I did not attend my regular Tuesday morning yoga class at Hopewell Cancer Center intending to disrupt class.
When I go, I lurk in the back. I’m there to learn presence and stillness in a world, a situation, I can’t control. I’m also there to be around other people like me, people who are bald and a little tired, but getting through it one day at a time.
But if you walked into class 30 minutes late on this Tuesday, you would have found me frog-leaping over one cancer patient in the effort to chase down another cancer patient and smash her head with my shoe.
Let’s rewind to the beginning of class.
The first wasp landed on my forehead within the first 30 seconds. We started standing on this day, those of us who could stand comfortably. We closed our eyes and listened to our breathing with one hand on our stomach. That’s when I heard it right over my head. I unsuccessfully stifled a yelp and jumped to the side, landing on Colleen’s mat, who yelped, jumped back and landed on another lady’s mat.
Janna, our preternaturally calm yoga instructor, assessed us with her usual acceptance and poise. “It’s OK,” she said. “It’s just a wasp. Come back into mountain pose when you’re ready.”
That’s right. It’s just a wasp. Janna was gifted with a calm, neutral perspective on everything. I closed my eyes again and listened to my breathing: in, out, in … the squishy sound of bare feet darting across yoga mats. I peeked: intrepid Colleen had cornered the wasp over at the window. She had a cup. Clever girl.
“Stay in mountain, ladies,” Janna narrated. “Nothing to see here. Colleen’s just got our wasp cornered and she’s going to peacefully relocate – wait, Erica has a shoe.”
BAM. Got him. No wasps would be peacefully relocated while I was in the room.
“She got him!” Colleen announced.
“OK, the excitement is over. Uh, thank you, Erica.”
Colleen and I exchanged a look of triumph.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves contorted into triangle another wasp alighted on Edna’s head. That one got away before anyone could give chase.
“See, this practice teaches us to be present, and live amongst all the gifts nature has to offer us this morning. Just stay focused, and the wasp will go –“
We looked around. Edna, stooped over from age and looking frail in her bundled sweater and scarves, smiled at us over at the window.
“Got him!” She grinned victoriously, and held up her shoe. “Ha HA!”
Janna sighed. “Thank you, Edna.”
“Back to our forward bending, which we’ll do three times. Sit up tall on your sit bones –“
“HOLY SH*T!” That was me. Another wasp had landed right on my forehead. My face! That was the second time! Was I wearing perfume that attracted them? No. Was I sitting under a nest? Maybe. I waved off the wasp and looked around.
The wasp then landed right on Colleens head, and she screamed: “It’s in my hair!”
“I got him!” I yelled. “Don’t move!” I grabbed my shoe and lunged at her, but she got up and ran, leaping over the childs-posers and dodging the forward benders.
“Don’t hit me! He’ll sting me!”
“No, trust me! I got him! I got him!” I leapt over the stunned bodies on the mats.
“LADIES!” Janna yelled, slightly less patient now as we ran past her.
“Let me just –“
“No! Don’t hit me!” Colleen wailed.
Colleen, having circled the room, reached her mat again and huddled into a kind of fetal position, her eyes squeezed shut in anticipation of the blow. I raised the shoe, and the wasp flew off.
“He’s gone! He’s off you!” I assured her. I dropped my weapon-holding arm and panted from exertion.
“He’s on me!” someone screamed from the other side of the room.
The room, which five minutes ago held 15 bodies breathing softly in the quiet, warm air, was now Lord of the Flies. People were running, screaming, hitting one another and the walls, making spears, killing pigs. OK, not those last two.
Janna sighed. “I don’t suppose I can ask you to lie down, close your eyes, and join me in shivasana.”
No. Not in a room full of wasps.
That was the first time I’ve left a yoga class before shivasana. As a fellow group fitness instructor, I feel it’s impolite to leave in the middle of class. I mean, it happens. Sometimes people can’t stay the whole hour. I don’t get offended if people can only take half a class: it’s better than nothing. But shivasana is considered pretty important in yoga, and I hate to feel like I’m disrespecting it.
But Janna seemed more defeated than offended as people screamed, ducked, slapped each other’s heads and fled into the hallways. I cast her an apologetic glance as I scooped up my hastily folded yoga mat and slipped out the door.
Namaste, Janna, and apologies.
I’m going to consider Lord of the Flies yoga my cardio for the day.