Yoga and Seashells Make Me Violent

‘Form over function’ needs to be retired

Time To Read: 4 mins | December 4, 2016

My latest accommodation on Isla Mujeres, Mexico was cute and unremarkable. It’s a small apartment with a couple beds, makeshift kitchen, and a bathroom I’m convinced they piped incorrectly – the pressure for the shower is a flaccid drip, while flushing the toilet results in a black hole of pressure. I damn near got sucked in the first time I courtesy flushed a poo.

There is one stylish, trendy feature. Dividing the two rooms, instead of a door, is a hanging shell curtain. Like those patterned bead things everyone begged their parents for during their teenage-hippy-Bob Marley phase, except made of artfully spaced shells hanging from kite string.

It was incredibly charming, and I hated it immediately.


I am a man of many gifts, but flexibility is not one of them. Since I was a kid I’ve been unable to touch my toes. On average, my bendy bits are 33% more rigid than a normal human. Whenever I was made to stretch, before PE or baseball practice or whatever, I’d move so little that everyone nearby thought I didn’t hear the order. A college football coach once called me the least flexible athlete he’d ever seen. I replied – and I was always quite proud of this – “The key word there is ‘athlete’.”


I am, as one friend recently observed, made of concrete.

So, as you might expect, a yoga studio is not my happy place. If there is a hell, and Satan customizes everyone’s experiences, mine will undoubtedly be a vegan wearing lululemon telling me to relax while holding the half-moon pose for all eternity.

This was a problem in my twenties. I really need to talk to a shrink about this, because for whatever reason, all of my girlfriends shared three traits: incredibly intelligent, incredibly bossy, and incredibly into yoga. I have no idea what this says about me as person, and am too afraid to ask and find out.

But I learned a valuable lesson after the first of these lady friends. She begged for months, pleading that I accompany her to a class. “You’ll love it,” she said. “It’ll be good for you,” she said. “It will make me happy.”

I went to three classes. None of her predictions came true.

I managed to keep an open mind for 5 minutes. That’s the bit where you sit very still and breathe. Which, as a human, I can do, though why I needed to pay $35 to have a stinky lady with dreadlocks walk me through the process was beyond me.


After that, everything went to shit.

In case you’ve never tried yoga (you lucky bastard), there’s a move called downward dog. Sounds like a Labrador taking a crap, but it’s really just holding an incorrect pushup position. Immediately the teacher was on me, correcting my form in the most infuriatingly calm voice I’ve ever heard.

“Keep your legs straight, bring your hips higher.” The inconsiderate wench didn’t bother to ask if I was capable of such maneuvers, she just started tugging at my body like it was Excalibur: for decades, everyone in the world has tried to loosen it up, but it damned thing doesn’t budge.

The probably-vegetarian teacher took my rigid frame as an affront to her ability to teach yoga, and so spent most of the next hour hovering over me, correcting whatever she could. Which wasn’t much. I couldn’t hold any of the poses for more than a few seconds, and the ones I could, I became so proud and aggressive that she’d invariably comment, “Let go of your ego.” Another skill that, like flexibility, I’ve accepted I’m never going to master.

I let this go on for two more classes before I put my foot down. The other teachers didn’t baby me, which I appreciated, but that only gave me time to watch all the middle-aged mothers of two outshine me in a physical discipline. Me and my ego are ride-or-die mates, and he wasn’t having any of their imaginary superiority.

Walking back from the third and final class, I took stock of the original promises that had been made. No, I did not love yoga. No, watching 40-year old women kick my ass wasn’t ‘good for me’. And no, after seeing how furious I was after each class, my then-girlfriend was not happy.

She let me stop going to class because, in her baffled words, “Yoga makes you violent.”


It was the morning of checkout. I had to clear out of the seashell curtain apartment in just a few hours, and there was a problem: I had destroyed said curtain.

It’s not my fault. Every time I walked through the damned thing, I had to knock aside the dangly strings. And because of the terrible awful no-good design, they’d invariably get tangled up. I’d push over half the strings by necessity, the shells would twirl around one another with a deceptively jingly tune, then half the screen would lock up tighter than a chastity belt.


After 48 hours of this – every time I’d pee, shower, or get a fresh beer – I’d created a knot comparable to Chewbacca’s shower drain.

There’s no way I was first person with this problem. It’s not like I pee or shower or drink (ahem) more than anyone else. Other guests must have created knotted catastrophes of their own. But when I arrived, the curtain was fully intact. If the owners were untangling it every time a guest departed, they surely would have taken it down by now for the sake of their sanities.

Thus, I concluded that I was meant to untangle the fucker myself. And goddamn son of a bitch bastard titty sprinkle, I’ve never cussed so much under my breath in my life. I started aggressively drinking the leftover rum and listening to Rise Against on full volume, while trying to craftily twist and twerk seashells and string around one another. That calm approach soon devolved into random tugging, and eventually drop kicks of frustration.

This went on for twenty minutes. I made progress but, as anyone who watches Survivor knows, steady hands are not my strong suit. So as I left today, cheerfully telling my hosts, “Gracias por todo, este perfecto!,” there was still a sizeable knot of seashells waiting for them inside.

Turns out yoga and seashells make me violent.



photo: the bane of my existence, that douchebag shell curtain

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.

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1 Comment

  1. Jenny

    You make me laugh out loud on a regular basis. The writing is witty and smart, concise and to the point and yet wonderfully descriptive! I only found this because of your cruise story you linked on the Twitter. Outstanding! Some of my favourite quick reads ever!


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