Note: this is a post by Kate Carter, one of our pals at the fabulous Divine Caroline.
For years, I’ve felt obligated to say I like yoga. Who doesn’t like it? It’s the cool thing to do. Soul-enriching exercise. Stretchy pants. Hollywood endorsements. Hip and calm. But after enrolling in three different classes and enduring hours that felt like years, I am stopping my lies: I hate yoga.
I hate the way the teachers speak in breathy whispers. I want them to speak up, because when I’m in the downward dog position, I’m distracted by others’ unseemly body parts encroaching on my personal space.
I know I’m supposed to lose myself in yoga class, taking on a blank, yet peaceful state of mind. I try to forget about work-related stress, the grocery list, and that mole on my leg that might look funny enough to schedule a trip to the dermatologist. But then I start obsessing about how and when I’m going to get everything done, and worries about my mole turn into nightmarish daydreams about chemotherapy and dying from skin cancer. Now how is yoga going to help me with that?
Not only do my worries surface in yoga class, they become amplified by the fact that I’m cheating on some stretch that feels terrible and doesn’t seem to burn any calories anyway. My watch becomes my enemy, and the minutes pass as slowly as the teacher whispers.
“Hurry up!” I want to scream. But the teacher, oblivious to my panicked anxiety, closes her eyes and groans, “ooohhhhmmmm.” And that is when I know-for sure-that I am in the wrong place.
I’ve taken yoga classes at independent, artsy centers and at large gyms. I’ve taken prenatal yoga, beginner’s yoga, and intermediate yoga. I’ve bought a mat, comfortable pants, and contemplated purchasing a tape. But despite the scenery changes and the yoga-infused consumerism, I always find myself back at the starting line.
During the first yoga class I ever took, I passed gas during a breathing exercise. The teacher at the “Healing Arts Center” immediately commended my body’s natural reaction, but instead of soaking in the praise, I got a case of the giggles that did not stop for the rest of the hour-long class. The teacher’s praise turned into reproachful glances and then angry stares as it became clear that I was not mature enough to handle yoga or a fart.
I missed the next class because of a genuine scheduling conflict, but when I returned the following week, I felt my classmates’ assuming looks: they thought I’d been too embarrassed to come back. To add to my discomfort, we started on the breathing exercises again-popping our stomachs out and back in with great vigor-and I got the giggles once more, because all I could think about was how funny farts are. The teacher asked if I needed to take some time to gather myself, and my answer was “no.” I knew no amount of gathering could make the situation less humorous.
The biggest mistake I’ve ever made, as far as yoga is concerned, is enrolling in a prenatal yoga class while I was working a demanding job and moving houses. I was pregnant with my first-and only-child, and if I had to do it over again, I would choose instead to go see movies, read novels, and do all those other things you don’t get to do once you have a baby. I want those wasted hours back, darn it!
My classmates loved the end of each session, when the teacher would brew some kind of spicy tea and read “birth stories” that previous students wrote after having their babies. The ethos of the class was such that epidurals (and in some cases, doctors and hospitals) were evils to be avoided at all costs. I sipped the tea and listened to tales about the “ring of fire” and looked at my watch and thought I might never escape. I began to think of that teacher as Ms. Torture, because she seemed to want me to endure the worst pain on the face of the earth with no medicinal help.
Just hours after I decided to come clean about yoga, I received an email from my brother, who lives in Siberia and manages two silver mines. He announced to my family that he was enrolled in a yoga class in the city of Khabarovsk, and his email read: “I’m learning to speak in a soft, peaceful singsong. Next I’m going to start sewing my own clothes and drinking tea from tree bark.”
So my skeptical, sarcastic brother is making fun of his yoga classes, too. But-and this is shocking-he is taking them. In Siberia.
As yoga goes mainstream and spreads to all corners of the world, I’m going to stick to my guns. No more yoga for me. Maybe one day, when I’m old and frail and can’t touch my toes, I’ll wish I had gotten into it. But for now, I’ll stick with running-an activity that really is good for my heart-and soul.
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Top Image: Shayan (USA)