On The Way Down
Part 7 of my "12 Short Stories" - Challenge
Based on a prompt by Mia from deadlinesforwriters.com
He realised he had not touched his toes with his legs straight in decades. There had never been any reason to. Now he found himself among a couple of teens, some middle-aged women and one man well in his eighties, all of them managing to at least reach their ankles. His own fingertips were not even down to his knees. And even this made it hard for him to breathe.
Mia, the teacher in front, made it look effortless. She had the same sandy blond hair and blue eyes as Helen, which had instantly made him like her. At least until she started making them bend over, twist and move into a lot of not exactly comfortable shapes.
Two years of sitting while homeworking and then sleeping in a tent for the long-awaited festival weekend had done a number on his back. The orthopaedist had said that there was nothing wrong with his spine and it was due to muscle tightening from lack of motion. It had been an education reading up on all the things that happened to you just by sitting.
He had been advised to take up yoga, so here he was, finally rising up again into a standing position. He had spoken to the teacher about his lower back and she had told him to listen to his body and take breaks whenever he needed them. Paul really could have benefited from hearing this advice two years earlier and then also following it.
“Try and lift your toes any amount while breathing in. Try and lower them to the ground one by one and breathe out,” said Mia.
Paul stared down, only managing the breathing part. His toes just would not budge. On his left, the elderly guy repeatedly moved his toes up and down in an elegant dance. With his eyes closed. Eventually, Paul remembered he had to breathe out. At least his diaphragm was willing to cooperate here.
“Now, try and feel your centre of gravity and move it back and forth a bit, then left to right. Find a position where your weight is balanced evenly across your feet.”
Paul had never spent much thought on where his weight had been leaning. Then again, he had not been aware that standing upright could be called Mountain Pose. Giving it a name made it feel more intentional somehow. They had gone through all the cues twice before, but apparently Mia believed in repetition.
Paul felt beads of sweat forming on his forehead when he struggled to lift his sternum up while at the same time keeping his ribs back in, widening his collarbones, drawing his shoulder blades down and inwards and on top of that to relax his arms and keep breathing. Standing had never felt so complicated and strenuous before.
“Remember to not lock your knee joints and keep breathing,” Mia instructed them.
Right, the knee joints. Paul willed them to go soft, damn it! He very nearly fell over from the effort. When he was happy with his Mountain Pose at last, he saw that everyone else had bent down again. His lower back slowing him down, it took him a few seconds to join them.
“Right, now you have two options. Find Down Dog and breathe in. Either you wait here to follow my instructions through another series of Warrior Poses or you exhale lowering your knees to the ground, spreading them as wide as the mat.”
Paul observed the other students. None of them lowered their knees. Paul inhaled consciously. Then he let go and sank down with a sigh.
Mia beamed at him. “Rest your belly in between your thighs and see if you can lay your head down on the mat.”
Paul’s body just melted into the mat. He had expected this class to be a lot easier and at the same time to be much more difficult. Feeling so much at home in this simple posture was a welcome surprise. Paul had not known his body even had a sense of home like this.
“Stay here for as long as you want. I have a quote for everyone to focus on for the next couple of minutes. It is by Jigar Gor and goes ‘Yoga is not about touching your toes. It is what you learn on the way down.’”
Paul’s body decided to stay like this for the rest of the class, blissfully ignoring the other students and forgetting all about his back and his toes.