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Part 26
New York, Sunday April 11

10:35 p.m.
Ooooffff... My body feels so sore. I fantasize about a tall muscular blond guy named Sven to throw me on his massage table and give me the therapy of a lifetime. As it is, I will just have to settle for a glass of wine to numb the pain in my joints and a pleasant slumber to chase away the nightmare of today.

This morning mAmAn came home from the mall with the bright idea that we were all going to start doing yoga. Apparently Nurse Amber had advised her that these types of breathing and physical exercises could relieve some of my dad's stress. So of course she went straight to Blockbuster and picked the first video off the New Age shelf. She also bought all three of us these ridiculous White Mu-Mu dresses kind of like the ones Arab Sheikhs wear on T.V. because she had heard you are supposed to wear loose floating clothes during yoga. We reluctantly decided to humour her and this is how we found ourselves at 8:00 in the morning sitting in a lotus position on ghAlichehs (since my mom couldn't find "sticky mats"), facing our television screen, with Indian cytthar sounds blaring from the stereo.

The video began. I braced myself and turned to my dad. He just winked at me.

A very thin middle-aged woman in a black leotard materialized in what seemed to be a dance studio. Her black hair was pulled back and a very long braid rested on her shoulder, coming down to her stomach. She was sitting on a sticky mat on the floor, in the same lotus position as the three of us. So far so good.

"My name is Majjima Patipada and today is the day we will begin Bikram's Yoga."

Now you must understand the only exposure I had ever had to yoga or Buddhism at this point, was being stuck in rush-hour behind a Tennessee-plated pick-up truck with the bumper sticker "My Karma ran over my Dharma"!

Majjima told us to listen to our bodies. Unfortunately, my body kept telling me to get out of here and go for a nice Moccaccino at Starbucks. The dialog continued:

"The first step in yoga is to learn how to breathe."

Wow! Where was she when I was being delivered by Caesarian section from my mother's belly? Instead of the doctor slapping me on that backk to welcome me in the world, Majjima could have taught me how to take my first breath and now I wouldn't have to re-learn it!

"Breaaaathhheee... deeeeeppppp... forget about your stresssssss... Close your eyes and picture a Mountain... a tall majestic mountain..."

I closed my eyes and thought of Julie Andrews singing in the Austrian Alps at the beginning of Sound of Music.

Majjima wouldn't give up though.

"Now repeat after me... (Inhale) Down... Majestic... Mountain (Exhale)... Into... Endless... Ocean... (Inhale)... Still... A small.... River (Exhale)."

On cue, we began to repeat the formula, some of us better than others. My mother as usual, unphased, improvised her own version: "Don't... Najess the Mountain... Into... Hairless... Ocean... Still... A small... fever..."

After the breathing exercises, Majjima proceeded into a series of physical poses that a contortionist at the Cirque du Soleil couldn't have succeeded in emulating. Of course my mom and dad created their own little routine while I got yelled at if I even tried to take an easy way out.

-- "To javouni, bAyad har chi Majjima migeh bokoni!!!"

My Mind was mocking me the whole time: Look at that! Your belly is too round. You can't get your right arm to touch your left toe. Bend your right knee behind you so that you are resting on your butt cheeks?

That's just terrific! How can you do that posture? Impossible!!!

My body responded: "She said to do the best we can. Relax and remember how flexible you were as a kid. You used to be able to do the split and stand up again."

Mind: "That's because I apparently had no bones back then. I must have been the spawn of an alien with bones made of Jell-O. Mmmm... Strawberyy Jell-O..."

Body: "Breathe, stretching, now arms up straight!"

Mind: "Remember the hairless mountain down into the River wild... Oh wait how did that go... Aowww... Can't keep the arms up that long -- Can't breathe, gonna faint. Arms down right NOW!"

The arms came down, just as Majjima was saying to everyone "Keep the arms up strong -- you can do it! Don't give up."

Body: "We're okay, now. Arms up again. We can do it. Please help us! We need you to resist our weakness."

Mind: "But I really don't want to! Come on! I already gave up smoking for you! What more do you want Biy-atch!"

Body: "Yes, anger is good... Keep going..."

Mind: "Whew, we did it! Holy smokes we're still breathing,... still ALIVE!"

While doing our best impression of a human pretzel, a knock on the glass door leading to our back yard startled the three of us and our three heads turned towards the direction of the sound.

Standing in our backyard, holding a cake in her arms stood Nance, flanked on each side by her husband Hossein and cousin-in-law Ali. I don't know who looked more horrified between the six of us.

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