Did I Say That: Stretching to be the ‘valedictorian of the yoga class’

Joe Pisani bemoans the endless cycle of shoveling snow.

Joe Pisani bemoans the endless cycle of shoveling snow.

Joe Pisani /

Monday was a big day for me. Sort of like Christmas. The FedEx guy, who was nearly attacked by our killer Maltese, arrived to deliver my yoga mat.

Now that I’ve had it for precisely three days and two hours, I’m an instant expert on yoga, hot and cold, so I decided to write a column.

I’ve never let ignorance stop me from speaking authoritatively about any topic, so I urge all you yoga fanatics, hot, cold and lukewarm, not to send me angry emails saying, “What the [fill in the blank] are you saying? You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Just get back on your mats and go into a Bhujangasana or Matsyasana or Benihana pose while I contemplate this ancient exercise, art or whatever it is.

I bought this mat after going for physical therapy, where I realized the great benefits of stretching. Now, I’m determined to master yoga and get my black belt — or whatever they give you when you’re valedictorian of the yoga class.

The therapist said my body was VERY tense, like a piano tuned too tight. Stiff neck, back aches, joint pain and a few other ailments that I attribute to barometric pressure, stress and the full moon. (To deal with this problem, I’m also doing deep breathing. Wait a minute while I breathe in and hold my breath for 15 seconds before passing out...OK, I’m back. A little light-headed however.)

Yoga will loosen my tense muscles, so every morning I get on the floor in the hallway because there isn’t enough room anywhere else for my mat unless I put it on the bed. But my wife doesn’t appreciate me going into the cobra pose while she’s sleeping.

I do a medley of moves I learned from watching YouTube. I stretch, I bend, I strain, I pant, I blow, I turn myself into a human pretzel. Anyway, it’s hard to pretzelize yourself — that’s a professional term known only to yogis — while you’re following directions from a 22-year-old woman on your iPad. The first time my wife caught me watching those videos she thought it was porn, but I assured her it was only Yogini Sasha, or Yogi Bear or whatever her name is.

I later discovered classes called “Yogaesse,” designed to help your hips and pelvis. The workout was led by Waka Yogi, a Japanese instructor who demonstrated 30 poses to increase your flexibility. She said, “It’s fun for men and women of all ages.” But probably more fun for men. Just for the record, Waka’s motto is “Live life, love yoga!”

A little known fact: Did you realize that “yoga” spelled backward almost spells “Goya,” but I don’t know what that means.

Yoga began in India around 3000 BCE, long before the advent of YouTube and stretchable yoga pants. Yoga is supposed to help you physically, mentally and spiritually and lead you to Nirvana — wait a minute, that’s zen.

This week I plan to buy a yoga suit, including form-fitting tights like they wear in performances of “Swan Lake” at the New York City Ballet. It’s no fun doing yoga in your BVDs, and I think the neighbors are starting to worry.

I tried to get my wife to join me, but when she saw me in the traditional twisted pretzel pose she blurted out, “That’s disgusting.” To make matters worse, the dog kept chewing on my yoga mat.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself. Maybe too much. So much I sprained a muscle, either my gluteus maximus, my hamstring or my hambone. I’m not sure which muscle it is, but as they say, “No strain, no gain.”

The first thing the therapist said when I limped back into the office was, “Not again.” I’m probably the only guy who left physical therapy worse than when he went in.

Special thanks to Fran and John Scippa, who read my recent column and showed me where I can buy soaking salts with olive oil and fig. Italian bread not included.

Joe Pisani can be reached at joefpisani@yahoo.com.