Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Warrior pose in the Arena Stage parking lot

In warrior II pose, your front toes are pointed towards the front of the mat, your back foot is parallel to the back of the mat, your back leg is straight, your front knee is bent, moving towards a 90 degree angle, your hips are open and both pointing towards the side of the mat, your back straight, your arms extended to the sides, and you gaze over your front fingertips. (My teacher Lisa's voice echoes in my head: "Remember, Warrior II is a big hip opener! Move your front knee towards your front pinky toe! You should feel it opening your hips!")

Problems with the pose tend to fall into two categories. Some people never challenge themselves in the pose. Warrior II should be very intense; holding it for a while should require very deep, intense breaths. If you don't sweat in the pose, you should be sinking further into your front knee.

And some people masochistally fight in the pose. They glare out over their front fingertips, struggling grimly with the pain in their legs. Besides making you sort of ugly, with an expression like that, it keeps you from holding the pose right - it requires that your shoulders be relaxed, and your hips be gentle and open at the same time that your legs are strong, which is almost impossible to do with a scowl on your face. Staying in the Warrior poses is an uncomfortable battle, but it's a joyful battle that you fight with a light, courageous heart.

I went to the theater tonight with a 93-year old scholar, Lincoln Gordon, who I met at my job. We have season tickets at the Arena Stage, so every month we meet for dinner and a play. When we walked back into the parking lot at the end of the evening, we saw that another car had boxed Lincoln's driver side in. "I'm going to have to get in through your door, Zoe," Lincoln said, and strode up to my door (which itself had not much room). I watched in alarm as he opened my door, slid in with a painful-looking backbend, and sat down with a thump.

Now, the cabin of this car was pretty cramped. I'm a 24-year old yoga instructor, and I could probably have hopped between the car seats fairly quickly, but I probably wouldn't have done it gracefully. Lincoln is 93. Ninety three! His grandchildren are probably old enough to be your parents! He eased one leg over to the other side, and then the other, hoisting himself up with a huff and a puff. It was an awkward position for his arm, and he flailed a bit, accidentally hitting the hazard light button on the dashboard. The car began to flash like a disco ball.

I was watching avidly from outside, chewing my fingernails in alarm. I wasn't sure what to do. Tell him to stop, that I'd get in and drive the car out of its parking spot? Surely that would be patronizing. But what if Lincoln hurt himself? All that contorting surely couldn't be good for his venerable self!

But finally, after a few more seconds of struggle, Lincoln finally made it into the driver's seat. He was panting and sighing and the entire dashboard of the car was flashing - and he began to laugh. His laughter triggered my own relief, and I started laughing too, and for a few minutes we just sat there in the car, guffawing to the rhythm of the hazard flashers.

I'll admit, Lincoln's alignment was a little bit unorthodox, but nonetheless it was the best Warrior's pose I've seen in my life.

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