It�s always a relief when your yoga instructor says �Today, we�re going to do restoratives.� This means that instead of performing corkscrew twists or balancing in highly counterintuitive ways, you�ll be lying down, using a dozen or so folded blankets to prop up various parts of your body. You stay in restorative poses (the fact that this and this both qualify as �poses� seems like cheating, but I won�t complain) for long periods of time, in order to give certain muscle groups the opportunity to completely release. In other contexts I have seen this referred to as �napping.� The yoga powers-that-be have settled on the term �restoratives,� though I honestly believe that the more accurate �loafing yoga� would allow the studios to attract a whole new demographic. The nice thing about restoratives is that, when it comes down it, they actually are pretty good at making you feel restored.
It�s never a relief when you walk into the class and discover that there�s a substitute instructor. If you�ve been doing yoga for a little while, you’re probably going to a certain class because of a certain instructor, and having any old person teach it is just not the same.
In class tonight, the substitute yoga instructor announced that we�d be doing restoratives. You�d think that would be a wash, wouldn�t you? I knew I was in for trouble when the last available space for my mat was right next a pail catching water from a leak in the ceiling. A constant “drip drip drip drip” is not condusive to establishing inner harmony. It got worse as the substitute started trying to calm us into a meditative state with the placid sound of her voice. She sounded just like a female version of Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller�s Day Off.
Then came the music. I prefer instructors who leave the CD player in the corner alone, but Ms. Stein came equipped with a stack of CDs she must have picked up from a new age music store. And not just any old new age CDs � she must have gained access to the secret room behind the counter (password: �teshyanni�) that holds the Extra Cheesy New Age Music.
It is not an easy thing to relax into one�s pose with water dripping by one�s left ear while listening to music featuring a pan flute and a boys� choir in discordant array.
Instead of concentrating on my breath, I was concentrating on the conclusion that life could not get any more absurd than at that moment. (You�d need to see the blanket sculpture I was perched on just then to get the full effect, but you can imagine it. On second thought, I don�t recommend that.) But a few moments later, Ms. Stein started periodically reciting thoughtful sayings and quotations, a practice that she continued throughout the rest of the class. They revolved around the theme of emptiness, and what with all the talk about “letting go” and “releasing,” coupled with the drip drip drip, I really, really had to pee. Her material seemed to come from an assortment of new age gurus and self-help manuals. She must have collected them herself, since the phrase �insipid proverbs� turns up no book matches on Amazon. The one quote that even made any sense (though I don�t remember the words any more) was a verse from Ecclesiastes, which she pronounced �Ecclesiastickees.�
And yet, and yet, at the end of the class, I still felt pretty darn restored. That�s the magic of yoga.