Darlene - Blog Image - Avanti Stretch Class

Anthony, the devastatingly handsome teacher of the Avanti Stretch class, asked me again to demonstrate the upper body exercises. This was our third time “together” as teacher and demonstrator. Gleefully, I bolted up to the front of the class and sat down in the “instructor’s chair,” facing the class.

Anthony stood behind me, and put his hands on my shoulders like we were old friends—dare I say—lovers! I can’t remember the last time a man had his hands on my shoulders like this. Sheesh! What a rush! The room had mirrored walls, so I could see our reflection in the mirror behind the students.

 “Let’s watch as Darlene executes the seated sun salutation,” he said.

As I lifted my arms high above me, elongating my spine and pointing toward the heavens, Anthony threw me a special teacher-pet wink.

“Now, watch as Darlene breathes in and out and on her exhale. She’s going to let her arms fall forward in a continuous motion,” he continued, as he braced me with one hand on my chest between my neck and breasts (a “safe” zone) and the other on my back.

“See how Darlene’s chest is moving,” Anthony continued. “This is her breath – the fundamental core of this exercise. So, if you are just moving your hands, you’re not getting the full effect. Your breath is key. Thank you, Darlene.”

I winked back at him, and understood that he couldn’t spend too much time with me as his assistant or the others might talk, you know. As I returned to my chair, Lillian caught my gaze and raised her eyebrows suggestively at me.

“It’s nothing,” I said to her and shook my head.

But it sure did feel like something. As Anthony guided us through the pose in our chairs, I found myself thinking about a lot of things – like what it means to feel special. To be tapped from the crowd as a model student – no matter what age or situation, you still felt special.

Having been honored like that made me try extra hard today, focusing on staying true to form for the remainder of class. However, I must admit my attention was broken when Curly Sue, who was in her wheelchair in the row behind me, fell asleep and started snoring.

She had some nerve! This was Anthony’s Avanti Stretch class for heaven’s sake!  I shuffled to her, and gently patted her awake.

“What? Where am I?” she said.

“Chair Yoga class,” I whispered.

“Oh – yes, sorry!  Good night!” she retorted before returning to her slumber.

Anthony stopped the class and addressed me.

“Is everything OK?  Is Curly Sue OK?” he said.

“I got this. I’ll get her up,” I said to him with another wink.

“Oh, just let her be, Darlene, but thank you,” he said in a soft way.  

Gwendolyn shot me a toothy grin. Was she laughing at me?  I couldn’t tell.

I tried to shake Curly Sue awake again.

“Darlene, leave her alone. Her body is telling her to rest so that is what she must do,” Anthony requested.

The room was silent. It was as if the record player skipped or there was a needle-scratch, and everything came to a big, embarrassing halt.  

Politely, I stepped back from Curly Sue and returned to my chair.

Anthony redirected everyone’s attention back up to him at the front of the class, and shifted his focus to Gwendolyn. “Gwendolyn, would you come up and demonstrate neck twists with me?”

What? He’s asking Gwendolyn to demonstrate? Not me? I hadn’t felt betrayed by a man like this in decades. 

Gwendolyn fixed her hair, adjusted her bra strap, sashayed up to the front of the class and sat down in the instructor’s chair, facing the class.

“Yes, Anthony,” she beamed.

I watched in agony as Anthony proceeded to lead Gwendolyn through the neck-twist exercises.  With Gwendolyn’s beautiful long neck, she was indeed the perfect example and was such a show-pony – using flittering ballet arm movements to show off her poise.

Beneath my smile, I was biting my tongue. 

“Oh, look at Gwendolyn’s graceful arms, everyone,” Anthony said, as he took her hands into his own, as if they were leads in The Houston Ballet.

“Men are so fickle!” I blurted out.

Everyone laughed—everyone except for Anthony who stared at me like I was an alien.

“It’s over Tony,” I said.

Suddenly, Anthony looked like he understood. His shoulders relaxed and he outstretched his arms to me in a warm gesture.

 “Darlene, come here, dear. I didn’t mean to…” he tried to speak, but I interrupted him.

“Don’t beg, don’t embarrass yourself,” I said as I exited the studio. 

As I passed by Lillian, I put my hand under her chin and lifted upward to close her agape mouth.

I was exhausted. I headed down to the Avanti Bar where Happy Hour was about to kick into high gear. Men: can’t live with them, can’t live without them. 

Love-Darlene-Signature-Avanti Stretch Class