Grace remembers...


“You are going to age badly.”


Grace sat up in her seat. “I’m only twenty-five!”


“Where do you get off saying something like that?”

He ignored her, as though his previous pronunciation was something brought back from a future only he was privy to. One that was written in stone. She looked over at the man she knew as Carlos. They were barreling down a highway somewhere in New Mexico, she didn’t know where and she didn’t care. All she knew was that she was with the man she loved and that he was the devil’s own bastard. The father of her child. The child who was now asleep in the backseat.

“You’re driving too fast.”

He didn’t even bother to reply, the cocky cast of his features never changing, always with that smug look that he was the only one in on the grandest joke in all of Creation.

He wasn’t even wearing a seatbelt.

He never did.

His hand reached out and turned on the radio. The distinctive guitar intro to Hotel California filled the car. How appropriate, she thought.

Carlos smiled.

Now all we need are some hitchhikers.

Grace remembered when she’d first met him. It was during a yoga retreat. By that time, Grace was quite an accomplished yogini. Or so she thought. She’d been there when it all got started, when YogaTM first hit North America, brought by a photographer friend to her first class. It had been amazing. Something, some affinity deep inside her, made itself known in a way she could not deny.

The classes were small back then – pay what you could and leave it in the small sandalwood box when you departed, after a long and soothing Shivasana. That was before classes got to fifty or more, seven times a day, with a mandatory $50 ‘donation’, in cash, of course. Suddenly, newly minted yoga ‘gurus’ were driving around in SUV’s and schools were merging in a money-orgy not dissimilar to corporate whore-mating.

Grace had tried them all before she came to Upward Dog. Kundalini, Yoga-Boxing (as bad as it sounded), Ohm-Yoga (if you liked your chanting with shameless free-farting) and don’t even get her started on Bikram (which apparently meant ‘leach’ in Hindi). One class and she barely made it halfway through, bolting from the heated room to projectile-vomit on a bank of lockers. The toxic-de-gas exuded from the skin of some (most) of her fellow practitioners was so powerful she thought she may have been chemically compromised for life. Ohm-Yoga’s farty air was almost bucolic by comparison.

At Upward Dog she found a compromise between class size and instructor competence. The tranquility of her practice was no longer interrupted by the shrieks of newbies on the receiving end of a ‘postural alignment’ from an ‘associate’ who’d taken a three week intensive.

She’d been practicing diligently for several years when the opportunity arose to participate in a five day retreat at an old monastery outside the city.

The legendary Carlos was to guide all the classes.

By this time Grace was deeply immersed in what was to become a multi-billion dollar industry and knew who was who. And more importantly, who was pretending to be something they were not. That was the cool thing about yoga. If you couldn’t get into a posture, you had no business teaching it. Period. Grace found she had strength and flexibility far greater than most of her fellow practitioners. As a result, she’d received more than a few teaching offers. But teaching didn’t interest her. Learning did. It seemed that there was no limit to how much you could learn, and not with the mind. Oh no. The mind could only encompass the barest outlines of what the practice of the Asanas actually contained. Ancient whole-being knowledge that went very deep. In her research, Grace discovered that the particular style of yoga that she practiced, Ashtanga, had a secret North American offshoot that had originated on a beach in India. It was there that a bunch of hippies bumming around the subcontinent found an Ashtanga Master. The rest was history. He taught them yoga the old way. The hard way. They took to it like fish to water. Carlos, it was said, was his best student. Even now, though he was a renowned teacher, he made the annual trek to India and his Master for one month of the year. Every year. Without fail.

It was said there were six series of asanas and the mastery of the Sixth was a gateway to Enlightenment. None of the Indian Master’s students had ever achieved this.

Save one.

The retreat itself was, of course, overbooked. How were you supposed to learn anything in a roomful of a hundred people? Luckily, she’d been able to claim a spot in each of the ten classes reserved for advanced practitioners. Only ten students per class for these, in a private room. Grace was a great believer in Sartre’s maxim that ‘Hell is other people’. The whole thing was, of course, hideously expensive, even Upward Dog having figured out by this point there was no upward limit to how much the Great Unwashed was willing to spend for ‘Genuine Ancient KnowledgeTM’.

The week of the seminar approached and Grace found herself giddy, her usual reserve washed away in a tide of fan-girl zeal. After a long drive, she arrived at the retreat only to find her private room was no longer private and in the spirit of namaste, would she mind sharing?

She stared at Upward Dog’s new owner with a barely disguised contempt. Pot-bellied, balding and dressed in a pink dhoti, he represented everything she had come to despise about the ‘new yoga’.


“It’s walliji.”

“No. It’s not. It’s Wally. Going to India for three weeks doesn’t entitle you to a self-assigned lowercase single name.”

“But I was bitten!"

“By what? Fleas? A cobra?”

He looked at her with horror. “A cobra? That would kill you!”

Grace almost opened her mouth to show him the two puncture wounds on the underside of her tongue when she had undergone that most ancient and transformative of Indian rituals but then thought why bother?

“So what bit you?”

“A monkey! I suffered!”

“Did he bite your wee-wee?”

“No,” said walliji (née Wally) doubtfully, not sure if she was serious.

“Well, you didn’t really suffer then, did you.”

walliji looked around to make sure no one could hear them.

“Grace, I know you’ve been with the school for a long time but things are different now.”

“How is that?”

“Well, we have expenses, you know.”

“Listen you whinging little shitworm, you already have half as many people again as you told us would be here.”

“But they paid a premium!” walliji’s hands began wringing his dhoti.

“Not to me they didn’t.”

“But where will Nancy stay?”

“In your bed? Under the stairs? In the broom closet? I could give a fuck.”

“Grace, there’s really no need to get all snippy about this. It’s not in the spirit of yoga.”

“And what, your greed is?”

walliji couldn’t meet her eyes. “Carlos is very expensive.”

“Bullshit, Wally. I happen to know he’s doing this for free as a favor for his friend Diana. Your partner. What do you think would happen if he found out how much you were fleecing us for?”

“Grace! You wouldn’t!”

“Try me.”

walliji’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “I’ll see what I can do.”

He came back shortly with a key. “Please don’t tell anyone else you’ve been specially privileged.”

She took it from his reluctant fingers and turned to go. Then a thought struck her.



She pointed to his dhoti. “You’re really supposed to wear underwear with that thing.”

The first class was one of the worst she’d ever attended, not really helped by the fact she’d arrived late. A hundred sweating bodies of all shapes and sizes, grunting and moaning, the stink so bad it seemed their skins were shitting into the air. She could barely make out Carlos in the distance at the front of the class. She left before the end of Shivasana, a serious breach of yoga etiquette but she didn’t care. She went back to her room and cried.

Strangely, though, she slept very soundly that night and was first to arrive at the next day’s six a.m. private class. When she entered the room, Carlos was already there, seated on his mat in full lotus, meditating. He didn’t acknowledge her presence. Grace quietly unrolled her mat, taking every chance she could to look at him. The man, it must be said, had presence to spare. It was the kind of presence that only comes from long and deep immersion in a highly disciplined practice. He had that every-muscle-has-a-purpose yogic physique and long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. His sculpted face was as ageless as his body. A deep serenity emanated from him and even though his eyes were closed, she somehow knew that he was well aware of her. He wore simple fitted black shorts and a fitted blue tank top.

The room slowly filled with the other students. Of course walliji was present, a fact she became aware of when he unrolled his mat next to hers.

When the room had filled, Carlos finally opened his eyes. They were a piercing and luminous green, lit from within by whatever spiritual fire blazed at his core. His eyes found Wally’s.

“You do not belong here.”

Wally’s jaw dropped open. He was almost about to say something when Carlos raised a hand.

“This is an advanced class for advanced practitioners. I would be remiss in my duties as a teacher if I allowed you to stay.”

“Why?” Wally stammered.

“Because you would be holding them back. Also because I will need to perform some postural alignments. This will involve touching.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I do not wish to touch you.”

“Why not?”

“It would soil my aura.”


Carlos flipped his hand and indicated the door. “Now, please.”

Wally rolled up his $300 mat, almost in tears, then slunk to the door like a beaten cur. Grace almost felt sorry for him. It seemed he was about to slam the door, but greed and cowardice prevailed.

Carlos then stood. Effortlessly. Without the use of his hands.

“Let us begin.”

What followed was for Grace a life-changing experience. It began with Carlos singing the Sanskrit greeting to the Creator. His voice was like another presence in the room, such was its power and resonance. Then came the practice. Asanas that she thought she knew were revealed to have a depth she’d had no idea they possessed. Carlos would speak for a bit in his clear and hypnotic voice, the verbal communication succinct and efficient with no spacers and no lapses.

He didn’t just know yoga. He had become it.

They started the primary series with the opening Downward Dog. He watched them all, then pointed to Grace.

“Yours is closest.”

Then he demonstrated the core movement of the entire practice. His flow was unbelievable, every muscle and tendon coordinating with every other so that his body moved with a fluidity Grace never imagined the human form was capable of. When he pushed himself up from Chataranga, his whole body seemed to float. Then he was back on his feet. There was an expression on his face, a youthful serenity. It gave her the tiniest glimpse, the tiniest window into the past and what it must have been like for him on that long ago beach in India.

Then the class began in earnest. It was simple, hard and deep, Carlos pushing them all to places within their bodies none of them even knew existed. She was pouring sweat before she knew it, realizing very quickly she should not try to control what was happening, what was being taught.

As the class progressed and the postures became more difficult, Carlos would go around the class making adjustments, sometimes elucidating on what he was doing, sometimes not. They were adjustments that Grace could only describe as electric, such was the rush of prana after he touched her.

At one point during Bhadrasana, he gently pressed down on both her knees as he whispered “Release” into her ear. She felt her pelvic girdle open and her knees drop a full three inches, until the sides of her legs rested comfortably on the ground.

Close as he was, he had no scent she could discern.

It was strange, too. She felt a powerful attraction for him, such as she’d never felt for another human being. It went far beyond the physical. Carlos seemed aware of this but somehow indifferent, as if he required stimulation of another sort, on another level.

The class finally ended after four hours that for Grace had passed too quickly. After a long and deep Shivasana, the beginning of which Carlos guided with his hypnotic voice, they all rose and sat on their mats.

He looked at them and said “Well done. Now. Each of you gets one question. You will know if it is the right question because I won’t answer it. The worthy recipient will receive a one-on-one class.”

So it went. Each of the students asked a question, Carlos determining the order. The questions ranged from the technical to the obtuse, one even asked in Sanskrit. Carlos replied in the same language, his pronunciation such that though Grace didn’t understand a word, she knew that this was how the ancient tongue was actually spoken. Halfway through the questions, Grace arrived at the startling conclusion that he was saving her for last.


Finally it was her turn. What should I ask? What is the question he won’t answer? More importantly, where would this lead? Then his eyes found hers and just like that, she had it.

“What was your name before you became Carlos?”

He smiled. Actually smiled. For the first time.

“The rest of you may go. You, Grace, will stay.”

How did he know my name?

The last person had almost left when Wally came back into the room. “Carlos, we better get moving. The big hall is filled and they’ve all been waiting for more than an hour.”

Carlos turned his gaze on the yoga-bro as a helicopter searchlight pins a criminal pissing in an alley.

“I am teaching this one. For the next two hours.”


Carlos held up a hand. Then he sighed. “Wallace, you begin to tire me. I intuit your practice began because you sought flexibility. But a certain kind of flexibility. I congratulate you on your achievement.”

walliji’s mouth slowly opened, like a fish attempting to oxygenate. He seemed unaware of this.

“Truly, it is said, a man crosses a line when he takes his own penis in his mouth.”

walliji emitted a high squeak.

“Get out.”

The yoga-bro’s face took on the waxy cast of donut dough in a dumpster. He turned and scurried to the door.

Carlos’ eyes found hers.

“Now the true work begins.”

He never answered her question.

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