The Bucket List
"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea," goes an oft-cited quotation by Danish author Karen von Blixen-Finecke. If this is true, then maybe the reason hot yoga classes at Bikram Yoga Upper Valley in White River Junction have become a trend amongst seniors is because, by spending 90 minutes drenched in our own sweat, we are trying to cure ourselves of the reality that lies five short weeks away. Perhaps, in this humid room 15 minutes from campus, we are letting Dartmouth seep out of our pores, shedding this place like a skin.
At 9 a.m. on a recent Sunday morning, I attempted to grasp my slick, sweaty ankle in order to bring my foot to my inner thigh in a tree pose. The room was filled with 34 women, college-age to grandmother, and a lone man. The combined body heat probably boosted the temperature of the room, which for Bikram is generally as high as 105 degrees. We obediently stretched our muscles into balancing stick pose, cobra pose and camel pose as our young instructor paced the room, giving gentle yet firm instructions.
"Abandon all those excuses, the I can'ts'," she encouraged. "Focus on what you can do."
Bikram Yoga is a 26-posture sequence practiced in a hot room, selected and developed by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s to work every part of the body. The "torture chamber" his term for the hot room allows for deeper stretching beyond your normal limits and flushes out your system through profuse sweating. Choudhury, born in Calcutta in 1946, began practicing yoga at the age of four and believes it cured a knee injury he sustained at 17 from a weightlifting accident. European doctors predicted he would never walk again. Starting with a small studio in the basement of a bank in Beverly Hills, Bikram became popular with celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Madonna and, naturally, spread to the Upper Valley. At Upper Valley Bikram, a beginner can pay $12 for the first class, or $20 for an intro package that gets you unlimited classes for 10 days.
Experiencing the "torture chamber" early on a Sunday morning might not have been the wisest choice I have ever made. It was shocking I made it through the whole hour and a half. We finished the class relaxing in the Savasana, or "corpse pose," laying on our backs, palms toward the ceiling, completely still save our breaths. The early morning and oppressive heat made me drowsy. The room was now dark, my eyes closed. Weak with hunger and dehydration, my mind wandered.
I had yet to experience graduation anxiety until attending my Daniel Webster dinner a free Hanover Inn dinner for seniors put on by the Office of Alumni Relations where they so thoughtfully reminded us that we would become alumni in, 47 days. Forty-seven days until they could ask us for money. Since this dinner put a number on my remaining time at Dartmouth, I have begun to greet each day thinking in strict numerical terms about how much time I have left in Hanover. But this is a mistake. We can't think only numerically. We can choose how we want our time to expand and contract: it can stretch, seemingly endless while we sit in a canoe on the Connecticut, or it can vanish in a beer-soaked blur of long nights and wasted days. The way we fill the hourglass is up to us.
Then my thoughts stopped making any sort of sense. I imagined myself walking across a stage, in front of thousands. I'm wearing the black gown and the mortarboard, and I'm about to shake the hand of a person with former College President Jim Yong Kim's face and Interim President Carol Folt's hair. Conan O'Brien is standing at the podium, calling names. He winks at me. I come down off the stage and am greeted with hugs from my best friends Mindy Kaling '01, Connie Britton '89 and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand '88. We whoop and cheer, and everything fades to black.