108 Push-ups

I was looking at the photos that my husband took on a recent trip to Cape Cod. “What’s that thing on my arm?” I asked, pointing to a shot of me on my beach towel, posing coquettishly. I looked closer and realized it was my arm, bulging against my upper back with a fold of blubber.  “Sweet Jesus! Something’s wrong with your camera! It totally… intensified my upper arm, like some sort of fish eye lens!”

Ah, the body thickens. So I hastened to my Yoga DVD collection and pulled out Shiva Rea’s Creative Core and Upper Body, which I bought last year in the midst of all-out Shiva Rea mania. I had been disappointed to discover that this 25-minute yoga routine is centered around 108 wide-leg prostration push-ups — like gym class, like the military, only before each of the 9 rounds of 12 push-ups, there’s a serene, smiley blissed-out blond yogini offering flaky motivational tips like “make a dedication in your heart.” I would like to dedicate this round of push-ups to all of the malnourished children in the world, for it is their twiggy physique that I secretly covet.

Still, a push-up is a push-up, and I loath calisthenics like I loath school cafeteria food. I took a Ultimate Total Body Pump Bootcamp class last month, and the instructor was an equipment minimalist who had us warm-up with squat thrusts. “Huh! I haven’t done squat thrusts since third grade!” I thought, fondly reminiscing about my elementary school gym teacher, who I now realize was a stereotypical lesbian. Nostalgia quickly turned to pain, and about two squat thrusts, I wanted to puke. It wasn’t the squat so much as the thrust.

Despite my difficulties with any exercise that involve my own bodyweight, I try to do Shiva Rea’s push-up workout at least once a week. Because push-ups really will improve one’s yoga practice by giving them the ability to indefinitely hold Chaturanga Dandasana (aka Four Limbed Staff Pose, aka Low Pushup, aka I’m Only Pretending that My Stomach Isn’t On the Ground).

I know that spot-reducing is a myth and that push-ups, however yogic, will do little to counter my accumulating upper arms. But it can’t hurt to have a little bit of muscle definition supporting that droopy flap of flab. It makes me look just threatening enough to ward off any suppositions of sloth.