minutes.  I was ready.  I greeted my cousin.  I looked forward to hearing that calm and soothing voice of hers at the end of the class as she talks us through the final meditation.  Those are some of the most relaxing moments of my life.  The only thing is, the preceding 90 minutes is filled with pain, sadness, frustration and regret.  And somehow it's all worth it in the end.  Somehow I always long for that class that makes me hate life and myself for such a long and continuous amount of time.  But I was there.  I got my towel and water and I'm ready to go.  I end up taking a spot at the front of the class.  Cuz was going to get a close look at the new and improved Expat Jon!

It all began with the breathing exercise.  In this pose you breathe in while pushing your chin up and head back.  You exhale slowly while returning you head to the normal position.  Sounds easy, right?  Wrong.  Somehow this is painful for my body.  On that first push-back, my body realizes that it's hot as hell in this room.  Somehow sweat begins like right around my rib cage.  What?  How does sweat start there?  Now I want to wipe this annoying sweat away from my ribs and stomach.  But I can't because I'm busy grinding my knuckles into my chin.  And when my head's on the way down, I have to push my elbows up by my ears like I'm posing for a picture with puppies; all while somehow pushing more air out of my lungs than I took in.  Oh, and I can hear everybody's breathing except mine, so the whole time I think I'm doing it wrong.  And I don't want to overcompensate and make too much noises because then I'm 100% positive that I would sound like a whale.

So that was the warm up.  I get through that while rationalizing why I really don't need to be here right now.  My cousin would still love me if I didn't show up.  Why not just don't go next time?  Yeah!  Now we go into some standing poses.  I tell myself that all I gotta do is make it to the ground.  Make it to the ground and it's smooth sailing.  There is a rest.  She might put on fans.  If we're nice she'll put on the fans.  That feels good.  Come on, Jon.  Just make it to the floor.  You're in shape now!  Now we went into the Halfmoon and Backward Bending poses.  I listened intently to my cousin.  I was feeling good about my poses.  I was "in the zone".  I went deeper into the pose.  I was bending pretty far over. My cousin made general comments about what to do with your body to get the pose right and of course I assumed each and every comment was for me so I made little corrections.  Each pose seemed to go about 8 seconds longer than my body wanted.  I had a look of stoic resolve on my face in the mirror in front of me.  But in my head I was squealing like a stuck pig.

I made it through the Hands to Feet and Awkward poses alright.  There was the general feeling of self hatred that poured out through the Hands to Feet pose, but other than that I would say it was normal.  I was supposed to be holding my heels while trying to straighten my legs out.  Oh, and my head was supposed to be against my chins.  I don't think the inventors of this pose ever considered the fact that I have ORGANS.  My liver, lungs, heart, stomach, chest, throat and chin felt like they were all meeting at the same spot.  That spot was right in the way of any oxygen getting in my body.  So now I'm standing here in a stretched out ball of body, trying to breath in through my nose.  My breaths are short and I'm wishing that this would have been over about 8 seconds ago.  I hear my breaths turn to grunts.  They were short, scratchy grunts like that guy did on Sling Blade.  Or like a baby piglet.  Now I'm hoping nobody else hears it.  And would this pose be over already?  Why am I doing this?  She didn't make me.  I CHOSE to do this!  I hate you, Jon!

My Eagle pose made me proud.  My weight loss helped with that.  I was able to wrap my legs around each other better than ever!  I could even get the top of my foot around that calf on the other side.  I'd never been able to do that before.  Now I focused in and powered through the pose.  Trying to get deeper and deeper into it.  Now we're cooking!  Next up was the Standing Head to Knee.  I had been waiting on this one.  I wanted to see if I could extend my leg all the way out.  With my Eagle success I was up for the challenge.  Then the room got hotter.  Sweat was everywhere.  I had the urge to run top speed out of the class while crying.  I glanced around and no one had quit yet.  I couldn't be that guy.  Not with that Eagle pose that I just did.  But I didn't want to pass out either.  And I knew I was just on the brink of passing out.  The room was spinning.  My cousin's soothing voice was fading off into the distance.  I took deep breaths and counted them.  I needed to take a break from this pose.  I shot a sad glance to my cousin.  This was me trying not to collapse in her class.  I just slightly bent my right knee while standing on a straightened left knee.  This would be my pose.  I wasn't going to grab my foot and kill myself this time.  I basically took that break I needed.

It worked!  I was able to muster up the energy to try the pose on the last and shorter set.  That felt good.  I was back in the game.  My Standing Bow Pulling, Balancing Stick and Standing Separate Leg stretching went by without much anguish and pain.  I did my best on them.  I had my bearings back and I felt like I was beating my old performances.  Then came the Triangle.  I had forgotten about this pose and how much I hate it.  I've always felt that I was good at it, but I still hate it.  Part of it is reaching up toward the ceiling.  It's like a helpless feeling the whole time.  The metaphor is fulfilled.  I have jumped from a mountain and I am reaching back up to be saved, but no one will help me.  Now I feel despair for about 8 seconds too long.  And Cuz was now walking around the class like an inspector.  I couldn't even fake this one.  I was pushing my knee back with my elbow, keeping hips open, stretching up.  All painful.

Just when I'm glad this terrible pose is over, we go into the Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee pose.  I'll just say there is a point in this pose where the instructor says you SHOULD feel a "choking sensation".  So I SHOULD feel like this?  Like my throat is resting on the middle of my tongue?  Really?  So I am doing it right! What's that?  My head should be touching my knee?  Get my head up HIGHER on my knee?  Increase the choking sensation?  Okay.  Then we do the tree poses.  That's like a break for me as well.  I get my head back together while balancing.  I chose not to go into the toe stand.  I'm not that advanced yet.

I finally made it to the ground!  Almost over.  I've checked on my brother-in-law and he's still alive.  I lay and focus on my breathing in the darkness.  It's now peaceful.  I don't hate myself as much now.  We are now going into some Savasanas.  These are also called Dead Body.  I'm a fan of just lying there like a dead body.  I think the whole class should be like this.  Each Savasana is followed by a sit-up.  I could do that all day.  Lay down and sit up!  Easy money.  We systematically found the most awkward and painful positions to be in and did that.  I look forward to the Full Locust every time because I get to use some brute strength and push my legs up.  My cousin even complimented me on that pose this time!     I did the Bow and an alteration of the Fixed Firm (bad knees) and a Half Tortoise.  Home stretch now.

Then there was the camel.  After this pose, my cousin always comments that you might feel emotional. She is absolutely correct.  This pose shakes you to the soul.  It's like the demon-child of dizziness and pain.  As I awkwardly come out of the pose (back bending, looking back, arms extended, hands on heels), I feel like I'm doing it wrong and I'm going to somehow kill myself.  My head refuses to come out of the backward tilt for a few more seconds because I apparently broke my neck while posing.  Then the rush of dizziness and pain shot up my spine and to my uncontrollable head.  I took a deep breath and prepared for the second set.  I still didn't have an answer to why I do this to myself.  ON VACATION!

Then we do the Rabbit pose.  Another choker, but not as bad.  I get through this one on the knowledge that this is all over soon.  Then some stretching that I can never do because of my knee issues.  Now I know it's about over.  I've gotten through my last Bikram Yoga ever.  Just like the last one.  We twist our spines and now for the final Savasana and meditation.  The two best things in the world right now.  My cousin doesn't disappoint.  She talks me through a great meditation and I zone out for a few minutes.  It seems it was all worth it for these few minutes of utter peace and relaxation.  Maybe I should take tomorrow's class.  What the hell is wrong with me?  Until next time...


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