#SurvivalTip: It’s not stalking if you show your face.
I was a glutton for punishment. No doubt in my mind I was in over my head and needed professional help. I had driven to the yoga studio in the next town where Avery taught. Now, I sat in my car, engine still running, willing myself to get the hell out. I watched her through the window. She was in a hot pink sports bra and soft grey leggings. Her hair was in its signature ponytail. There was a bounce in her step as she walked around the empty space of the studio pouring oil into the diffusers. She was in her zen arena, and I had no rational way of explaining my motive other than this woman had Owen and walked away. Why? There had to be something twisted inside her. Some narcissism or schizophrenia that would compel her to leave a man who was pretty close to perfect.
Convinced I had boarded the train to crazy town, I knew I had to get out of here before she saw me. A rap on my window caused me to jump and let out a yelp. I turned to my left, horrified to see Holly standing outside my car door. I lowered my window. “Oh my God! I thought that was you! What are you doing here?” She was practically bouncing.
“Um, Avery had invited me a few times, but my stomach is a little funky… bad sushi… so I think I’m going to head out.”
“Nonsense. Yoga is great for the digestive system. Come on, you’re going to freak over this class. Avery is amazing. You’ll love her.”
“Avery! Look who I found outside!” Holly grabbed my arm as if I might run away if she didn’t hold on to me. I didn’t blame her. There was a good chance I would flee at the first opportunity. Like a cat in an alley, scouring out the corners, looking for a place to hide, I was in full blown feral mode. If Avery came too close, there was a good chance I’d scratch her.
Avery was overjoyed to see me, her mouth agape as she waved her arms. It was exactly how a cult leader would look if they were trying to lull me into a false sense of security. Her eyes were the size of saucers as she ran over to me, and her beautiful features suddenly held an alien quality to them.
“No way!” She pulled me into a deep hug. Damn this chick was solid. She was smaller than me, and it freaked me out, because I was pretty sure she could kick my ass. “I can’t believe you came! This is amazing. I’m telling you, after tonight, you will be hooked, right, Holly?”
“She’s so right. I swear if I miss a session, my body is quick to let me know—total withdrawal. I need this every week.”
“Have you taken yoga before, Ms. Quinn?”
“You can call me Piper.” It was clear they were all on a first name basis, and I didn’t want to be the old lady rigid in formality. I sized up Avery, trying to decipher how old she was. Owen was my year in school so we were the same age, but this woman, with her flawless skin that had never seen the sun without being protected in SPF 50, was still soaking in the glory of a body that was barely three decades old. “Not really. A few times here or there, but nothing too advanced. I’m not very flexible,” I admitted.
“Well, flexibility comes with practice, and that’s what this is. I don’t see it as exercise so much as a way of life.” Damn she was serious. “I need water every day. I need food, I need sleep. I also need yoga.”
There were at least ten other women in the room, and so I walked toward the back, but Holly grabbed my arm and told me to sit next to her. She unfurled her yoga mat, and that’s when I realized I hadn’t brought one.
“Avery has extra.” Holly jogged over to the corner and pulled a grey mat from the box. She laid it out in front of me, revealing the turquoise lotus flower that was printed in the center. I thanked Holly and sat on the lotus flower, copying Avery, who was now seated on the floor.
“Welcome back everyone.” Avery’s voice was silky smooth.
Avery folded her legs in front of her in a way I referred to in kindergarten as “pretzel style” and took a few deep breaths. Her eyes were closed, and I soon became aware that everyone around me had also closed their eyes, trusting Avery’s voice to take them on this meditative journey. That was asking a lot of me, but not about to be caught staring at her, I closed my eyes and tried my best to breathe in a way that was not natural at all.
The breathing lasted a long time, and although I was supposed to be letting my thoughts melt away and empty my mind of heaviness, I was too busy burying myself in clutter as I tacked up insecurity after insecurity. The anxiety reached new heights when we were actually expected to transition from breathing to different animal poses. I didn’t know I’d have to be a cat, cow, cobra, and dog all in one flow. We were moving from downward dog to plank to cobra when Avery tilted her head, got up, and walked over to me. Crap. I was doing something wrong.
“Come back up to downward facing dog.” I did as she instructed and was surprised when she came behind me and held my hips. “Okay, you want to open up your hips more, spread your legs a bit wider, and really fall back into this stretch.” She kept one hand on my left hip, her right hand rested gently on my back. I hoped I wasn’t sweaty.
“Your goal is to have your heels touch the ground. It won’t happen right away.” She got beside me, mimicking the proper pose. My hamstrings were burning, which caused my legs to tremble. The blood rushed to my head; I raised my gaze and caught what we looked like in the mirror. It was a bad decision. The mirror only exposed how I felt— disoriented and in physical pain, while Avery bent over beside me, modeling the pose with ease.
“You want your body to become an upside down V. See?” I nodded and prayed she’d move on to another victim. The gods must have shown pity on me because she bounced back up and went to the front to show us the next pose.