Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I tried a new yoga class yesterday.   It was mildly disastrous.  I've been practicing Ashtanga yoga off and on for 10 years. I never bought into the yoga culture 100% because, frankly, I'm not that flexible. I'm strong, but I have limited range of motion and I'll never be doing the Madonna poses. Just a fact of life and the nature of my connective tissue.  Ain't gonna happen.

I love yoga. I love the asanas or poses.  I love the feeling of sweating a lot and contorting my body in ways that I wouldn't otherwise ever know were possible for hominids.   However, for the past 6 years, I practiced alone with one teacher one specific kind of practice.  So I got used to having lots of attention and instruction directed at me.  Oh yeah, and there was no music.

So yesterday I tried this Hot Vinyasa class at a local studio.  I had to rent a mat for $3 bucks because my cat vomited all over my nice Lotus mat.  It's a nice room that I took yoga in years ago with the boys when they were less than 2 years old.  That's another story entirely.  The instructor started class with moon salutations.  I'm not sure but I think she said that, because it was a new moon, they do those instead of sun salutations.  In any case, I was not familiar with the sequence of movements in a moon salutation; a fact which was clear to her.  So she came over to me during the first song and said that I could do my sun salutes instead. She seemed cool.  Anyway, I continued through the first song and second song.  On the third song, the woman cranked up the music and wandered as far away from me (I was in the back corner) as she could possibly get and still be in the room.  She went up to the front of the dark room and started giving directions about poses in an absolutely inaudible voice, oddly, all while staring directly at me. 

I kept looking up from my mat at the other 6 people in the class and looking at the teacher for direction but I just couldn't hear her.  What happened next really surprised me.  When I made it clear to her that I couldn't hear her, she turned the music up some more and just stared at me struggling in the corner.  One of the large speakers was situated right next to my mat.  So the episode started to take on a Seinfeld/Friends/Fellini kind of vibe.  There are no large mirrors in this space from which to glean any instruction from my classmates without having to look up.  Also, it was clear the rest of the participants had been in this class practicing forever as they basically did their vinyasas (flow sequences) all at different paces.

I went into child's pose which is a universal restorative pose to regain my composure. But when I did this I was so distracted by the stinky foot smell of my rented mat that I found no comfort there.  By this time I was beginning to feel a lump forming in my throat.   I felt trapped. A bit humiliated.  When I looked at the clock on my cellphone, the instructor strode over to remind me that we have a choice--a space between stimulus and response--where we can chose not to respond.  Uh, yeah. I was looking at my watch to see how much time I would have to endure this bullsh*t in order to finish this class.  I thought to myself as I smiled weakly at her.  I am not a photo-tropic plant responding to a light source. I'm trying to form an exit strategy here so I don't cry in front of you.

I thought, if I roll this mat up, I can be home and walking in less than 15 minutes. After all, "I didn't come here for abuse, I came here for an argument" I chuckled to myself recalling the "Argument Clinic" sequence from Monty Python.

There is something in modern American yoga culture (I have found a few different places) that feels a lot like the in-crowd in high school.  Exclusivity is what it feels like. And I'm on the outer ring. Makes for a smallishness in the pit of my chest that I can scarcely convey in words.  The uniform of these flexible soldiers is LuLulemon.  

Anyway, I skated. As I was exiting, the instructor said, "awwww, thanks for trying."  I took a deep breath and said, Namaste. What I was really thinking was something more like Warrior 2 with some brass knuckles--cuz that's how I roll...n-sh*t.  But of course a smile is much more powerful and disarming.

I cried on the way home, talked it through with my sister -- who said that's why she never does group yoga classes-- and then promptly went on the nicest 50 minute walk in the fall sunshine. A great substitute.

I've been reading a lot about vulnerability.  It's the soul of having a wholehearted and connected life so I don't want to just chuck mine in the garbage when it gets wounded.  But I learned an important lesson.  A person (tiny or big) is never more vulnerable than when they are learning something new.  A teacher is the person entrusted with nurturing that budding spark.  Any false moves during that budding process can effect a person for a lifetime.  It was such a good lesson. It was one I obviously needed so that I could see the impact on my kids when I teach them something new. 

I will try again with a different instructor.   But the next time, I won't take it personally--not even for 15 minutes. It dawned on me that 1) that was not 'yoga' 2) it was mean as hell 3) and most importantly it had nothing to do with me. 

I love it when people poke fun at themselves.  Here is a great yoga video by the guy who did  It's getting real in the Whole Foods Parking Lot.  DJ Dave Wittman.  Enjoy.  The people featured in this video have a sense of themselves and yoga that I found refreshing.  Serious, but not taking themselves too seriously.

Namaste, y'all.

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