By Regina Hill
Some things are just meant to go together; peas and carrots, wine and Mondays, credit cards and shopping. On the contrary, there are certain items which should never be coupled; hair and fire, water and cell phones, yoga and paddle boarding. Although my experiences have provided me with expert status on all of the aforementioned, it is the latter that has really stuck in my psyche. I can’t, for the life of me, imagine how the idea of yoga performed on an unbalanced, floating surface seemed like a good trend to start. The villainous initiator of SUP (Standup Paddle Board) Yoga must be one sick puppy. I would be willing to bet that it was developed by a master yoga instructor, someone probably named Stacey or Suzie, who was bored watching the daily tomfoolery of middle-aged moms trying to engage in the downward dog. No, that wouldn’t be nearly entertaining enough for a perfectly poised yoga instructor in a cute little matching spandex number who relies on the humiliation of others to make herself feel good.
Taken apart, yoga and paddle boarding are challenging enough. Marry the two, and a set of completely unattainable expectations are born. My self-concept is on shaky ground as is, so why pound my ego to complete oblivion by creating an impossible task centered around focus and flexibility, two traits which I completely and unashamedly lack? Well, I recently married them at the U.S. National Whitewater Training Center in Charlotte, and the result was an ugly and unnatural display which I pray was not captured on film. Because, I lie to you not, it was on this very day, during this tiny window of time and in the exact spot of this unholy union of paddleboard and yoga, that publicity shots were being taken for the center.
As part of a weekend of personal reflection, I signed up for this SUP Yoga class, along with a few other ladies. My goal was spiritual enlightenment and I had assured my peers that my journey had already started with previous yoga experiences. The truth, according to Zen philosophy, sometimes lies (and it surely did) in the eyes of the beholder. I had already established low expectations for myself before class began, but when the two disgustingly perky instructors stripped down to their bathing suits and mounted their boards without batting an eyelash, I knew I was in over my head.
The time of truth presented itself as we were asked to share our preferred methods of yoga. I was busted. As we sat in a pseudo circle of floating yoga mats, the ladies eagerly shared.
Now, under most circumstances, I’m a master at responding under pressure. Ask me to give a commencement speech in front of an audience of 1,500 an hour before and I barely break a sweat. But, this was a serious venture and I had to bring it. Unfortunately, all I could mutter, albeit very quietly, was “Shamalamadingdong.” A look of complete awe fell upon the faces within the circle as they eagerly accepted this new and mysterious arm of yoga.
Our yoga session began as our instructors reminded us to unlock our chakras and open our sacrums. “Keep those sacrums opened,” they chanted. “An open sacrum will unlock your core and will guide you down the path to inner peace.”
I immediately called a non-verbal party foul. Apparently, the other girls were in the know regarding this foreign terminology because they gave no protest nor raised a hand to seek clarification. A few women passed gas, so I assumed that they had opened their sacrums already. I would’ve opened mine, too, but I wasn’t sure where it was or if I even owned one. The heat was on as the yoga instructors frequently paddled around us to monitor poses and make necessary adjustments. A cloak of red enveloped my face as I searched for some clue from the others regarding the whereabouts of this elusive sacrum of mine. The instructors commanded us to keep our legs straight while bending our knees and thrusting our hips forward, all the while remembering to breathe in slowly, keeping our shoulders and back aligned horizontally with our boards.
Herein lies another complication when a lack of experience with water sports combines with a total inability to balance. My eyes were closed as I internally searched for my third eye when I slowly began floating away from the group. I obediently tried to maintain a cobra pose, hissing and thrusting my jaw forward in an attempt to strike the air full of my venom. After the third jaw thrust, I slowly opened my eyes and was face to face with a large turtle that appeared to be mocking this total nonsense. Now, the turtle was not intimidating to me in the least, although he successfully forced me from my happy place. My mind, however, began to move to the food chain along the mucky Catawba River as I thought about what might eat a turtle. Alligators? Discarded pet boa constrictors? With all due respect to the yoga practitioners out there, I had experienced enough inner peace for one day.
I eagerly rejoined the group in time to hear our instructors ask us to think about our future selves. “What do you want for her?” was their melodic plea.
I tried so very hard, God as my witness, to restrain the inner Gina, but it was too much. This was a classic opportunity to stick it to the organic, gluten-free, vegan, sustainability “man,” and right in the middle of my camel pose the words “Krispy Kreme doughnuts” escaped my outstretched larynx. A look of silent outrage fell upon me as these words of evil soiled the ears of my instructors. I had just succeeded in verbally violating at least three of the five yamas, or philosophies, of yoga.
When the class ended and the instructors chorused “Namaste,” I looked right in their eyes and mouthed, “I know you are, but what am I?” Yes, they may have won the battle, but the last word was mine.
Once safely on land, I l glanced over at Brandy. “Who do they think they are? I don’t have to put up with that sarcasm. I paid good money for this class.”
Brandy, with a look of spiritual reckoning, responded, “Well, enlightened one, Namaste means I honor you. We are one. So, basically, you met their message of peace and love with ‘cram it’.”
Maybe I was a little hard on these overly pert, perfectly postured ladies. At the very least, I provided a respite from the mind numbing chants which are part of any reputable yoga experience. The fact that I was the first to fall in the water gave credence to the fact that I was no match for the flexibility and poise demonstrated by these women.
Mental note to self: one cannot achieve greatness without experiencing failure – and keep that sacrum opened at all times.
Regina Hill is a staff writer for Eastern North Carolina Weekly and The Topsail Post and Voice. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from UNC-Wilmington in Elementary Education and Administration and has been a teacher with the Onslow County School System for 22 years. Regina is the mother of two practically normal children, Jacob and Lindsay, and the wife of local hottie Daniel Hill. In her spare time, Regina sets huge, yet unattainable, goals for herself and hopes to one day own a small herd of alpacas and/or a baby spider monkey.