Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Short Bus to Namaste


I went to yoga last night.

I say "went to" rather than "did" because I am not sure I was actually doing yoga. I was doing something, just not sure you can call it yoga.

I live in Santa Cruz County, where people have yoga'd since birth. There are yoga studios in Santa Cruz like coffee shops in Seattle. Its second nature here. But I did not grow up here. I grew up on the other side of the bay, which is the other side of the cultural spectrum. And I was an army brat. Army kids don't do yoga. We do jumping jacks.


Not that I haven't ever done yoga before. I did it for a year, but that was more than 15 years ago. It was Kundalini yoga, a powerful and ancient yoga, taught by some american sikhs at a local Universalist Church. The whole thing was so foreign to me. The sikhs had long hair that they curled up on their heads and they wore these funny little hats and silver bracelets. Their kids could wrap their bodies up like pretzels. We said lots of "sat nams" and listened to an ancient gong and drank chai tea. This may have been no big deal in Santa Cruz, but in the conservative jumping jack county of Monterey, this was as exotic as it got.

And I was lured and lulled by the whole thing. I romanticized the sikhs, and put them on a spiritual high rung on the nirvana ladder. They could touch the backs of their heads with their feet, so they must have had answers to life's mysteries. And if I said my sat nams and drank their tea, maybe I would be spiritually enriched somehow as well.

And then, one day, I read in the newspaper how this particular family of sikhs were all busted for construction fraud in Seaside. Seaside is my people. The yoga sikhs were fuckin with my people.

And I never went back and I hadn't done yoga since.

Until last night. And it showed.

Last night was vinyasa yoga. A slower gentler yoga than kundalini and I figured I could handle that.

I couldn't.

I needed remedial help.

First I walked on the floor with my shoes on. Everyone sort of made the oh-oh face at me and I realized that shoes on the yoga floor is a big no-no. I tried to show that they were Danskos. Surely there was some sympathy for Danskos amongst the yoga set?

So I tiptoed back to the shoe taking off area and took off my shoes. Then I noticed that everyone had mats and things. I saw the mats and things spot on the other side of the room and grabbed one of everything that was there. This included a purple mat, a blanky, a purple styrofoam block and a strap that looked like it was used for something naughty.

When did yoga have so many accessories?

It started off innocently enough with Child's pose. I could do that pose all day long. I'll just lay there and drool. Except my mat smelled like cigarettes. I can think of no logical reason that my yoga mat smelled like cigarettes, but it did. We were supposed to take deep breaths, but each breath brought purple cigarette foam into my face.

I noticed everyone else brought their own mats.

They also all had their socks off. I still had my socks on. Again another big no no. They were an old pair of bella socks and one of my toes was sort of almost sticking through the end of one of them. It kept distracting me, but I was too busy with the inhaling and the exhaling to figure out how to covertly remove them.

We moved through a succession of poses that all had wonderfully descriptive names. It was a blur of dogs, snakes and warriers. Upward ones and downward ones and sideways ones. And breath.

Always with the inhale and exhale. You were supposed to move from one pose to another with one breath.

You try deciphering what the hell downward snake charmer with warrier wings means, while discreetly glancing at the instructor and the people around you to make certain you really are supposed to have your foot next to your ear, all while trying not to slip in your socks, in one breath.

I was always one or two poses behind and sometimes I would have to skip a pose to catch up. I reminded myself of my mom when she does the electric slide or the macarena or the chicken dance in a big group. She doesnt have a sense of rhythym and so she is always on some other step than the rest of the group and clapping between beats.

And just when I thought I had nailed a pose, the instructor would come over and gently "correct" me. Or she would "suggest" the use of the block, a remedial aid of sorts. That really stung. I tried not to be competitive and all, I mean its anti-yogi to be competitive, but none of the other people in our group needed the remedial block.

We finished with some relaxation and then the session was over and everyone quietly gathered up ther mats and made a solemn exit. I hung out a little to talk to the instructor (who was Sarah Kerlin by the way and I hope she doesn't read this and get the wrong idea because I loved her session). We talked about yoga and poses and flexibility and health and fitness blah blah and finally put on our shoes.

When I notice that Sarah was wearing a Vanderkitten jacket and big ass high heel shoes. Yoga teachers aren't supposed to wear big ass high heel shoes.

I'm coming back next week.

25 Comments:

At 6:34 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger teamwelliver said...

great...now I'm nervous...we did Bikram yoga (the hot and sweaty kind) here for about a month and gave up. I was definitely too competitive (why is the 60 year old lady in the front row kicking my butt??) and Iowans didn't do yoga in the cornfields growing up. I was hoping vinyasa would be easier!

 
At 6:47 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger marscat said...

you're a yoga fuck? hey ippoc, VB is a yoga-fuck.

sorry, had to get that out. they take our parking spaces.

...and you could write about picking up dog-doo and i would sit and smile...not that doing yoga is like dog-doo...

 
At 6:55 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Ippoc Amic said...

someone told me yoga could be a bit competitive...

ok-your mission, should you decide to accept it and stick with yoga: get the yoga people to dress up for costume yoga...i think that would be cool...

p.s. we know they are going to yoga because after they take the parking spots, they walk down the street with their purple yoga mats...

 
At 7:36 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger Lilly Bella said...

ha..ha...

You know we would have been kicked out if I were there. I am sure you would have put me into a giggle hysteria mode.

If the yoga teach wears high heels then I'm sure we can wear our go go boots.

 
At 9:27 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger tash said...

that was very funny! yogis have a secret sort of competiveness i am pretty sure...and now we know they steal parking spots!!! from bellas no less. humph. but i do love my yoga instructor...she always comes and presses down and my legs and says...tash, have you been cycling more?! uhhh, no, no at all. but keep going! it is a lovely antidote. tash

 
At 11:26 PM, November 07, 2007, Blogger twinkiepatissier said...

auming in.

one of my yoga instructors is french and i like when he makes modifications to my pose. cute accent and all.

try hatha or iyengar. that's like the no-yogini-left-behind program. i'm in the program.

auming out.

 
At 6:27 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Velo Bella said...

don't be nervous Beth! It will be fun! Just remember to take your socks off and everything will be fine!

 
At 6:29 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Velo Bella said...

I don't know if I could get the yoga people to dress up. They were a pretty solemn bunch (exceot for Sarah of course). I would have to start them off slowly, like mabye having them wear those head dinglebobby things first or something

 
At 6:58 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger chatterbox said...

Yeah, I'm with Twinkie. I like hatha and iyengar, because I'm an uncoordinated, inflexible boob, and the instructors always make me feel good about myself. I actually also like Vinyasa, but sometimes the quick changes of spine flexion and extension drive my back nuts - and I compare myself to the others too much.

Keep it up! You may not reach enlightenment, but it's a great remedy for the cycling-induced seizing of every muscle below the waist.

 
At 7:07 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger CyclistRick said...

Of course you can skip the competitiveness and peer pressure by having the instructor come and give private instruction. Ms. Chatterbox, our friend Rebecca, and I did that after the local Pilates place axed their yoga classes and left us and the instructor out in the cold. So we made the front room a yoga studio and enticed the instructor over for semi-private lessons .. until she flaked and disappeared and did not respond to email or phone calls.

Tonight, if we are good we will be at Yoga (iyengar). Hope it is better than last time when we were locked in the studio which was surrounded by police with weapons drawn (due to rumored guy with a gun in the Sears next to the Yoga studio).

 
At 7:50 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger lauren said...

i took yoga for a year or so. very relaxing. i was a groovy and relaxed mom for like an hour after each class. but then i'd always go back to normal.

once you've done it for a while and you can remember the poses without having to look at everyone else, you can close your eyes.

and then you won't be comparing yourself to others.

 
At 8:41 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Velo Bella said...

I have Prana yoga pants. The last time I used them was for my gargoyle costume at work. Am I a yoga-fuck if I have Prana yoga pants?

 
At 8:54 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger marscat said...

the worst kind

 
At 11:36 AM, November 08, 2007, Blogger bbElf (a.k.a. panda) said...

My favorite yoga is the in-my-house DVD kind. Then I can feel all good about my poses (except relaxation pose -- I can never get that one).

Plus it's comedy gold for Mr. Man & the kitties.

 
At 1:23 PM, November 08, 2007, Blogger jen said...

yoga virgin, here, which is probably a criminal offense in SB.

i'd probably get kicked out after 5 minutes. i'm so not good at serious.

 
At 1:49 PM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Erein said...

Well, it's kind of hard to be serious when you're in a downward dog position with your butt sticking up in the air. There is only one reason I can think of for a dog to stick his hindquarters up in the air like that, and I'm afrid that doesn't lend itself to serious yoga contemplation. I always get the giggles. :(

 
At 3:17 PM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Beth said...

my friend took me to a yoga class once this year and at the end i fell asleep and *apparently* started snoring. oops. i didn't go back after that.

 
At 3:48 PM, November 08, 2007, Blogger ginmtb said...

I'm not a jacka$$ fan but I thought of this when I read this thread:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFkifX72NSQ

 
At 4:33 PM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Velo Bella said...

he had his socks on

 
At 6:59 PM, November 08, 2007, Blogger Brent said...

Vinyasa was what I did the last year before I moved to help my back.

At first it seemed silly, but after about a month of it I started seeing the results.

have fun. High heels are hot.

 
At 7:56 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Wild Dingo said...

As an experience yoga-fuck, I have to add my 2cents. My 15 years of ballet, modern and ballroom lends me to being a “pretzel-fuck” (pretty darn flexible), so when I discovered vinyasa in the early 90’s it was a natural form of strength training for me to balance with light running I did. In ’99 I discovered the bike. Someone told me to lift weights to improve my riding. A year into ditching my mat for the weight room gave me incredible back pain on the bike. So in 2003 when I tried racing, I ditched weights and took up the mat again. And it transformed my racing experience.

/begin lecture/ The idea with yoga is to set your intention in your practice. Meaning set a goal for what yoga should accomplish for “you.” It should never be about competing with the pretzel-fuck in front. You can’t win yoga. It should be about checking in with your body and discovering what it needs to feel good, whether it is to feel good on the bike or at work or on the disco floor. It’s all about intention.

As a pretzel-fuck who’s practicing a lot lately (because for other reason, I sadly can’t ride at the moment), you’d think every practice I’d be doing advanced poses. And while I do have plenty of those days where I’m turning myself into a pretzel, there are plenty of days I reach for the block. Sometimes TWO blocks! And you know what? Those are the days I leave the matt most refreshed, because I practiced intelligently and opened my body up to its potential for the day, without injury. Hey, once I fell asleep for 45 minutes in a vinyasa class…that was “my” yoga for that day!

Approach your yoga practice like you ride your bike –some days are recovery and others are intervals. So when Ms. K provides you the block, it’s to help you find where the strength should be coming from, and to prevent you from hurting yourself. And you know something else about Ms. K? She knows her yoga stuff for the true “athlete.” She knows what it will take to transform your riding, running, swimming or your disco boogie. Be honored when she comes to adjust you. She’s paying attention to you and not about to let her friend get hurt.

So the moral is: set an intention for your practice. What do you want it to do for you long term and for that day’s practice? You know what? If you focus on that intention, you won’t even notice the pretzel-fucks. You’ll go “inside” and your practice becomes “yours” and not the pretzel-fuck’s. And that’s the most important thing. Grab your block or heck, grab two, proudly, because you’re being intelligent.
/end lecture/
Hope to see you on a PURPLE mat soon!

 
At 9:18 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger monk said...

until Jules post I was thinking I could show up without socks, wear my Prana pants, paint my Jazzercise mat purple and look like a regular.

now I'm thinking I need to get heels like the teacher!

 
At 9:50 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Velo Bella said...

Oh Jules! We know all that, but it wouldn't make for a funny post, now would it?

 
At 10:28 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Wild Dingo said...

monk: i'm waiting for the day you teach jazzercise. I'll be the first to show up, with my jackson pollock leaotard and tights from the teaching days in the 80s...

 
At 1:06 PM, November 10, 2007, Blogger monk said...

Not gonna happen Jules, not again.
Been there done that.

however we could find a use for those tights and leotards!

 

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