I am a self-proclaimed yoga-hater despite living in the land of yoga. People are obsessed with it everywhere, but out here it's on another level. It is a way of life. People go to India for months to study it. People here do it every day, schedule their lives around their classes. Like breathing and going to the bathroom, it's a thing you have to just do to be a functioning human. At least, that's the hit I get off Sonoma County.
My deep-seeded hatred started in college. I signed up for a class with a friend and, in a room surrounded by mirrors, was singled out by the teacher who was shocked at my shockingly unflexible body. I shouldn't blame her too much, it is pretty astounding that with my legs straight I can barely reach past my knees. Pointing it out in front of the entire class, however, was so not cool.
I took a few more cracks at it over the years, thinking it would be a good challenge to stretch out my body. I tried the beginning classes, and the restorative classes where you spend half of it taking a nap and wonder if anyone else is as bored as you are. When I became passionate about climbing, I was motivated to try again, because yoga is the most complementary workout to improve your technique. No, no, no. Every time I took a class, I watched the clock, felt searing pain, and became so distracted by the millions of thoughts in my head I wanted to scream. Teachers all showed the same surprise by my limitations, followed by a look of pity when they realized there was little chance they could do anything for me. I have the hamstrings of a 90-year-old man. I really am that bad.
There are points in your life when you have to let things go and accept you can't do everything. Choices need to be made as to where you spend your time and energy, and what your endeavors will be. I was never going to be a yoga girl, and the next best thing would be to abhor it.
"You'd feel differently about J's class." I heard this from four different gals and decided to open the yoga door, if just a crack. So last night I went to the class with my friend Curly. I was feeling the jitters when I unrolled my mat, which had been flattened in the trunk of my car and looked like a squashed blueprint, so it didn't really unroll with grace. I brushed off the dust and creases, stepped onto the mat and held my breath, hoping it would all be over soon.
J came out and was not a new-age, spacey run of the mill vegan instructor but a healthy, curvy girl-next-door. She looked like the girl who babysat everyone in the neighborhood. She turned on some Stevie Ray Vaughn and began a very gentle series of stretches to warm us up and clear our minds. I relaxed instantly. The pain was minimal, the concentration intensely focused. I was in my body! Comfortable even! Then we did a fluid reach of our arms to open the heart and shoulders and send out a giving energy or prayer to someone or something.
I can say this kind of thing would make me roll my eyes, but by the second cycle, I burst into quiet tears and an ache in my heart melted away. A devout yogi friend told me she experienced hysterical crying often during practice, which I always found to be straight up kooky and a sign of emotional unbalance. Until I found myself with arms flailing about on a yoga mat doing exactly the same thing.
I won't retract every mean thing I've ever said about yoga in the past even after experiencing the closest thing I've had to a new consciousness between my body and mind. For whatever reason, I was placed in a room with just the right vibe, language, tunes and crowd. The time has come to get a glimpse of the hype and maybe even squeeze in another endeavor. I do believe I can learn to be more flexible. I can set foot on the path to healing, giving, letting go.
We all can.