Hard men don’t do Yoga. We don’t get in touch with our bodies or massage our inner beings. There’s too much ice in our veins for them to be coursing with love and gratitude. When something hurts, we punish it. It either heals or it breaks. The pain, the soreness only makes us harder.
It still stings to write this, but a few months ago I turned in my Hardman Club Card. I felt obligated. Denying it any longer would have only made me feel cheap and dirty. Still, I couldn’t help but feel I was making a mistake. What had happened?
I was only going to try it…just one short session, just to see what it was like. I thought, ‘how bad can it really be?’ It seemed everybody was doing it. Hell, one of my best friends had gotten himself tangled badly in the stuff, and he still seemed normal.
I did Yoga. In a poorly lit hotel room on the outskirts of San Jose, Costa Rica, the furniture thrown up and beds piled against the wall, I rode the downward dog. Ignoring the strange sounds, I huffed and groaned and sweated through a 45-minute video. The stretches erased my amateur grip on flexibility. Good God, could the body really bend like that? Legs shaking, arms trembling, every tendon on the verge of snapping, I thanked God and collapsed when finally Yogi Master called for ‘total relaxation pose’. There on my back dripping little tears of sweat, I surrendered. The feeling was not so much a release of tension as a crush of relaxation. I sat up a few minutes later and felt for the usual pain in my back, neck, and forearms. It was gone. I panicked. The Hardness was gone. The following day I slipped into a kayak for the first time in three years without wincing. It felt like I was paddling with a new back. I cranked out attainments, made a hundred eddy turns, and hit move after move in the play hole. ‘Holy Buddha!’ I thought. Whatever Yogi Master had done, it felt incredible. At the end of the day, however, the old Hardness returned. It was different now, not the trusted confidant of before. It felt like a pal, one of those life-sucking, ‘good-time’ friends that you just can’t shake. Tired and stiff, I tried stretching – the bending motions I saw Yogi Master doing on the video – to try and release the tension. My back cracked. My knees creaked. My neck went pop-pop-pop with every turn. With each bend, bands of soreness released and I realized that being Hard was stupid. You actually could paddle without pain. You could paddle longer, harder, faster, and just downright better. It’s been almost 6 months now since they took my card.
I wish I could say I regret it. But the yogi-peace has filled me with a tranquil wisdom. With this newfound agility, flexibility, and budding yogi-strength, I’m just a better paddler now…even if I am soft.