Back Into the Belly of the Yogi

Posted: July 23, 2014 in Yoga
Tags: ,

Unfortunately, my yoga practice has been suffering a bit.  Well, suffering in the sense that I’m not doing it daily as I used to do.

Mostly, I do a little at the gym as either a core strengthening routine, or as a warm down after a heavy weights session (or workout).  Sometimes I just slip down to the lake and spend 45 minutes or so stretching lightly, or doing some Sun Salutations.  Mostly, it’s an excuse to listen to some tunes on my iPod and enjoy an easy, effortless stretch down by the water.  It’s not that I no longer subscribe to yoga as an important strengthening tool or recovery vehicle – it is – but time simply does not allow me to do everything I’d like to do so concessions have to be made.

Anyway, I received a pass recently for my birthday to enjoy a free yoga session.  What a treat!  I miss my near daily instructor lead yoga classes so I was kind of eager to participate.  I packed my shamefully neglected yoga mat (I never use it down at the lake as the grass works just fine) into the car along with a change of clothes and after work, made my way to the studio nice and early to claim my spot in the class.

Let the bendy-twisty commence.

However, it seems I am a little out of the yoga loop now.  Sure, there were still all the cutesy frog, dolphin and Sanskrit tattoos galore, but the mood of the place was decidedly…different.

When I first arrived, I was recognized by a few patrons of the studio who greeted me enthusiastically so which I responded in return, to which I was shushed.  The girl at the desk wagged her at me finger (albeit very nicely) and pointed to the sign on the nearby door that read ‘Class in Session’.  Oops, my bad.  So I lowered my voice to a whisper.  Hell hath no fury like a granola cruncher scorned.

I got changed next and waited patiently with the other Lycra Lululemon clad yogis in the lobby for the class to let out so we could get in and get set up, as you do.  When the door opened, it was chaos.  It was like rush hour on the TTC or something, with an entire mob of yogis all pressing forward to get in quickly and claim a spot of available floor space.  It was like the great California Land Rush.  I ended up stuck between two girls who were, apparently, making a nest with pillows and blankets and stuff.   Both of them had dolphin tattoos…in the same place.

I tried to be friendly and polite by saying ‘hello’, but they just gave me a blank stare and resumed with their pillow forts.  I swear the temperature dropped a degree.  But it wasn’t just these girls as nobody was talking, like, at all.  Everyone seemed to be avoiding each other as they fussed with their mat and assorted accoutrements.  Eventually, the class filled up as other exercise bunnies also poured in and I ended up sandwiched between two sets of feet directly above and below me, both decorated with some sort of cosmic henna pattern on their feet.  Maybe there was some sort of deal down at the local Henna Shop or something.

This sure wasn’t the lake, believe me.

While the class itself was great, I couldn’t get into the mental swing of things.  I found the rather devout dedication to silence to be awkward. I’m a talker – I admit it.  I hate having to be 100% silent.  Now, I definitely get the whole ‘Silence is Golden’ rule of yoga but, I still like to feel as if I can openly communicate with the instructor and maybe the participants around me when it is appropriate and fun to do so and, even then, only sparingly.  After all, if it’s not fun why bother?  This, however, felt decidedly different.  It was rather like being in a Trappist Monastery.  Definitely not the ‘fun’ I had originally envisioned and remember.

So what changed?  Was I once so dedicated to my practice that I was this serious too?  God I hope not.  I don’t think so anyway.

So what is it then?  Why did this class feel so different from what I remember loving?  Of course, the faces had changed since the last time I practiced at that location but, that couldn’t be it could it? I did try to be friendly and that clearly failed.  So what gives?  I felt like that creepy stalker guy who’s more interested in scoping out fresh ass than they are in the yoga.  Is that how the girls viewed me now?

Maybe part of the whole issue resides in that I haven’t been attending regular classes for a while, preferring now to do them solo now as time allows.  And when I do, I’m typically outdoors and plugged into my own world completely void of others.  Suddenly, being back in a crowded studio with a group of other strangers all doing the same thing had a rather cultish feel to it.

Maybe I’ve just temporarily lost my tolerance (interest?) for the whole dogma surrounding yoga.  Perhaps when we attach too rigidly to a belief system as the others seem to be doing (my opinion only), it’s possible that we also shut down the potential for connection.  My best experiences in yoga have been about having fun and building a connection to myself, to pushing into my self-imposed limitations, to my physical body, to the teacher, to the practice, to the other students in the class.  This typically involved some sort of spoken communication, albeit brief. But these students didn’t seem to be too interested in connecting to anything verbally or otherwise; much less having fun.  I mean, I’m sure they are having fun otherwise they wouldn’t be there in the first place, but maybe their idea of fun just happens to be much different than my own.

Thing is, I don’t mind a little distraction with my yoga.  I like the open communication; the teasing, the laughing, the music, the assorted yoga weirdoes, the regular poops, the sweat and, yes, the occasional yoga fart…the whole enchilada.  The workout is nice too of course as it is always a good idea to get feedback from the instructor regarding form and technique which might begin to slip when you only practice on your own.  I’m sure I was far from perfect yesterday.  And sure mediation is nice as well as I love me some good Shavasna but, really, that it’s not the entire be all and end all point of the practice.  To me, I shouldn’t feel like I’m going to church.

I also realize that many people do go for that whole meditation-spirituality thingee (and good for them!), but I think I’ve either moved past that or I just missed it altogether.  I think for the time being, my yoga practice will remain solo, on my own terms.  This may change in the future and I may wander back into the neighborhood Ashram once again but for now, the lake and my iPod suits my needs perfectly.

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