Yoga at Home…with Dogs
In an effort to cut expenses and support my habit as a full-time writer, I gave up my gym membership. I have a bazillion workout tapes and apps available at home, and I figured I would just get my sweat on here. But can I just go on record as saying that yoga at home just doesn’t cut it? One of the things I enjoy about yoga is the relaxing environment. The calmness, the soft lighting, and serene music. Some yoga instructors even offer essential oils to dab on your towel so that the whole experience is aromatic. And people tend to speak quietly at yoga. No one talks loud there. Yeah, none of that really happens at my house. My home environment is just not conducive to relaxation, meditation, and getting in touch with my inner self as I align mind, body, and spirit. (And if yours is, let me know and I’ll be happy to come and do yoga at your place.) One of the things I miss most about yoga at the gym is being alone on my mat. You have never truly experienced the benefits of downward facing dog until you have done that pose with a dog licking your face and biting your nose. And you truly never know the length of time you can hold your upper body in plank position until you do it while hovering over a dog that has laid on the mat under you and refuses to move. Balance? Oh, please. Standing on one leg, slowly bending over toward the floor with arms extended? That’s the best pose ever to get dogs intrigued enough to jump all over you to figure out what cool game you’re playing. Now granted, it makes it a more challenging workout when my furry friends are involved, but not exactly the calming, centering exercise I’m seeking. So I figured I would just put them in another room. This caused them to bark frantically, nonstop, as though there were zombies coming through the walls, and they feared I was completely unaware. The calm, peaceful, oblivious voice on the screen instructed me to take a deep breath in, and listen to the breath as I slowly released it. I listened to it alright, because I was screaming, “Stop barking!!!” But it’s not just the dogs. As I was fiercely and proudly holding Warrior One, the dryer buzzer went off. So I moved into Warrior Two concentrating less on strengthening and lengthening and more on “what’s in that load that will wrinkle terribly if I don’t go right now?” I couldn’t remember, so I paused the video, folded the clothes that were in the dryer, put the load from the washer into the dryer, loaded the washer again, checked on the dogs since they were eerily quiet, and then back to the yoga mat. What pose were we on again? Then I had the brilliant idea to move this outside where there would be less distractions. The flowers were blooming, the sky was blue, there was a nice breeze—what a beautiful environment for yoga, right? And I figured the dogs could be in the yard running around so they’d be occupied. Except that I forgot I had the house alarm set. So the minute I pulled the sliding glass door open, sirens went off. I dropped my mat and ran for the alarm pad on the wall in the laundry room to cancel the alarm as the dogs howled in unison as though perhaps I couldn’t hear the alarm, and they needed to alert me to danger. When I had that situation under control, I returned outside to the lanai and rolled out my mat beside the pool and pressed play on the iPad. “You should be deep within your calm and centered self at this point,” the yoga lady sweetly whispered from the video. Yeah, not so much. No sooner was I in relaxed child’s pose than the road construction crew on the street behind our house started backing up heavy equipment. Beep, beep, beep, beep. Then the workers started talking, which put the dogs in full-threat protection mode again with all-out barking. “It’s almost as though you’re holding the golden orb of the sun in your hands,” she taunted me from her serene spot on some unknown beach in a gentle breeze. I was thinking something more like "I’d like to smash the golden orb of the sun over your head right now, lady!" The phone rang inside the house, and I missed moving into the next pose wondering if it might be important. Maybe Dr. Smooth was sick at school. Maybe My Knight needed something. I ran to check the caller ID just in case. Telemarketer. Back to the mat and into a beetle stretch. The voice on the screen sensually elongated the “Breathe innnnnnnnnn and deeeeeeeeepen the stretch. Thaaaatt’s it…..” I was starting to wonder if she was getting something more from this stretch than I was when she explained that the beetle stretch has been around for centuries and is known for awakening the sexual energy. Seriously? Maybe for her. Although we both sounded out of breath, hers was more breathless and mine was more exhaustion. I moved into chair pose just as a dump truck roared down the street, with yoga lady encouraging me to be in the moment and experience the world around me. Oh, I was experiencing it all right. As I pushed deeper through my shoulder blades into downward facing dog, I noticed that the bougainvillea bush needed to be trimmed. As I moved into crocodile and then upward facing dog, I couldn’t help but notice how much dirt was on the pool deck and how much it needed to be swept. As I stretched back in mountain pose, I noticed the cob webs under the porch roof. None of this was relaxing or motivating. So I hit pause again and gathered the dogs to go back inside and spread out on the floor. On a good note, I actually think I may have held the “bridge pose” higher than ever before since there was a dog laying underneath me and I couldn’t really let my butt sag. Eventually, I made it through the stretches and reached my favorite part of yoga -- the relaxation at the end of the routine. You just have to lie quietly on your mat, feeling the warmth in your body from the workout, a sense of accomplishment lightening your heart, eyes closed, world shut out and soft spa music playing softly in the background. Somehow that entire experience plays out a little differently when your face gets straddled by a dog. I never thought I’d say it, but I miss the gym.