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Five years ago on this day, I felt something that I haven’t felt for the past five days during my YTT: anger, impatience, and a hearty helping of STFU.
It all began with our morning sadhana, led by “R”. You either love this guy or hate him. His style is this: S……..L………..O………W. Everything is aahhhhhhh. How do you feel in thissssss?
It is not good. You know what? I am tired. I had five hours of sleep for the past four nights after moving from 6:30 a.m. to 9 at night. I close my eyes, I sleep. Why do you do a savasana-based practice at 6:30 in the morning? You have put me back to sleep. I don’t want to listen to your aaahhs over and over and over again. I don’t want to listen to your stereotypical Kripalu-isms like How and Why and Feel and See and Realize and Notice. I am lying on my back, falling asleep again. That’s how I FEEL. Tired. Pooped. Cold. We lie still for 15 minutes, lift our legs. There is a Cobra, Boat, and then, oh! It’s bedtime again. You make me so angry. I am tired, I need to MOVE and WAKE the [bleep] up. I want to take the microphone out of your hand, Mr. High and Mighty Kripalu, and beat you. Stop talking like a freaking hypnotherapist. You are trapping me, suffocating me. I want to break off this mat and do sun salutations, downdog…anything! I make faces, I grit my teeth, I make fists. I keep my eyes open during savasana because I’m a rebel and I need to WAKE UP. I don’t Om very loud or enthusiastically, and the room is weak, our Oms are pathetic and tired. Good. No swelling, sensual Om for you, Mr. Every Kripalu-ism in the book. Feeeeel that. Notice that. How does that feel?!?!?!?!?!
I realize this is the first time here at Kripalu I am angry and pissed. At Kripalu, the land of peace and harmony and happiness, I had been tired, sad, scared, happy, nervous, but never MAD. These emotions feel new to me, strange. Out of place here. Thank gosh the morning lesson begins with some harmonium and chanting. We chant So Hum So Hum, So Hum Shivo Hum, which translates to “I am that I am.” It is a pleasant melody and calms me down. During our anatomy lesson, we learn about moving with the spine in mind, the four types of tissue (connective, muscle, nervous, epithelial), and the importance of moving (inactivity shrink-wraps the muscles).
Later in the day, we have a chance to partner up and practice teach Cobra, Sphinx, Child’s Pose, Half Locust, and Boat. I pair with M and forget how to talk. I make up words like “clitch.” I have no idea how to get someone up in Cobra. When I did my mini-practice teach with M, I somehow lead her through tadasana–mountain–using all tree analogies. It was stressful but still good; M is already a teacher, and I liked working with someone who could give me tips.
THE FIRST WEEK (dah-dah-DUM!) is wrapping up. It’s Friday night, our off night. Some people did a yoga and art workshop; I opted to test my aparigraha at the Kripalu Shop but ended up getting two Kripalu shirts and a chocolate chip cookie. I have suddenly developed one hell of an appetite. I think I’m actually gaining weight, a mix of constipation, delicious buffet meals 3x per day, no intense cardio, no 3x/week strength training, and me constantly stuffing my face. For example, after dinner tonight, I indulged in a Kripalu cookie but then scarfed down leftover pretzels in our dorm room. I have a few bites of a protein bar before morning sadhana, breakfast, lunch, after-lunch pretzel stuffing, etc, etc. I have no energy to go to the gym anymore before lunch; today, I napped instead.
Roger’s class tonight was hyped-out fun. We danced around like it was dance night at Adelphia and then made fun of Jane Fonda workouts. Lots of downdog variations, killer utkatasanas, and some exhilarating spinal twists. Yoga is great with Moby and dance music.
Everyone in this program looks so amazingly young. I am delighted at how youthful the group is. L is 31 but looks 27 or 28. We are all yoga youth. I bet Megha is 85. Helga is actually 120.
R&R people are here for the weekend. It’s so weird. Suddenly our little nest of peace, love, and happiness is broken as these new people stop in. Well-dressed people with make-up and designer yoga gear. People who got just a little too pushy in the buffet line. They’re roaming the lobby, planning out their activities and hikes and massages. It’s reverse culture shock, new things coming into MY world.
There are new presenters here, too. Yoganand’s pranayama class is over, and now Cameron Shayne is in the corner room. There’s a Women of Color conference going on. It’s like living in the Hollywood of yoga.
After dinner, I plod around, eventually talking to Bryan and then calling my Kripalu “sponsor,” Yogamama (Kath). We share “Planet K” stories, and she makes me feel so much better. We talked Kripalian and discussed our intense dislike of s-l-o-w R–ugh! And crazy Roger and amazing Megha. BRFWA. Our little language.
My language has changed. I say things like, “I haven’t had a hot water experience with that faucet yet.” My words are slowly changing, my speech becoming more deliberate. I hear myself talk to Bryan and notice I sound different. How long will this last once I get home?
One of the things that drives me crazy while food shopping (minus the kid carts the size of tractor trailers and the fact that at Wegmans yogurt is spread out between 45948 locations) is the way some cashiers handle your food.
I don’t know if some grocery stores have contests to see who can make the quickest transactions or if perhaps there is a corporate policy about squeezing in so many customers in a certain time frame, but the past few times we’ve been to Wegmans, the cashiers have been just plain rough with our food purchases.
Cereal boxes, yogurt cartons, fresh produce, bread … they just gruffly push it down and slide it across the scanner, and then–because we bring our own bags–they toss it on the counter behind them. Ker-thunk. Ker-thunk. Plop. Thwack.
Now, it’s nothing so bad that a carton of eggs is going to break–it’s just the manner in which the cashiers handle the products we are paying good money for and will eventually end up in our mouths. This isn’t a blister pack of batteries we’re talking about; it’s a carton of strawberries, a bunch of bananas, my beloved Flat-Out wraps that will eventually swaddle my garlic hummus, spinach, and cheese. Please don’t manhandle my dinner.
The one place that always respects the food is Whole Foods. I will never forget the one cashier I had years ago who scanned each item as though it were a piece of 24-karat gold. It was so zen to watch, so hypnotic the way she picked up each item with intention and gently glided it across the scanner. She even commented here and there on certain things: “This is a great brand of yogurt. So creamy! You’ll love this new flavor. I haven’t seen this yet; have you eaten it before?”
I was so touched by her yogic scanning technique that I let her know how much it meant to me. “You’ve made it an art!” I exclaimed.
So when our frequent grocery shopping excursions at Wegmans turned into the complete opposite experience, I got irritated. Last week’s cashier was so staccato with our food that I vowed to Bryan I would write a letter to customer service. (I didn’t, because I tend to forget these things if I don’t do it right away.)
Yesterday at Wegmans, I assumed my position at the opposite end of the conveyor belt with trepidation, bracing for the torpedo of food coming my way. But we seemed to have selected the right lane, because the cashier had clearly read my mind. I think he was new and perhaps a bit flummoxed by some of the barcodes and produce codes, but his self-consciousness led him to be the kindest, most gentle cashier we’ve had to date at Wegmans. The way he cradled each individual Chobani yogurt container and then placed them on the counter behind him took my breath away. I glanced up in disbelief at Bryan, who was smirking and nodding his head. He knew. His husband radar had totally picked up on my neurosis and my bubbling excitement about our cashier’s smooth scanning skills.
Of course, I made a point to praise the cashier before we left. I told him about our previous experiences and how much I appreciated the way he handled each piece of food with respect. I hope he got my point and didn’t write me off as a trippy-dippy hippie.
It doesn’t matter what store you shop at or whether you eat deli lunchmeat or free-range chicken breast–everyone should respect food!
You are easily irritated when you see other people working out in such a way that is inefficient or potentially injurious. For example, that young girl at the gym whose idea of crunches was to lie on her back and flail every part of her body except her abs? Not cool. And the teenager who took up space in the stretching area to catch up on her texting and Facebook status surfing? Please take your social networking elsewhere.
But perhaps the most jarring image was that of the middle-aged woman who sat down on a mat, extended her legs straight out in front, and collapsed into a forward fold, bending somewhere between the thoracic and lumbar spine, forming the letter C with her back in an effort to touch her toes.
In yoga, the stretch is called paschimottanasana. It’s done in almost every class, and it’s a posture that nearly every beginning yogi is corrected on. Everyone wants to show off and touch their toes, and in doing so compromises the integrity of the stretch by bending from their back instead of their hips. The goal of the pose isn’t to see how curved you can make your spine; it’s to feel a stretch in the hamstrings, which for many can be felt waaay before the hands reach the feet.
As a once very naturally very flexible person, I understand how you may one day unintentionally creep into that curved spine position just so you can revisit the good ol’ days, your hands bound around your feet and your chin inching toward the shins.
But when that happens, Jen, please look at your profile in the mirror. When your back no longer looks like a see-saw–when instead of being a straight line from your head to your hips your back looks like that of a hunched-over mad scientist–back off. Return to dandasana, regroup, and then fold from the hip creases. Even if your hands only reach your ankles, your knees–maybe you’ll even have to use a strap!–keep the back flat and enjoy the stretch. It will probably feel just as good at 45 degrees as it did in your youth when your back was nearly parallel with your legs.
I know it’s hard not to yearn for the past, that desire to be a 20-year-old Gumby again, but the intensity of yoga postures can be experienced at any stage of the stretch, just as you felt last night in hot vinyasa class when you closed your eyes during your halfway-there paschimottanasana and sunk deep into a state of pseudo-bliss, your breaths expanding and contracting your belly and back like a slow-motion dance.
There is no need for grimacing and struggling and hunching in yoga. Stop where it feels right, breathe into the stretch, use all the props you need to feel openness, lightness, and expansion. Despite what everyone says about yoga, you know well enough that it’s not about “touching your toes.” Stay true to your form, and don’t cave in–figuratively (to an ideal) or literally (your back!).
Your 30-year-old self,
I had a family obligation yesterday morning that had me dressed in business attire and stuck in an office for 2 hours with another 2 hours on the road, which is torture in itself but even moreso when the sunny sky and warm temps made yesterday one of The Most Beautiful Days in the World. On the drive home, sitting in the car in my black pants and black blazer, I fidgeted like a kid before recess, declaring that all I wanted to do was change into my play clothes and frolic outside! All the usual demands of the weekend–laundry, cleaning, sorting through a week’s worth of mail–automatically switch to “low priority” when Mother Nature gives us a beaut like yesterday. I spend so much time in the winter complaining about the dark and cold that I feel like I have to take advantage of every awesome day that comes our way.
After grabbing lunch at one of my favorite juice and burrito cafes (no burrito juice, however) and changing out of my stuffy office attire, Bryan and I headed to Red Bank Battlefield, which I’ve written about on here before. It’s one of our favorite “nice day” places to hang out, a sprawling park on the edge of the Delaware River, directly across from Philadelphia International Airport (perfect for plane watching!).
While we were walking around the park, we noticed a wedding party posing for photographs. They couldn’t have chosen a better day to get hitched (especially since the world didn’t end, as predicted).
We toted along some blankets, chairs, books, and magazines for some quality riverside reading time. Bryan prepped the space…
…and then I promptly fell asleep. I had been awake since 5:15 and was dragging at that point. I always feel the urge to nap but rarely actually follow through with it. Yesterday was an exception: I conked out for close to an hour but was delighted to do so under a big tree and wearing a tank top without being chilly. This is the stuff I dream about from November through April.
Days like yesterday are my fuel. They revive my engine, bring light into my heart, and make me focus on the positive. They remind me of all the good things I’ve been wanting to write about and share, stuff like:
• The mind and body studio in my gym is my secret getaway spot when the urge to dance calls. Every now and then, like this past Friday, I’ll be minding my own business, lifting weights, swinging a kettlebell, or stretching, and something on my iPod comes on that just hits me in the solar plexus, and suddenly my body says, “Dance! I must dance! Get thee to a wide open space and move, please!” It’s almost like a sickness, like a feeling of nausea that you know must exit soon, but not as gross. Just very urgent, and you know that if you hold it in, you’re going to feel (psychological) discomfort for the rest of the day. Luckily, my gym’s yoga studio was free that Friday afternoon, and I was able to sneak inside, pump up the volume on my iPod, and just dannnnnce. Twenty-five minutes later, I emerged a little sweatier and very satisfied.
• I am actually, like, 95% “cool” with my yoga teacher’s languaging. I tend to be very critical about what teachers say in class and how they say it (I can’t help it; I’m like the Larry David of yoga students), and if something irritates me too much for too long, I’ll turn to a podcast for class instead, like the one teacher who said “really” in almost every sentence (“Really feel your sitz bones pressing into the ground,” “Really lengthen the breath,” “Really press those feet into the mat and really feel alive”). But the teacher I go to now, aside from some “blossoming like a lotus” stuff she starts off with every now and then, is very mindful about her choice of words and what she says to the class. For example, there is a pregnant woman in the class, and as the teacher is showing her modifications she says, “Now, as the baby grows, you’re going to have to adjust your legs like this…” Notice it’s “as the baby grows,” not “as you get bigger.” Yeah, yeah, it’s the same thing, but I’m a semantics freak (and a woman), so I know how choice of words can make a huge difference. The teacher is also very careful not to showcase certain students; meaning, if someone goes into a perfect Bird of Paradise or scorpion, the teacher doesn’t blurt out, “Everyone, look at Heather! See, that’s how it should be done,” making those less flexible or with limitations feel inferior.
• My Fake Mom Carrol and her (real) daughter went to Kripalu this weekend for an R&R. Knowing how much I love the place, she sent me an e-mail yesterday (“Hi from Kripalu”) describing her afternoon yoga class, deep (emotionally and physically) massage, big changes, fresh whipped mango sauce, and a neti pot workshop. “Love carrol ( you are here in my heart and spirit can you feel it)?”, she closed. Instead of feeling jealous about her getaway, her e-mail made me so happy for her. Her daughter melted my heart, too. She tagged me on this photo she posted to Facebook:
• I’ve switched up my morning meditation a bit. Instead of sitting down and starting right away with a mudra meditation, I do 5 minutes of nadi shodhana pranayama (alternate nostril breathing), finish with solely right-nostril breathing (it’s the “solar” side; it’s a good early-morning energizer), and then do whatever mudra feels appropriate. Meditation is A LOT easier after opening the lungs and waking up those brain cells!
A soak in the hot tub at my gym last week had me thinking, “Am I a snob or just very disciplined?”
I had just finished a swimming workout and was winding down with a quick dip in the jacuzzi when women taking the aqua aerobics class began filtering into the pool area. They peeled off their outerwear, greeting each other with smiles and stories about the past week as they gingerly dipped their toes in the cool water. “Whatcha making for dinner tonight?” “How’s Bob and the kids?” “You’ll never believe where Helen is this week!” It was typical pre-class chit-chat, but the thing that raised my eyebrow was that it didn’t stop once class began.
The instructor turned on the stereo, cranking it full volume. The noise of the splashing water grew louder as the exercises started. The sound of gurgling bubbles from the jacuzzi competed with the pulsing music. The teacher yelled out instructions.
So much noise, and yet most of the women kept on talking, bringing their pre-class chats about dinner and Helen and Bob and the kids into the pool. They had to practically shout to be heard among each other, and as a result of being more engaged in conversation than exercise, their moves grew more and more limp and indifferent. They half-heartedly shimmied their torsos from side to side as the instructor demonstrated a powerful twist-and-hop move, clearly not listening and definitely not being very courteous to the other women in the pool who were there for a workout.
A white-haired woman in the front row caught my eye—she is me, age 70-something. She is in the front row, next to the instructor, because she wants to hear the exercises being called out. She is clearly set off from the coffee klatsch, her eyes focused ahead. She mimics the instructor’s moves, counting along, watching her form. She is wearing a fitness swimsuit, something from Speedo maybe, while the others are in frilly and floral bathing suits with skirts. The white-haired woman doesn’t once glance back at the peanut gallery behind her, although the somewhat exasperated look on her face indicates that she wishes everyone else would just shut up and pay attention already.
I sat there in the hot tub, fuming at the social butterflies who were disrupting class, as though I were actually that white-haired woman. I felt guilty for reacting like such a snob, but I was reminded that perhaps: “You’re just very disciplined.”
The utterance of the word sent me back to 4th grade, jazz dance class, in the studio rehearsing our annual recital number to Kylie Minogue’s “Locomotion.” The teacher was by the stereo, rewinding the cassette tape so we could practice the routine again. Jenna and Allison (pseudonyms, but OH I remember their real names) were talking, probably about boys or makeup or something “cool,” because they were a grade ahead of me. The teacher scolded them for talking, yet they got in trouble for the same thing over and over again, class after class. Maybe their parents sent them to dance class against their will; maybe being a serious student wasn’t “cool” to them. But I HATED Jenna and Allison. Why couldn’t they just be quiet and learn the dance?
My father videotaped one of my dance recital dress rehearsals once; this time I was a senior in high school. We had finished the first run-through of our tap routine and were hanging out on stage as the teacher gave notes. It’s all there on camera—a few chatty girls laughing and having their own little conversation on stage, and then me, diligently listening to the teacher, removed from the other fits of giggles breaking out around me, breaking concentration only once to practice a toe stand on my taps.
In general, the dance teachers I had in elementary and high school were pretty lax. They’d start class a few minutes late. They’d wouldn’t care if Jenna and Allison talked about their junior prom plans as they stood in line waiting to do hitch kicks across the floor.
But then one year a new ballet teacher was hired at the studio—not quite Phantom of the Opera strict, but very different from any other teacher we’d ever had. There was absolutely no talking during class. If you messed up, you had to do the combination again. She was old and didn’t care a lick about your junior prom. And you better be quiet while she was giving notes during dress rehearsal.
Everyone hated her. I LOVED her.
Of course, I pretended to hate her, to fit in with my peers. But inside…she was my dream teacher. I was there to dance, and she made sure that happened.
My parents weren’t paying a hefty tuition for a weekly Happy Hour. I wasn’t taking an hour out of my creative writing class homework every Thursday night to socialize. I was there to dance; I wanted to get it right; just cut the crap and get down to business.
As such, I have a tendency now to look a little snobbish when fellow classmates try to get all talky-talky during group-setting workouts. Maybe that’s why I have so much trouble with Zumba; I mean, aside from the high-impact moves that sometimes hurt my hips and knees, the class is VERY social. It’s advertised as a kind of dance party, and at a party you talk and gossip, right?
As for the chatty aqua aerobics women, I totally get that this may be their only form of exercise and that perhaps they’re there more for the social benefits than anything else. Research has proven over and over again that group exercise classes are beneficial for their social interaction qualities, but that doesn’t give everyone an excuse to slack off and work out their mouths more than their bodies, especially if there is time before and after class to hang out in the lobby. And especially if there are white-haired, disciplined students among them, trying hard to learn the aerobics move, yoga pose, or dance step. 🙂
What about y’all out there? Is your sense of discipline borderline snobbery? Or would you and I butt heads in a class?
My lack of sleep over the past several days is catching up with me big time today, and I have no mental energy to write creatively. I was all set to replace Flashback Friday with The Friday Five and concoct some list of tid-bitty yoga things, but I only got to three bullet points before my brain gave me an out-of-office message and just checked out. That said, I searched my old journal’s archives for something fun to post and came across this hilarious entry about one of craziest yoga classes I’ve ever taken.
Because I’m still in the throes of my personal yoga crisis and deciding what yoga to practice and where, I apprehensively drove to the yoga studio this past Thursday for the vinyasa flow class. And, as if being tested, the minute I entered the studio, there stood two of the “orgasm” ladies, the women who have toothy smiles permanently plastered on their faces, who speak in breathy sighs, and who feel the need to throw in 3 “thank yous” for every door you hold open for them. I walked in as they were discussing macrobiotics, and instantly I felt my blood pressure rise. I actually stood in place for a few seconds, contemplating whether to take off my coat or to just open the door and walk back outside. ::deep breaths:: OK, I’ll stay.
The class turned out to be a lesson in humor and humbleness, because by the end of those 90 minutes, the two women were the last thing on my mind. Here’s a rundown of what happens in a yoga studio on the eve of a full moon:
1. The class, which normally draws in a crowd of 6 to 8 students, suddenly grows to 15. For a small studio, this is a huge surge. Most of the floor is covered in mats, sun salutations have to be modified so our arms don’t clash, and there aren’t enough yoga bricks for everyone.
2. Fifteen minutes into the class, just as we’re emerging from a peaceful meditation, there is commotion at the (locked) front door, which also happens to lead right into the studio. The handle jiggles furiously, a body pushes on the door, and then impatient knocking commences.
3. The teacher unlocks the door and cautiously opens it a sliver, an invitation for a frantic, bundled woman to come barging inside, very loudly exclaiming, “Ohmigod, I thought I’d never get here! The traffic! Whew! Glad I made it!” in the middle of our class. It is 35 degrees outside, and the cold air rushes through the room like a frosty demon.
4. Realizing her faux pas, the woman gasps and apologizes for interrupting. The teacher graciously takes her belongings and fetches her a mat, but then we learn the woman had never even been to the studio before, which means she needs to sign a waiver before participating. Now the teacher needs to fetch the right form and sign the woman in. Oh, and still conduct a class, because class started 15 minutes ago.
5. As soon as the woman gets settled, a car alarm goes off in all its glory outside, like right outside the building. It doesn’t help that the studio is located on the corner of a busy throughway and is already subject to idling trucks, beeping horns, and pedestrian chatter outside. The alarm wails for 2 or 3 minutes, pauses (whew!), but then starts right back up again. This pattern continued for the next hour and 10 minutes.
6. At 6:15, now half an hour into the class, as we’re all sweating our way through sun salutations, a woman, who must’ve silently entered the building from the back door, emerges from the back of the room, yoga mat in hand, and tiptoes through the maze of mats to spread herself out in a cramped corner up front. I think the teacher was so befuddled at this point that she just told the lady to please warm up before doing anything. If things hadn’t been so weird, I’m sure the teacher would have said, “Um, class started 30 minutes ago. I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait for the next class.”
Everything was so obnoxious at that point that it actually became funny. Every time the car alarm paused and then started up again, I couldn’t help chuckling. What could you do at that point? The cool thing, though, was that the SECOND the teacher dimmed the lights for savasana, the car alarm STOPPED. For good. The pure coincidence of it all was enough to make me think that there really is someone up there pulling the strings, having a good time with humanity.
I never thought I’d have to cite burnt popcorn fumes as an excuse for missing out on yoga, but today was that day.
Burnt microwave popcorn is a given in an office environment, but today the perpetrator left the bag in for so long that it had to be seconds away from catching on fire. Smoke was billowing out of the microwave, which, unfortunately, is just a few steps from my cubicle. The resulting smell was AWFUL, and making matters worse is that none of the windows on my side of the building open. The smoke just was not dissipating, and my colleagues and I spent the last hour in the office coughing, blowing our noses, and wiping our watery eyes. I usually hang around the office an extra 40 minutes and then proceed to the yoga studio for class, but all I wanted to do this afternoon was get the hell home. No way was I hanging around any longer than I had to! I spent the entire drive home sucking in air from my rolled-down windows, even though I was driving 65 miles per hour on a windy day. The smoke lingered in my throat and nose, and when I got home I knew that yoga was absolutely necessary (a) to calm me down! and (b) to get my lungs to expel that nasty smoky popcorn air and inhale some long, clean, deep fresh breaths.
I normally just plop on my mat and do a “whatever-comes-to-me” practice, but because I had originally planned on going to a formal studio class, I was in the mood for something a little more structured. I tinkered around on iTunes, very close to choosing my old standby, Phillip Urso’s Baptiste power yoga, but then I thought of Thais’ recent post about her amazing Jivamukti class in DC, and I did the unthinkable: I tried something new. I found Sofi Dillof’s podcast collection on iTunes; she’s got a pretty decent stash of Jivamukti podcasts all ready to roll. Lemme tell you, best choice ever!
The 1-hour, 24-minute class I selected started off with a brief chant, Om’ing, some much-needed kapalabhati breath, a short ‘n’ sweet little talk about moving from Me to We, and then one hell of a phenomenal asana practice. Enough vinyasa flows to have me work up a little sweat (impressive for not being in a heated studio), 5 breaths in each posture (the perfect amount, in my opinion), nothing TOO crazy for the hips, and–my favorite–a revolved triangle thrown in near the end of class during the middle of belly-down postures. It totally threw me for a loop, but OMG that twist felt like heaven, and for a sweet minute my sacrum felt as flat and stable as a coffee table. Three wheels, some shoulderstand, and a fish pose later, I was relaxing in a decent-length savasana, almost fell asleep, and then sat in meditation for another 5 minutes. The best part? My confused brain thought it was later than it was and expected to exit the yoga room into a dark hallway…but it was still bright and sunny! Bonus: I didn’t have to drive home!
Conclusion: I will definitely be listening to some more of Sofi Dillof’s classes. The pacing was perfect, everything was easy to understand despite being an audio-only podcast (just gotta know your Sanskrit!), and I loved the blend of chanting, meditation, lecture, pranayama, and invigorating asana. I had energy to cook dinner after my practice! Usually when I come home from hot yoga I am a big hot mess of laziness and resort to eating a bowl of cereal for dinner. Now I just wish I could find a local studio that offers Jivamukti!
P.S. Jivamukti excites me, but so does this. Are any other die-hard So You Think You Can Dance fans out there? Aside from the news and some sporting events, I haven’t watched real TV in months, but that will all end May 26!
Last Tuesday I had the unfortunate experience of setting up my yoga mat next to the Incredible Hulk’s cousin.
The vinyasa class I attend is composed of primarily female students, but it’s not uncommon for a guy, two, or three to drop in. I’m always impressed to see a fellow in the room, and I silently commended the linebacker-ish dude as I set up camp next to him. (Totally random side note: Seriously, sometimes I feel like I’m going camping with all the junk I haul into a yoga studio: mat, two blocks, hand towel, mat towel, water bottle, sweatshirt for post-savasana…just put a tent around me, already).
Everything started off OK, but shortly after our opening pranayama and warm-ups, I began noticing that the sounds of my ujjayi breath were being drowned out by my neighbor’s grunts and exasperated exhalations. The noises were primal and angry. If I had been blindfolded and questioned about my surroundings, I would have guessed that I was on the weight floor at the gym, and that a some big beefy guy with a ripped tank top and a crew cut was doing dead lifts or hammer curls with 550-pound dumbbells.
We were doing a sequence of standard vinyasas, warriors, and triangles, not even close to, say, an ashtanga class with those handstand-to-chaturanga drops or 20 wheels or something. His noises were exaggerated and unnecessary, almost as if he believed that making bodybuilder huffs and grunts validated his yoga workout. Even more disturbing than the noises, however, was his composure: In each pose, his entire body shook with violent determination. I believe one of the biggest challenges of yoga is to remain light and fluid even during the most grueling of poses (Sthira sukham asanam: the posture is steady and comfortable), but my neighbor had the opposite approach: My veins must bulge and my muscles must quiver!
Even on our bellies for backbends, the aggressiveness continued, and I feared my neighbor was actually aiming to be a real cobra. He bore his teeth, biting viciously onto his lower lip, his beet-red head looking ready to strike. I tried hard to concentrate on my own practice, but his presence was so intimidating I couldn’t help but feel a bit violated. He was an energy vampire, sucking the lifeforce out of everyone around him.
Perhaps the scariest part, though, was during inversions. We placed our mats against the wall, and as the teacher moved around the room to help others with their headstands, forearm balances, etc, Incredible Hulk starting slamming out handstands boot-camp style, throwing his massive body up against the wall, feet crashing so hard I thought for sure he was going to bust a hole through the drywall. He’d hit the wall and fall down, and then go right back up again, boom.boom.boom. I was trying to do forearm balance next to him, but my concentration was mediocre at best. I feared for my safety, especially after he went up into one particularly forceful handstand, hit the wall, and crashed down hard, his head rolling to the side and his neck precariously rolling along with it and the rest of his body weight. Luckily I was out of my own inversion at that point, and another woman and I looked on in horror as he fell to the side; we were certain it was going to end badly for him. He survived, but the teacher was quick to initiate savasana after that, even though I never felt particularly relaxed.
You know, I’ve always been very sensitive to the sounds of a yoga class–his Omm’ing is out of key, that Sanskrit music is a bit too woo-woo, her blissful sighs sound too much like orgasms–but I think I’d take any of those over the grunts, snarls, and body slams of the anything-but-incredible Hulk.