Bam BANg! Bam BANg! Bam BANg! “Man, he’s gonna knock that thing right off the chain,” I said to myself while watching a student rhythmically pummel a heavy punching bag before yoga class. Previously he was running on a tread mill for about ten minutes and this probably after lifting weights for an hour or so. I knew that one of his shoulders was reconstructed with metal pins, that he had chronic lower back pain, a severely pulled hamstring AND abdomen, so why does he continue to do this to his self?
He is a detective for the Department of Justice at the Judiciary Center in Washington, D. C. and is one of the more diligent attendees of yoga, be it out of routine rather than enjoyment, but he’s always present if not working on a trial. I teach there in a penthouse gymnasium on a wooden floor next to a humungous, southward facing, floor to ceiling window around 20 feet high that has a nice view of the Capitol Building. The heavy bag hangs in the corner adjacent to it. Bam BANg! Bam BANg! Bam BANg! He drops the boxing gloves and picks up a jumping rope. Wup! Wup! Wup! Wup! Goes the cord on the slots of wood and I can’t help but think about his back taking the brunt of the load.
Wup! Wup! Wup! Wup! “Hey Daniel!” Sweat drops to the floor, he checks out his hopping in the mirror, then stops to check his self out in the mirror. The detective is a native New Yorker from an Italian family and has a slight accent that adds flavor to his character. He speaks in short sentences and to the point, “You know, I knew this martial artist. Japanese guy. He was a karate master who was as strict as they get. Short but fast. He would just execute the forms really well. He had brutal hands and feet. His fingers felt like metal. He could whip just about anybody’s ass even in his 60’s and he was in such great shape.”
He had many ‘great shape’ stories. Another one was about some Hollywood fitness dude who squished numerous activities into a video program and gave it a title consisting of letters and numbers making it sound like a bomb or something. The detective again, “So this guy has you doing all kinds of movements, but there is some weight lifting. Dumbbells. Though mostly lot’s of resistance using your own body weight. For instance he has you do a pull up. Then shift your whole body to the side by one arm. Man, I’m still working on those. He makes it look so easy. He’s 45 years old but looks like he’s 10 years younger. He’s in such great shape.” He continues, “Oh, and with all the work-outs he does, he says that the best thing to do is yoga.” I lift my eyebrows a bit and nod my head.
So months pass by and after all this time, of watching him being so tough on his body and then hearing about his aches, he finally took a couple suggestions of mine. One was to see a masseur and the second was to see an acupuncturist, which he did briefly, but his focus returned right back to the work-outs. A year passes and the detective is in his spot there at the front of class still choosing the more forceful moves and postures while wincing at times. As much as I had encouraged an examined and subtle approach to well-being and with as much experience that he had of a broader spectrum of wellness, I still didn’t get why he applied such aggressiveness to exercise. Well, one day I found out during a conversation after class that he, another student (a breast cancer survivor) and I had around health care. I was telling them how I was going to Panama, my mother’s country, to see a dentist. The other student explained that even though she had insurance she ended up having to pay several thousands of dollars out of pocket for extra treatment. I had said something personal, she had expressed something deeply intimate and perhaps this prompted the detective to share what he did.
He explained that a few years back, while cleaning up around his home in suburban Maryland, he was bitten by a black widow spider directly on the neck. Venom from an arachnid such as that one, right between the brain and heart, is considered by many in the medical profession to be fatal. This is what they more or less declared to him at a hospital in Bethesda yet his wife extracted him from there, transported him to another hospital in Baltimore where a more progressive approach was applied. They were able to stabilize and treat him with a combination of medicines and therapy and he survived. He recounted, “They said it was a miracle, that most people wouldn’t have made it. The one guy asked if I worked out a lot and of course I said ‘yes.’ You know, I told him I lifted weights and hit the heavy bag. Cardio. Practiced yoga and all that. So you know what he told me? He told me that what probably kept me alive during that whole ordeal – was because I was in such great shape.”
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