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I was chin-deep into a jar of Nutella and flicking the TV remote with my left big toe when I realized how disappointed Madonna would be in me. This epiphany occurred towards the tail-end of last semester when I caught an unexpected look at my own tail-end in the mirror. There I was, staring back at myself, embodying every bit the college student I had feared I would become: I looked bloated, I was wearing sweatpants and I was a personal pizza away from committing first-degree carbicide.
Now, I’m all about that spirit in the sky but I personally adhere to a much stricter dogma: that of Madonna. Go right ahead and call her old or question her vocal prowess but judge her body and you’re fooling no one but yourself. She is five feet, four inches of pure sex and sinew. I worship the very ground she lunges, squats and sins upon. So, naturally, on that fateful night when I spent more time than not picking crumbs out of my hair, I decided to take a page out of Madonna’s book and devote my life to what she does best: fitness (men half her age come in a close second).
Without much thought, I decided upon an activity that would provide me with an opportunity to practice Madonna’s signature exercise regime and see what my butt looks like from behind: yoga. I had never tried it before but I knew that Emmanuel College offered a weekly practice and, due to my hand-eye coordination rivaling that of a ceiling fan, I deemed bending, stretching and laying the ideal pursuit.
With my mat in tow, I walked into the trailer-slash-yoga studio and nearly down-dogged in delight at the sight of the yoga instructor. She was as if Deepak Chopra and Courtney Love had a baby: an ethereal, stringy-haired, mystical, Doc Marten wearing baby. To say I was tempted to lovingly nuzzle up to her grungy goodness whilst determining my Dosha type would be an understatement. Needless to say, the class—and the instructor—opened my eyes to the virtues of yoga and abstaining from shampoo.
Having taken a whopping dozen yoga classes at this point, I think I have the necessary experience to proclaim yoga as an absolute metaphor for life (and no, as I wrote that, I did not light incense on my desk…however I may have bought a bottle of patchouli oil. So sue me!). Yoga is an exercise of the mind, the body and the soul. Each pose struck during a practice can be taken as a microcosmic representation of the challenges one faces on a daily basis, like to spend the noon to seven p.m. time-period grazing on snacks or not.
Each yoga session is split roughly into thirds: it begins with a reflective, intention-setting meditation (“Don’t fall on your face, Brian”), proceeds with the practice itself (“God help you if you pass gas while in warrior pose, Brian!”) and concludes with the most critical aspect of yoga: shavasana, also known as corpse pose, also known as my personal expertise. Lying limply on my mat, I let my body melt into the ground, let my thoughts drift away and let my shiny and new biceps begin to take form. As Yogi Mahatma Cobain herself brought me back to reality with the words of what was either a poem by Rumi or a song by The Cure, I could instantly feel the weight of daily life removed from my shoulders (and the weight of excess saturated fat from my thighs).
I had expected shavasana to be a relaxing transition from strenuous activity to strenuous napping; what I had not expected were the feelings of clarity that overwhelmed me as I walked out of the double-wide asana. For that finite amount of time, I was able to tap into a mindless area of my subconscious usually associated only with Will Ferrell movies.
We exist so heavily in the future—striving for the perfect career, car, spouse, hairline—that we lose all connection with the present: the only guaranteed time in life. If we all all spent a little less time determining what the interior of our dream car would look like and a little more time reflecting on the rhythm of our breath and the power of our posture, we might just have greater fulfillment in our everyday lives. Or at least have Madonna’s body as a result. Either one sound good to me.