I never thought I’d write these words non-fictionally, but tomorrow is my last class in an 8-week session of pilates. It’s time to decide if I want to sign up for another round at $18 per class.
Pilates is one of those things I never completely wrote off but never really expected to try – like sex with a transvestite or glo-stick rave dancing on E.
At a young and nimble age, I remember reading a yoga book from my mom’s bookshelf. The author was a dark-haired bearded fellow who would have blended easily into a crowd of Bee-Gees if not for his propensity to full-body Spandex leotards.
In the early chapters, a series of captioned photos outlined the proper procedure for inserting a thick cotton string into one’s nostril, snorting the string through the sinuses and into the throat, then hocking it into the mouth. The goal was to hold on to both sides of the string and move it back and forth in a sawing sort of motion. I thought this might make sense when I was older, but it doesn’t. What could be accomplished by flossing one’s sinuses. Are there bits of food that would break loose that are otherwise trapped and causing me throat decay?
The leotarded BeeGee proceeded to contort himself into positions ranging from those that looked vaguely relaxing to those I wasn’t sure a child my age should see (the latter usually including his Spandex bulger very near his face). Cat poses – performed on hands and knees with back hunching and dropping between Angry Cat and Peaceful Cat – were considered beginner while the poses near the end of the book were alarming. Flip book style, the author performed an impossible seizing sort of yoga dance.
I tried some things I saw in the book, but when I couldn’t perform any Cirque du Soleil stretches, I lost interest. I would occasionally bring the book off the shelf to educate a friend on the basics of sinus cleansing, but I figured my yoga days were over.
Last fall, I spent two weeks sleeping on the ground on the island of Kaua’i. In the six months prior, I’d had my first introduction to debilitating back pain in the form of recurring muscle spasms and, consequently, my first trip to a chiropractor and my first electrode pulser treatment.
What’s really shitty about that grade of back pain is that all you can do is lie there perpetually uncomfortable. It’s hard to believe that just yesterday you were doing such rigorous activities as standing, walking, crossing your legs or sitting down on the toilet (and without crying even!).
Thus it was with some trepidation I faced my third day on Kaua’i after my third night on a thin sleeping pad on rooty terrain. I felt some ominous muscle twinges above my right butt cheek and commented on them over morning coffee on the beach. One of the girls in our camp asked if I’d ever tried pilates.
“What kind of organic tofu granola fruit do you take me for?” I asked pushing aside my breakfast of organic granola with starfruit and scrambled pesto tofu and eyeing her over my mug of fair trade coffee, flavored with raw unbleached sugar.
A fellow Alaska fish worker, she’d also had bouts with back seizures – hers debilitating her every three months or so – until she began pilates. Pilates exercises focus on strengthening your lower abdominal and lower back muscles. Unfortunately – the very severe German Josef Pilates bestowed upon it a kind of weenie name more suited to an Italian dessert than the sweaty nature of muscle building using one’s own body weight.
With a constant supply off booze and beach lying, my back hardly noticed the root wad sleeping conditions past day 3. A month later, and two days before flying from Sitka to Idaho, however, my back muscles angrily asserted their power. If lying on the floor uncomfortably is shitty, sitting in airplane and airport seats for 12 collective hours makes it look like a hot oil massage from a legion of sexy masseurs.
That spasm was at the end of December, and I started pilates in January. I’m not completely convinced, but I haven’t had a floor-bound episode to date and my flexibility is returning. Some moves are awkward; some make it really difficult not to accidental fart and some I don’t have the strength for yet, so I shake like a palsy case to complete one repetition.
I’m still a little uncomfortable when people find out I can’t meet them at the bar at 7 because I have pilates class. I’d much rather call it physical therapy or even strength stretching.
Oh well. The classes are popular and fill up fast. As for my street cred, I guess I shouldn’t worry what my peers think of my new age stretchercise as long as I still have ample time for sinus flossing in my Spandex bodysuit on the weekends.