Heather Graham is bendy. I know this because she wants to do yoga during the course of this interview, done to promote her new movie (The Guru, reviewed on page 49). She does it five times a week--did it earlier this very day, in fact, a few hours before we met at Aesthete in Deep Ellum for an afternoon of deep conversation and downward facing dog. Graham, best known as Rollergirl in Boogie Nights and Felicity Shagwell in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, has been engaging in the ancient art of twisting one's self into spiritual knots for the past six years. This, one assumes, is how she got that kaya kalpa--which, as I understand it, means "ageless body," though it's really just my way of cleaning up my vocabulary since I let my Maxim subscription lapse.
Of course, Graham being a movie star and all--and, on occasion, such as in Bowfinger, a very good comedian--doing yoga is probably the most normal thing she can do. Not like she's studying the Talmud or affixing Cracker Jack-box Sanskrit tattoos to the backs of her hands. After 15 minutes of conversation, Graham decides it best to "do hard poses" and watch me try them--without benefit of any warm-up, as she has a plane to catch. Besides, I tell her, I am flexible 24-7. Can touch my feet without even bending over--I have arms like an ape.
"This one is sort of like a balancing pose," she says, crouching down. She bends her arms forward, then puts her knees on them--which makes her look like a Heather Graham action figure in the hands of a spastic 8-year-old. "You go like this, and then you sort of jump back like that. You bend your arms. Bend them more. Bend them a lot. More."
That sound you hear is three ligaments snapping, two tendons tearing and my cartilage in a pear tree.
"OK. So, you take your knee..." She is as patient as she is elastic. "You have to bend them a lot, because you're resting your knees on your bent arms, right, so it's kind of like a balance thing."
Good Lord, I tell her. I'm going to look like an ass. She smiles as if to say, And your point is?
"That's pretty good," she says, the reassuring guru. She then goes through several more poses, including a handstand (yeah, right), one that involves standing with your legs at a 90-degree angle (one's in the air while you hold it, whatever) and, my personal favorite, "the pigeon."
"It's not that hard, but if you stay in this position a really long time, you can start crying, because it really releases your emotional baggage," she says, as we both begin a cathartic weep (OK, just me). Then there's this one, which I can no more describe than I could how an atom is split.
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"This is a really cool kind of arm-shoulder one," she begins. "You go one arm up, one arm behind, you grab. See, you're really flexible. And then you lean over. Doesn't that feel good?"
My mouth says yes, my body says, God, no. --Robert Wilonsky