11: Slow Flow

I argued my first legal case when I was nineteen. I got a speeding ticket, the night before Christmas Eve, while driving my friends to look at Christmas lights during our first holiday home from college.

I knew what it felt like to soar past the speed limit, heading east on highway fifty, and was certain I hadn’t been doing it, that night. When I asked to see his radar gun, the cop who pulled me over claimed he used his odometer to track my speed. He wrote “80+” on the ticket, an error of imprecision he might have thought twice about if he’d known I would be a lawyer some day. Nothing about his side of the story made sense and I was confident I could evade the fine by fast talking my way through a more accurate account of the events in court.

And so I did.

The judge told me I made an “impressive argument” and reduced what I owed to the minimum amount. I left the courtroom with a sense of pride and accomplishment, peeled out of the parking lot, and sped home.

In three years I racked up three more speeding tickets. Most memorably, Kern County earned 900 hundred of my dad’s dollars after I was pulled over tearing down the grapevine in my ’93 Honda Civic.

I drive fast, like my dad. But with worse luck and less intimidation. My dad is 62 and still without a moving violation. He told me once that he has an “aura” that people “don’t want to fuck with.” “You can drive as fast as you want, Boney, as long as nobody wants to pull you over.”

That was right after the grapevine debacle, and I haven’t been ticketed since.

I do other stuff fast, too.

I talk fast and walk fast and am a hyper-efficient shopper. I get through crowds and lines at Disneyland like I have a superpower for it. I think fast. I read fast and I cook fast, too.

I like to rev it up and “get ‘er done” and get bored if I’m just sitting. My favorite days end with me in a gelatinous blob of fatigue, on my couch, completely spent from at least eight hours of adventure.

In college, I was famous for racing up “Bruinwalk,” with an arm full of supplies for my mentoring program. Bruinwalk is a steep, narrow path that leads to all the humanities classrooms at UCLA. I was always running late and typically tackling it at full speed. It’s common to see people you know on such a crowded stretch of land, and, whenever I did, they told me “you look so busy,” and “can I help you with that?”

“I got it.”

And I’d scamper off to my next, important destination.

I signed up for a beginner’s yoga series during the last quarter of my senior year. At the end of the first class, I wondered when we would get to the exercise.

“I can’t possibly be getting my money’s worth from two or three lunges and a bunch of flopping around on the floor.”

But as I came to my feet and packed up my stuff, I felt undeniably different.

This isn’t my “fell in love with yoga” story, though. I finished out the series, but didn’t pursue it after that. I couldn’t find an hour in my day to just “stretch a little.” There were too many other things to do.

Four months after I graduated, I found Santa Monica Power Yoga. We moved quickly, through many poses, and spent more time on our feet. I sweat, and struggled and had difficulty finding my breath.

By the time I hit savasana, I was a gelatinous blob of fatigue.

I came back to the studio “to get my ass kicked,” and I’ve been a power yogi ever since. The strong, athletic practice, the sweat on my face and heat in the room and burn in my legs when we’re lunging. The swift, endless vinyasas through fluid sun salutations, and, later, a powerful, aggressive flow.

For the last seven years, it’s brought me back to my mat, six days a week.

And for the first five years, my yoga practice mirrored, but never altered, the pace of my life.

Only recently, the impact of seven years of yoga reveals itself to me as the pleasure of slowing down. The beauty of cuddling with my mom’s dogs, on her floor, for twenty minutes at a time. Waking up early to sip coffee and sit in silence, before the fury of the day takes shape. Meditation, time by myself, reading, reflecting, breathing.

The love of a deep, slow, yin practice, after a long day of work.

This morning, I took a power vinyasa class from the teacher of the fiercest, fastest flow in town.

Today, we move slowly, and deliberately, through a mindful, simple sequence with an emphasis on our breath. There are fewer chattarungas and not as many droplets of sweat. In savasana, my whole body relaxes as the room gets completely dark. A sensation of full surrender comes over me and the transformation that first brought me back to my yoga mat is renewed again.

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