On the Rewards of Masochism


I have just had the most harrowing massage of my life.

To begin to describe it, let us take the word “vigorous”, send it to thirty months of Navy Seal training, feed it with nothing but propaganda and steroids for the entire duration, and then expose it to David Banner levels of gamma radiation. Then maybe we’ll have an adjective muscular enough to do the job.

I should have known what to expect the minute Ofelia walked through the door, took off her shades, shot a single beady look at my spine—and without any regard whatsoever for the potentially devastating impact of her pronouncements—brusquely declared that I had scoliosis.

This statement—delivered so offhandedly—confirmed a suspicion already raised by my teacher training administrator when I mentioned suffering chronic back pain in a very localized region of my spine. I had dismissed the possibility of scoliosis altogether, citing years of x-rays that had never revealed a single abnormality. It’s very mild, she told me, pressing her fingers against my vertebrae. It wouldn’t show up in an x-ray. Why don’t you hire a chiropractor and find out?

And that was how I ended up booking Ofelia and spending yet another hour of complete agony on a Sunday. When, despite myself, I began whimpering, she continued her muscular ministrations without any diminution in pressure and simply instructed me to breathe deeply. And that was how I spent the next half hour breathing like Darth Vader. (In yoga speak, this kind of breathing technique is called ujjayi breathing and is executed by constricting the glottis. It is remarkably effective in neutralizing sensations of pain—just one of its many benefits—and has often been the one thing that’s kept me sane during particularly difficult asanas.)

At the end of the session, I peeled myself off the bed and found a rather satisfied-looking Ofelia glancing down at me. Mas magaan ba pakiramdam mo, Ma’am? Fearing a repeat performance if I gave anything other than an assent, I vigorously nodded my head.

At the door, she told me: Dapat twice a week ka magpapamasahe s’akin, Ma’am. Para maaayos natin yung likod mo. I managed a half-hearted squeak before waving her goodbye.

All the pain aside though, I have to admit that I do feel a lot better.

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

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