For the first part of this essay, visit The Grid of Moaning Mornings (I)
Next is my favorite, a shoulder-raise exercise, alternating with a left-right motion in the arms, what Brindha calls ice-skating, though I like to think it’s more dance than ice-skating, more sensual than athletic. The whole movement encourages a kind of showiness and incites you to flirt with some imaginary mirror or an invisible roving camera right ahead.
If bird-dog makes you feel awkward and clumsy, here’s an exercise that makes you feel sexy, makes you want to just let it all hang out, as if Humphrey Bogart were whispering to you, except this time, he wasn’t just saying, Here’s looking at you, kid! He’d toss in one other sweet nothing: Dance like nobody’s watching.
My gray-shirt partner picks up the Viper, a hollow tube weighing all of 6 kg that looks more like some Amazonian percussion instrument than a gym equipment. I go for the grip ball, light gray in hue with a big, bold “6” in a meek yellow marked out on one side of its girth—it’s the same weight as the Viper, but seemingly less lethal by virtue of its compact size.
Heave the ball up in line with the shoulders, then let it fall to the left as your right leg swishes left in tandem behind the left leg, so that at this freeze-frame moment at the bottom of that line of action, you do look like an ice-skater, or perhaps a bowler from the waist down.
I dream, though, of being a Bharatanatyam dancer with eyes that dart left and right with unsaid secrets, though mine, by the time I arrive at my third rep, are screaming pain and bananas—not helped at all that my arms start to shiver at each arduous upward lift.
Gray Guy didn’t offer to switch his Viper with my grip ball, so I took the initiative to do so at the fourth and final rep. And what’s my verdict? The Viper is by far the better choice because the grooves into which you slip your fingers give you a perfect, more natural shoulder-width grip, whereas the ball forces your shoulders to cave inward, taxing the deltoids unnecessarily—those two sheets of muscles around the shoulder joints that get creepy on the neck when I abuse them too much.
Brindha, however, prefers the ball. Different tools for different folks, I suppose. But if you wanted some advice right here at Station #2, I’d say: Lingam over the ball!
Now’s the time to talk about the in-betweens, the bits that you squat and kick into as you cross the River of Grid from one station to the next. They don’t look like much, but Much has a way of sitting squatly over you as you try to do a high-kick right, then a high-kick left, interspersed by squats, which feel ten times lovelier than those damn kicks because the hamstrings, tight like an uptight bitch, make the bouncing up and down feel like a larger, uglier manifestation of a pesky hiccup.
And you know how stupid you always look with those abrupt intakes of hiccup air? Well, Stupid descended on my sorry body, all heavy and toady. Each time my leg shot out, I painted a portrait with a crook at the knee joint, never an elegant burst of a straight line like Brindha’s.
But bring on those Plank Jacks, baby! They feed the self-confidence, perhaps vanity too, and best of all, they sound like wholesome crunchy snacks.
We move on to the TRX, which, until a year or so ago, was some new, foreign thing to me. I still don’t know what it stands for, though it looks like a stock symbol with some fine growth potential. I really didn’t enjoy this Y-Raise Lunge station, named for the Y-shape you make with your arms as you lunge forward, left-knee, right knee, with your hands grabbing the TRX grips from above.
My yoga teachers would have fretted over the way I was executing the lunge—my knee had poked forward way past the ankle, but with each adjustment as I shimmied my foot forward a little here, a little there, I still felt weird. It was as if the TRX were yanking me away from a center line and a point of equilibrium.
When perfection, or something close to it never ever arrives, I usually just go “Shoot!” or “Ho hum!”—as we all should, I guess—and just move on and have a jolly.
We meet with balls again, this time, Kettlebells—new word, new thing, though when I first heard Brindha say it, I swear, I had scribbled “Kettle balls” on my notes. I must consider writing down a brand new goal to be a gym geek because these technical things are turning me on, this lousy, clueless gym virgin!
Remember that instruction-overload I was suffering at the beginning of class? Well, the noise was the worst here. First, you work on a circle, then a figure eight this way and that, in an exercise called “Hello Around the World.” Correction: “Halo,” not “Hello.” Brindha’s pronunciation can get quite endearing, one could write puns from all the misheard words.
So yes, we execute a halo around the hip, slipping the ball from one hand to the other as we circle the ball a full circle, before we switch grip again, this time, between the thighs to make a figure eight as we dangerously skirt the groin.
But thankfully, I’m a miss and not a mister, though this exercise is not suited to missies like me because of my stupidly long torso. I resort to hunching a little just so I could send the ball well clear under, which got Brindha coming over with caring eyes and careful advice.
“Don’t hunch!” she says, “keep the lower back straight.”
Later, I would learn, in a post-class chit-chat with her, that there were two different balls, a 6-kg one and an 8-kg one. Guess who got the heavier one with the luckier number?
I’m embarrassed to report that, after four stations, the sweat never really came until this station where the Bosu ball greeted me. Something of a gym ball lopped off at the top with a round platter, if you will, stuck to its flat side, the Bosu is the ultimate test in stability and mobility—the two core elements that Grid Active is after.
I imagine that if “Bosu” were a Japanese word, it would translate into “boss”—a term fitting for this ball contraption because it naturally wants to boss you around left and right as you press your hands down on it while you’re working your planks, with a leftward swish of the right leg under the left, and an opposite motion on the left leg. The ball beneath just wants to tip you sideways like a ship in troubled waters.
Hello, jiggly planks! Wobbly, jiggly, Jell-O planks!
So I turn on all my squeezing buttons, fire up the rectus abdominis, switch on the moola bandha, squeeze those secret places. The sweat goes drip, drip, drip from the tip of the nose, the forehead, dripping on the words “Bosu.com”—staring at me in an upside down state. It drove me to madness that I had to squander my second 10-second breather to turn the ball a 180 degrees to set the words right.
All was good again, the Jell-O disappeared, even as I pressed my palms down on the center of that platter and not the outer grips on the rim. I could have gone for the Big Easy, the outer grips in this case, but somehow the boss had a hold on me.
Ache, heat, sweat, all seem to have come together now with a thirst for not so much water, but time to fly, off and away! I dream of bullseye images here at this station and a fancy French waiter at a Parisian bistro with his tray, gliding from one table to another.
Here at the finale, we’re supposed to plant the balls of our feet on the freeFORM, a frisbee-like contraption with castors, while our palms press down on a circular foam pad emblazoned with concentric circles that make it feel like a dartboard.
With OCD running high and hot, as rough and wild as the aches, I stick a towel over my dartboard as a shelter from all that sweat. I noticed Gray Guy had placed his knees on the rolling frisbee instead of his toes, tempting me to wilt and cheat a little, but I didn’t. I kept up with the burn, the fire, the soul-nourishing furnace.
The only thing that I had quite forgotten was that the crunches weren’t merely a straight out-and-back-in movement of the legs. Brindha wanted out-and-in, and yet another around-the-world where the toes on the wheeled frisbee fashioned a circular doodle behind you, starting at Ground Zero in a crunched state, and then extending out and around back to Ground Zero.
I didn’t do it, but I didn’t chicken out either.
The days of this week have ticked with the pleasures of pain, each day like six little squares that mirror that beautiful, evil grid, moaning ooh and ah. I’m ready for some more—on the harm, the legs, thighs, and all.
For the first part of our moaning adventures, visit:
The Grid of Moaning Mornings (I)
You may also enjoy:
An Active Virgin, on a Quest for the Body Beautiful