Downward Facing Dog

Originally published in Curve Magazine MAR/APR 2016 VOLUME 26#2

Downward Facing DogSweat dripped down my face and landed on the mat beneath me. By the time this class was over, I would be a wrung-out, overstretched mess. The instructor—a lithe, limber twenty-something with a strong, lean core that matched every other part of her—should have issued a warning at the start of class that all the fluids inside my body would be on the outside when we finished.

Hot Yoga. As if twisting my body into poses straight out of Torture and Torment for Dummies wasn’t hellish enough, someone decided it was a good idea to add an extra thirty degrees. Clearly, that person needed to die. I’d get on that right after I killed Sharon, my ex-best friend who had convinced me this would be a fun, relaxing weekend getaway.

Sharon, of course, moved smoothly from pose to pose, looking as natural in these unnatural positions as the instructor. The two of them were probably secret evil twins plotting my imminent, muscle-melted demise.

“Shift your hips slightly forward.” Amber, the instructor, guided my body into the position she wanted. She left her hands in place—one flat against my lower back, the other high on the outside of my leg—a beat or two longer than was strictly necessary. She spoke in a warm, inappropriately seductive tone. “There, how’s that?”

Her voice, as lithe and limber as her body, wound its way through my brain, stifling my ability to think. God help me, between the heat, her hands on my body, and her voice in my ear, all I could do was stammer out an inelegant response. “Umm, yeah, sure. Better.”

“Good.” She gave my leg a little squeeze before she stepped away to lead the rest of the class into another pose.

I shifted along with the group, hyperaware of my movements and of Amber as she made her way between the rows. I watched closely as she interacted with other students, evaluating the way she touched them, the way she spoke. She was perfunctory. Professional. Completely dispassionate.

Clearly, I had hallucinated the sexual overtures in Amber’s contact with me. The heat had affected me more than I’d realized.

As we moved into downward facing dog, Sharon caught my attention. She smiled and winked and mouthed, “Holy crap!”

We’d been friends since third grade, when I’d punched Bobby McElroy square in the nose for kicking dirt on her during a heated game of tag. Blood ran down his face and ruined the new shirt his mom had bought especially for school pictures that day. I was sent to the principal’s office and then home to my mother. I missed the photo shoot that year, and Bobby’s pictures featured him with swollen, purple bruising and a splotchy red stain on the front of his shirt.

Since then, we’d been inseparable. If Sharon noted Amber’s flirting, then perhaps I wasn’t losing my mind after all. I returned her smile, and the heat of a blush crept over my face. Or maybe it was just the blood rushing to my head because my ass was in the air and my head was down near my calves.

Amber made her way back to me. This time she didn’t speak, but her hand glided sensuously over my backside. It wasn’t the kind of grab-ass maneuver I’d learned to avoid during the disastrous six weeks I spent as a cocktail waitress at a hotel near the airport. Rather, it was a flowing movement of her hand over my body that was so smooth, I couldn’t tell the exact moment it started or ended. I was, however, acutely aware of the answering pulse of excitement low in my belly, along with the eruption of goose bumps rising on my flesh.

She didn’t linger, and as soon as I felt her caress, it was gone. The rest of the class continued in much the same way. Amber led us through the remainder of the poses, offering encouragement and calming direction to the other students. She returned to me time and again until my body was on fire. I completely forgot about my hatred of all things yoga.

“Take a deep cleansing breath. Feel the energy as it flows through your body and let yourself sink into the floor beneath you.” Amber stood at the front of the room, guiding us through the final position of her session, corpse pose. It was the one asana that I inherently understood since all that was expected of me was to lay flat on my back and breathe deeply.

“Rest here for a few moments and, when you feel ready, gather yourself and rise. Thank you for joining me for sunrise yoga this morning. I hope to see you all tomorrow as well,” Amber said, effectively dismissing the class and me along with it.

I lay there, uncertain what to do next. Clearly, standing was my first step, but then what? Should I approach her and pretend I was cool enough to be hit on by hot, bendy chicks all the time? Or run from the class and hide in my room like the uncertain twelve-year-old boy I was on the inside?

The other students rose one at a time until the only people left in the room were me, Sharon, and Amber. Sharon finally stood, rolled up her mat, and moved to stand over me. She nudged my leg with her foot. “Get up.”

I held out my hand and let her help me to my feet. I still hadn’t decided what to do about Amber, but standing was easy. As I collected my mat, Sharon said something about meeting me outside. Then, in true best friend form, she left.

Amber smiled at me, lopsided and sexy, and said, “Just us, then.” Her voice held that same deep hint of seduction, and any hope I had of playing this cool dissolved into a puddle at my feet.

“Uh…yeah.” I immediately wanted to give Amber a copy of my CV to prove that I was capable of engaging in proper conversation and that, despite evidence to the contrary, a large part of my income was derived from this very skill. “Looks like.”

“You did great today.” Amber stepped closer until she was near enough that the hairs on my arms stood up, but not so close that our bodies touched. “I have another class in about ten minutes.”

As proof, students started to file into the room.

“Oh.” So much for my rapidly forming fantasy involving me, her, and a modified rabbit pose.

“Will you meet me for drinks tonight? In the lounge?” She gave me a smoldering look, her head tipped down slightly as she looked up through her lashes and sucked her bottom lip between her teeth.

I nodded like a bobble-headed version of myself. We agreed on a time, and then, because the room was full and the new students were staring, I left.

Instead of murdering Sharon, I decided to reinstate her best-friend status. Hot yoga, it turned out, wasn’t so bad after all.



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