Hi, my name is Angela, and I'll be leading your Political Pilates class today. I know you're campaigning like crazy on this final weekend, so it's great that all of you leaders came.
First, is anyone here new to Pilates? Mr. Harper? Welcome! You might find the turtleneck a little restrictive -- it's just a dickey? That should work. And Mr. Layton, you can come down. That's a very impressive handstand, but the others need to work up to that level. Mr. Duceppe, I see you're dressed for martial arts -- that's down the hall. But feel free to join us.
So, we're lying on our mats. . . . Yes, Mr. Martin? No, I already have a job, thank you. I don't need another one. Pilates doesn't really work that way.
Make sure you have your Styrofoam noodle, your rubber exercise band, and some light weights. The noodle is for putting pressure on the provinces to pay for more infrastructure. The rubber band is for streeeetching the truth -- some of you might want to use two -- and the weights are for bulking up our military. Everybody set? Excuse me, Mr. Layton? Your handstand is excellent, but we're starting on our backs now.
First, let's cover some basics. Political Pilates focuses on developing the core values of your party, and working with the breath. So we'll be paying close attention to how you breathe -- or, in Mr. Harper's case, whether you breathe. Just kidding! Oh, you're giving me those icy eyes now, Steve. Everyone, look at Steve's husky-dog eyes. See the focus there? I want that kind of focus in your lower abdominals.
We're here to work on achieving a politically neutral spine. The parties in Canada have changed, as you know. Liberals are the new Conservatives, the NDP is the old Liberals, and the Conservatives are . . . well, we're going to find out.
Political Pilates is about building flexibility so that you can assume virtually any political position, without injuring yourself. Mr. Harper, this is especially important for you. "Neutral spine" is about finding the natural curve of your policies -- neither too far to the left nor to the right. Your policies should follow the curve of the country. Ideally, you should always have a little space between your policies and the floor.
Slip your hand under your spine -- is there a little curve? Mr. Layton, don't try too hard. I don't want to see the Holland Tunnel under your back, just some air. Yes, I know you ride a bicycle. Yes, I've seen your quads.
Now, I want all of you to tilt your tailbone up toward the ceiling, and press your back to the floor. Mr. Harper, tip your pelvis a little more. Pardon? It's the bone structure below your waist. Let me put it another way: Can you tilt your pelvis as if it were an Alberta oil well filled to the brim with nice thick oil and you don't want to spill any? Perfect.
All right, now we're going to work on our lateral extension. The trick here is to build up regional responsibilities without losing touch with the muscle in your federal vision. This one's tricky. Lie on your back, and imagine you're holding Quebec between your knees. It's about the size of a grapefruit, and you mustn't drop it, or it will roll away.
So squeeeeeeze those thighs and hold on to Quebec. Not so hard, Mr. Harper. It's a small movement, but important for the overall health of the country. Mr. Martin, is that you snoring? Hang in there, we're almost done.
This posture is called The Hungry Crane: With your inner thighs still active, extend your arms above your head. As if you were trying to reach from Victoria to St. John's. As if your body were as long as this great country of ours. Then stretch! You'll feel this in the tax brackets, but it's terrific for flexibility.
Keep that neutral spine. . . . Mr. Layton, please, stay on your mat, you're crowding Mr. Harper. Mr. Martin, you're not moving -- it's important to keep trying, okay? Mr. Harper, keep moving further in the direction of Quebec. You'll feel a burn in the back of your Latus Americanus muscles, but they're a bit overdeveloped anyway.
Okay, now roll over on your stomach and press your pubic bone down into the floor, as if you were really giving it to the have-not provinces. Press down, lift up your shoulders, peel the sternum off the mat. Keep your eyes fixed on the floor, as if contemplating the national debt. Imagine you are saying, "I promise not to raise taxes," while thinking, "Are you kidding? Of course I'll raise taxes." Now breathe out with a hissing sound, and say, "No privatization of health care!" This really works the whole hypocrisy area.
All right, before we break for an election, let's review your weak spots: Mr. Layton is flexible, but he sometimes overextends, which can lead to injury. Mr. Martin tends to push too hard, too late, so he ends up with chronic pain in the media. And Mr. Harper, I hope we see you in class regularly. Remember, the country requires both strength and flexibility. It's not enough just to build up muscle. You need to stay supple too.
Now, let me see you stand tall, with your weight evenly distributed across the country. Remember, when you're the boss, you have to learn to breathe with the whole country. Work with it, not against it. It's all about balance: If you lean too far to the right, you'll lose your grounding.
Marni Jackson is a writer in Toronto.