17th Street Review

Yoga with Adriene

Ingrid Nelson

Yoga Visual.jpg

1) In the dorm we all took showers together. Everyone on our floor shared one bathroom. It smelled like underwear and food, and something else. I think the other smell was milk, little plastic wax cups of milk. It was hot. Vinyl sticky curtains divided the room into segments for each shower head, except for one segment, which had two shower heads, but no one ever said why, and only one person would use that shower at a time.

2) It was winter and it was always snowing the kind of snow that when you touch it it hurts your hands. The snow wasn’t snow that made something, snowmen, snowballs, nothing grew. It was old snow, old gray ice, sitting around in the background. When I looked outside, it was all I saw, white and gray.

3) My roommate, Kris, was obsessed with our classmate, Nathan Hine. Our dorm was large and modern, and from our window, we could see another large and modern dorm. In the dark, in the snow, it looked silver, but in daylight it was brown. Kris said through the window, and then through the other, outside window, she could see Nathan, alone in his room. Can’t you tell, she said, that’s him. Nathan had great posture and I suspected he was a kajilianaire. Facing towards the window, Kris did an imitation of his awesome posture by sticking her chest out and extending her neck. She never put it into words that she liked him, she just looked out the window. His posture stood for something else, I realized, maybe. Like the outside of him was a reflection of the inside of him. He looked exactly the way he wanted to look. I saw on Facebook he owned a pony. When he talked he talked slowly, so what he said came out sounding longer than what it meant.

4) Me and Kris had met the year before, when we were 18, at a meeting of something called the “Contemporary Thinkers Society” which we both didn’t end up joining. Relax your face, she had said to me, you need to relax your face. I laughed at that. It sounded mean but she hadn’t said it in a serious way. Kris had a way of revealing everything to actually be incredibly funny. If you were clever enough, and careful enough, and paid enough attention to everything, nothing was boring, everything was interesting, everything was lit up and a delight.

5) I had never taken a shower so close to another person before. It reminded me of reality TV, how you could know every detail about someone, by seeing so many different images of them, over and over, private and up close. When you saw every moment of someone’s life, it was like sharing a secret with someone, because you knew what they looked like, when they took a shower, but they didn’t know that you had a secret with them. They just thought you were taking a shower too. This sounds like I was doing something bad, or perverted, or putting a lot of emotional emphasis on something unimportant I shouldn’t have put the emphasis on, but I couldn’t help it. Everyone must have had this experience, the way the bathroom of the dorm was set up. It just happened intuitively in the shower. It was like when you plant a tree and then the tree just grows. You can’t control it, that’s how it worked.

6) The Yoga with Adriene videos were free on Youtube. The videos were called “Yoga with Adriene” and in my head I called her this, like it was her name, Yoga with Adriene. But really, her name was just Adriene. The name became like a type of magic word that signified everything in my brain. I started doing the videos in our room when Kris was out. I wouldn’t want to do them in front of her because I didn’t want her to see my body stretching and my body was disgusting. After I finished the disconcerting image of my baggy paunch stretching burned electrifying on my brain. I didn’t have a yoga mat, and I didn’t know where to get one, so I did the videos on the floor of our room with my computer positioned in front of me. It was carpeted in a blue, hard material that wasn’t like a carpet. It was just material on the floor. Our room smelled bad, but we didn’t care. No one else went in, and we didn’t talk to anyone else. We were best friends. Once I found an old sanitary pad, with a streak of blood on it, underneath my desk. I didn’t know how it got there, that was just how our room was.

7) We walked in a tunnel from the basement of our dorm to the academic buildings. It was called “The Secret Tunnel” but it wasn’t a secret. The college actually encouraged us to use it so we wouldn’t get dangerous exposure to the cold. It was dark and smelled damp, it reminded me of a what a church was like. It felt ancient but we never talked about it, how the tunnel felt.

8) When I did the videos I didn’t become closer to Yoga with Adriene, I just got better at yoga. The amount of time I spent with her was definitely weird, I just spent a lot of time doing the videos. No one will ever love you just because you love them, she was just in the videos.

9) Kris looked out the window. She didn’t say what she was doing but I guessed she was looking at the little figure of Nathan. I watched her. She pushed her hair behind her ears, as if she was even trying to listen to him. She turned and looked at a poster she had hung, earlier this semester, it was of Lady Gaga. I don’t remember why I like Lady Gaga, she said. You said you got the poster, I whispered, because you liked her music. Of course I did, you idiot, she said, laughing.

10) The Yoga with Adriene videos were eight to forty minutes long. There were hundreds of them. Millions of people watched. She was beloved. She had a soft, warm, loving, open face and what most people would call the perfect body.

11) Yoga with Adriene had a special way of saying bad things while smiling so they sounded sounded like good things. I imagined her saying hard, difficult, unpleasant news to me, in her nice, soothing voice. I could imagine her saying things to me, pretend things to me, in my head, in a way that felt real.

12) I didn’t like people to see me because it made me aware of myself, and I didn’t like the way I looked. Yoga with Adriene couldn’t see me.

13) When I did the videos enough, the rooms between us seemed to meld. The dorm around me seemed to flow into the space of the video, as if I were becoming part of it. Obviously, that wasn’t true. The videos were like if I were somehow transported inside of a painting, and then I was looking at all the rest of life from inside. Like being extra alive in a good way, like suddenly I didn’t have to feel myself any more. Maybe this was the reason for doing yoga, the reason for doing anything, to not have to think.

14) Looking at the other girls in the shower made my body ache with ugliness. The images of them passed through me again and again, they were inside of me like pieces of chopped up glass. When I saw myself in the mirror it hurt. My arms felt wide. The veins inside of me glowed blue and green, like the disconcerting inner layer to a piece of rotten fruit.

Like when you see something that’s beautiful and realize something else, next to it, is not beautiful.

15) Our room was 130 square feet. Our beds were made of that cheap pale looking wood that no one likes. My bed was across from Kris’ bed so that when I woke up I sat up with my arms around my knees in the dark and looked right at her.

16) I imagined the river, near the college, freezing over. I imagined the things underneath the water freezing over too. I imagined the fish, and the eels, and the dirt, and the bodies that must be under the water, all frozen over.

17) Whenever Kris came into our room, I would immediately stop doing the videos and sit

cross legged on the floor and pretend to look at my laptop like I had been studying or something. Why do you stop, Kris would say, I know what you were doing. She didn’t say what it was she knew I was doing.

18) I think you can have a secret with another person without ever telling it to them, just based on staring at them. I think the secret can grow and grow, like grass.

19) I wanted Yoga with Adriene to love me back. I wanted her to love me. I wanted her to care about my life.

20) I didn’t know that Nathan Hine taught yoga in the rec center until Kris invited me to go to one of his classes with her. Students could teach classes in the rec center, but they were a select few, the very fit students. I know you won’t say yes, she said brusquely, when she asked me. We were sitting in the cafeteria together, eating what we ate for every meal, the pasta bar. Her eyes were lit up with something violent, like the inside of her was about to come out, a bowl about to spill over. Oh, of course I’ll come, I said. I tried to sound impenetrable, like an innocent animal. I looked down at the handful of pasta on my plate, it was gray like mud. For some reason, the pasta was always gray, but we always ate it.

21) Sometimes I couldn’t help but see myself through Kris’ eyes. This made me feel ashamed, like there’s something wrong with me. Sometimes Kris would take photos of me, and I couldn’t recognize myself. It made me feel like I would never see things the way she could see something. Yoga with Adriene wasn’t the kind of thing that I would talk about with her. It was just a thing inside of my head I never wanted to share with other people. I didn’t say, oh do you ever do Yoga with Adriene? It was mine.

22) I’m sorry, I said to Kris, are you annoyed? Me? said Kris, No. I mean, I said, I definitely want to go to the yoga class.

23) Once in the night when I was mostly asleep I heard a soft, pounding noise, and for a moment I thought it was Kris’ heart, but then I realized it wasn’t her heart, it was a radiator. I didn’t tell her this after, of course. To her, there were basically no noises. She was sleeping.

24) We had to emerge from “The Secret Tunnel” to go to the rec center. The rec center was also underground, so we had to go back underground to go to the yoga class.

25) Teaching yoga, Nathan Hine looked neat and attractive. He looked muscular and flexible and thin and the gym wall was painted blue behind him. His pale pink arms and legs moving up and down reminded me of the petals of a flower opening and closing. I watched Kris do a smile automatically at him and then put it out on her face, and replace it with a neutral, controlled, careful look. When she leaned forward, I noticed, she had something stuck to her butt. She had on black shorts and there was a little white piece of paper laying across the back of her like a leaf. I didn’t tell her it was there, somehow it felt like it would have been too crude to tell her.

26) In one of the videos I don’t tell Kris about, Yoga with Adriene says, the awesome in me bows to the awesome in you. What she said sounded unbelievably dumb obviously, but at the time it sounded incredibly meaningful, almost mystistical. Like it could fix myself, or my body. If I showed Kris one of the videos, it would surely not have the same effect on her. It would just be a video, or a dumb thing a woman on Youtube said, it could never capture what it really was.

27) It wasn’t that I didn’t want to tell Kris about Yoga with Adriene, but it would have been very difficult, or actually impossible, to explain. I would have to explain not just that I had been actually sitting on the floor, not doing my homework, and not doing yoga videos. That wouldn’t even been the truth, that I was just doing yoga videos. I’d have to go back before that, and explain something more too.

28) Once, Kris kissed me on the lips. She kissed me on the lips, just for a second. It was weird to touch her, to figure out that she was just as solid as I was. This sounds like this was a romantic moment, but it wasn’t. It was hard to describe what it was. It was like when you rub your arm against someone else’s arm, but more on purpose. We were sitting on our beds, which looked the same, and we were both reading the book for class “The Sorrows of the Young Werther” which is written in letters. This is so boring, God, she had said, and then she had walked over to my bed and done the kiss. My legs were clenched forwards, I realized afterwards, as if I was holding something closed in place with my feet.

29) Nothing happened, of course, between Kris and Nathan Hine, after we took the yoga class. As far as I know, she never spoke to him again, or ever. We walked back to the dorm in the cold, the wind blowing painfully on our faces. That night we sat close together on Kris’ bed and watched a movie about someone going to law school, the ice falling against our window hard like little wings.

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