Taking the Class Out of Yoga
Happy, happy, joy, joy! There is staggeringly good news on the health-and-fitness front at last.
Are you sitting down? I mean, if you’re like me, you’re almost always sitting down, which isn’t such a bad thing, as you’re about to learn.
Turns out, a twelve-year-long study in Denmark has concluded that women who have skinny thighs have twice the risk for heart disease as us normal women.
Can I get a “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah,” my fluffy sisteren?
In your face, you supermodels with your spaghetti stems. Somebody please pass the pork fat and let me get on with the very serious business of avoiding a heart attack. I am all about being heart-healthy.
The study followed twenty-eight hundred Denmarkese (yeah, I know, but the real name makes me hawngry) and discovered that the portion of the population with thighs smaller than 23.6 inches in circumference had twice the risk of heart disease.
OK, to be honest, I thought that 23.6 inches sounded like a lot of inches when I first read that. I mean, that’s like almost two feet of inches if my math memory is correct. So I got out the old tape measure and y’all guess what?
My thighs, which are actually kind of thighnormous, are exactly 23.5 inches. Too much information? Suckit, I’m fit by Denmarkanian standards!
The study doesn’t explain why thicker thighs make a healthier heart but who the hell cares and, yes, I want fries with that Communion wafer.
There’s some speculation that it’s because thinner people (hereinafter referred to as “the damned”) have less muscle mass to “initiate the metabolic breakdown of lipids and glucose.” I mean that’s the first thing I thought when I read about it. Sorta. If you remove the part about metabolic breakdown of lipids and glucose.
This news came with caveats, of course. Caveat is a Latin word which means “dead person” or “funny neckerchief,” I forget which. Anyway, the big caveat is that people who have thighs quite a bit bigger than the delightful and healthful 23.6 inches in circumference (in other words, anyone who has ever eaten a turkey leg at Disney World and wondered why they have to be so damn small) aren’t healthier by nature. They have gone and gotten themselves a bad case of an “overhealthy heart” I guess.
Scientifically speaking, the study finds that a woman who is barely over five feet tall and weighs 135 pounds is half as likely to have heart disease as, say, Heidi Klum.
Now before all you supermodels get your Versaces in a wad and accuse me of wanting you to have heart problems, let me hasten to say that nothing could be further from the truth.
Scurvy maybe, pellagra possibly, but not heart trouble. It also should be noted that Denmark is frequently the winner in the annual poll of the “World’s Happiest Countries.” Small wonder. I’d be happy, too, if I lived in a country where big thighs were considered healthy and desirable.
This breaking news from Denmark came out just about the same time as a Time magazine cover story on “The Myth of Exercise” in which a very learned scholar wrote that, while it’s good for you, exercise won’t make you lose weight. In fact—and this part cracks me up—exercise can actually lead to weight gain because of the notion that you’re entitled to wolf down a platter of nachos the size of a hubcap at On the Border after a half hour workout on the Spawn of Satan, I mean, elliptical machine.
Your chickens have come home to roost, you diet-obsessed hand-wringers. And I want mine fried with a side of tater salad, extra mayo for my heart, natch.
Ever since I read about the study of the proud Denmarki people, and the Time exercise story, I’ve been thinking about cutting out my weekly yoga at the art museum, but I like it too much. Except for the parts where the middle-school classes taking tours past the Mary Cassatts and so forth point and laugh at us when our asses are in the air for Downward-Facing Hag or whatever you should call a roomful of mostly middle-aged but undeniably enlightened womenfolk in loose clothes.
What if all this yoga makes my thighs get smaller? Still, I’d hate to give it up because yoga really does give me a certain peace and clarity of spirit.
OK, I made that up. It just feels good to be somewhere for a whole hour without anybody being able to find me and ask me to do some shit for them.
I’m fairly certain that’s why it was invented many decades ago by Yogi Berra, a famous baseball player who was excellent at avoiding real work.
I never saw myself as a yoga-type person but then I read Eat, Pray, Love, whose author, the glowy, flowy Elizabeth Gilbert, described how her deep and intense voyage of self-discovery, which included dumping her perfectly nice husband and visiting several different continents, led her to realize that she could eat nine pizzas at one sitting in Italy and still feel good about it if she was headed to India to do some yoga.
I think there was a little more to the book than that, but that was my favorite part.
Yoga just sounds so cool. Our teacher, a young woman fairly bursting with good health, meets us where we are, so to speak.
“You can rest when you need to,” she said on the first day of class, seeming to look at me for a long time—perhaps because I was the only one who had never had so much as a smidgen of yoga before. She knew this because I announced it, repeatedly, so she’d set the bar pretty low.
I was delighted that she understood, and so I did rest. For an hour. Just lay there on the purple yoga mat my friend Christy Kramer got on a yard sale for fitty cent and loaned me when I told her I didn’t want to invest a whole lot of money into this yoga stuff until I was sure I’d like it.
Sure, some of the other women looked puzzled when I lay down and stayed down, but what can I tell you? It was the first time in for-freakin’-ever that I’d had some me-time, phone off, panties granny, and it felt wonderful.
Laying there while the others practiced some serious deep breathing and challenging poses like Old Pussy in the Sky or some such, I understood why everybody loves yoga. I went to sleep.
And was awakened an hour later by the instructor gently kneading my thigh. My perfect, enormous thigh.
“Uhhh, trying to sleep here,” I mumbled, but she just smiled one of those real peaceful yoga-induced smiles. “We want to keep the muscles as relaxed as possible.”
Was she high? If I was any more relaxed, I’d be in an urn on somebody’s mantle. I was deliciously relaxed and now understood why people who take naps in the middle of the day always feel so refreshed. At this rate, I’d be one of those irritating people who has a license plate holder that reads: MY OTHER CAR IS A YOGA MAT! OK, maybe not.
After that, she announced that we would take some deep breaths and thank our sun gods or something like that. It involved putting your hands in front of you and making a praying gesture for about two seconds, which, let me tell you, my muscles paid for the next day! I practically couldn’t get outta bed!
Yoga is going to be a much better fit for me than, say, Pilates, which, because I was raised Southern Baptist, I mispronounced for a really long time until my unchurched, heathen friend told me it had nothing to do with Pontius Pilate.
“It’s pronounced puh-lot-eez,” she said with clear irritation. She is one of those snooty types who talks a lot about how all the hypocrites are in church and she believes that God is everywhere around her.
Not meaning to be cruel, I hope for His sake this wasn’t true the day she seriously cut one in yoga class.
That’s the dirty little secret about yoga. All the pooting that goes on. Sure, you can try to sneak it out in low gear, so to speak, but everybody still knows. So while you’re in your Loving Warrior Stance when you should be breathing deeply and feeling the life force gum up your chakras or whatever, you’re just worried to death that the whole class is going to hear you fart out loud.
I’m not sure how Elizabeth Gilbert dealt with that because there’s no way you could eat nine pizzas for lunch and then go to yoga, even if it was a few days later. You’d still be floating up in the air like that idiot balloon boy.
I think I’ll keep doing yoga for a while, staying away from the new “yogilates” class I’ve heard about which combines yoga and Pilates with a foamy cappuccino concoction from the sound of it. After all, even though I’m not making real progress in the meditative closing moments when I’m supposed to be open to the universe and, instead, routinely make my grocery list in my head and worry about how unfair it is for me to need gum grafts at the same exact time that my kid needs orthodontia and where the hell is all that money going to come from.…
The instructor says that all of this openness to the will of the universe takes time. One doesn’t just leap into meditation. It can takes years of practice, even Elizabeth Gilbert said that. But, in the meantime, while I’m waiting for that to kick in, I’ll continue to eat pizza.
Just for the sake of my heart, you know.
Copyright © 2011 by Celia Rivenbark