fiction by Laura McCorry
Carl sat on the crinkly paper of an examining table waiting for his doctor. He kicked his feet and glanced around for a magazine. As a grown man, he felt ridiculous when his feet didn’t touch the floor. Carl was there for his annual check up, something his wife (and his health insurance) insisted on since he turned fifty.
He took a deep breath and let it out, slow and controlled. The practiced measure of that breath and the peace that followed marked a groundswell of change in Carl’s life from the year before.
A year ago, Carl had sat in the exact same spot, not knowing what to expect, feeling irritated that he had to take time out of his busy work day to be there.
A year ago, Carl had expected to hear that everything was fine, that he was a marvel of health despite the fact that he rarely exercised and regularly indulged in rich food and drink.
A year ago, Carl’s doctor told him that unless he made significant changes, he would need to take daily medication and adjust his expectations for his future quality of life.
Looking back, Carl could see the signs. But at the time, it was too easy to justify the way he was feeling. His back hurt because he wasn’t twenty years old anymore. Lots of people complained of indigestion. He carried some weight around his middle, but so did nearly all of his colleagues the same age as him. If it was normal, it couldn’t be that bad, he reasoned.
Despite telling himself it was a normal part of aging, Carl didn’t like the way he looked in the mirror. And every time he lay down at night, the aching muscles in his back would start to relax a bit which ironically made them ache even more. Laying next to his sleeping wife, he knew deep down that there had to be something more he could do.
It was that routine visit to the doctor that opened his eyes.
“What do you do to move your body?” Dr. Beamer asked, looking Carl in the eye over the rim of his glasses.
“I throw a tennis ball for the dog in the backyard,” Carl joked to avoid the question. He moved through his life with a minimum of movement, from his bed to the breakfast table. From his car to his desk. From the dinner table to his recliner. From his recliner to his bed.
“What have you tried before?” the doctor’s gaze hadn’t flinched, bless him.
“I used to play basketball with some buddies,” Carl offered.
Dr. Beamer nodded his head. “I’m not saying don’t try it, but go easy. Basketball at your age, after a long hiatus, can be hard on the knees.”
And then he said the fateful words Carl had never expected to hear:
“Have you ever considered doing yoga?”
No, Carl had never considered yoga. In his mind, yoga was something his wife did. But that evening, when Carl told his wife about the doctor’s suggestion, she didn’t tease him or gloat. Instead, she simply messaged him the online schedule for Yoga One, the studio in Downtown San Diego where she’d been practicing for the past five years.
Carl looked at the schedule and thought about his week. Fridays were pretty easy, he could often take a half day or work from home. He scanned the list of classes and instructors and saw one that popped out at him: Level 1 and 2 Flow with Michael Caldwell.
He borrowed his wife’s yoga mat and changed at work into a t-shirt and a pair of lounge pants. Carl felt nervous. He didn’t want to be noticed as new.
Even though he arrived early, there were still quite a few people already picking out spots in the bright upstairs studio. At the front of the room, a tall man in a t-shirt and comfortable pants talked and laughed with the regulars.
“Hi, I’m Michael,” the man introduced himself. He asked if Carl had any injuries or questions and they chatted briefly about the Padres. Carl didn’t know exactly what he had expected from a yoga teacher, but he felt reassured and intrigued.
The yoga class was harder than Carl had expected. Somewhere along the way, he’d gotten the idea that yoga was mostly sitting on the floor stretching and lying down relaxing. Not in this class! These people were moving and sweating and working hard.
There was a lot that Carl couldn’t do, but instead of discouraging him, he only wanted to try harder. Every time Michael guided the class into a difficult pose, he acknowledged it and encouraged each student to stay and breathe or back off and rest. By the end of the class, Carl was beginning to feel as though the yoga was more about what was going on in his own body instead of what the other bodies in the room were capable of doing.
It only took one class and Carl was hooked. At first he was doing yoga at his wife’s studio for his health. Before long though, Carl knew he was practicing yoga for himself. He loved the way it challenged both his strength and his stillness. It was no longer his wife’s studio, Yoga One had become like a second home, a place where they both found friends and community.
There was a knock on the door and the doctor walked into the examining room.
“Hi there, Carl,” Dr. Beamer looked up from a clipboard and raised his eyebrows as he smiled at Carl. “You’re looking good!”
“I feel good,” Carl replied with a proud smile.
“I bet,” said the doctor. “Your chart says you’ve lost some weight and, this I can’t believe, you’re an inch taller than last year. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”
They discussed how to manage some of the health problems Carl was still experiencing but he was relieved to hear that the focus had shifted from management to prevention. Yoga hadn’t cured everything that was wrong, but it had pushed Carl into a long-lost relationship with his body. Now it didn’t matter so much what he looked like, it mattered how he felt — and Carl felt better than ever.
Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.