November 17, 2011

I Used To Love Yoga. ~ Kelsey Riley

 Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on January 11, 2011. 

I used to love yoga.

By Kelsey Riley

I used to love the barebones mom and pop studio I practiced at in Boulder, Colorado. I didn’t think about what I was wearing, or for that matter, if I’d brushed my hair that day—I’d just roll out of bed and cruise to class. It was a solid chunk of time in my day where I could be with all the little aches and pains in my body and try to find some peace, while creating a little openness and less tension.

Then I moved to San Francisco.

It was around this time that yoga accessories seemed to peak, and the birth of the $120 lululemon yoga pants came on the scene. In awe of all the fashion accessories that people toted into class and the pop music playing during down dog, I got a little distracted, and for that matter annoyed. This all used to be so easy—now we were supposed to coordinate outfits with yoga mats? WTF! Wasn’t life full of enough B.S. that I had to filter out? Now I had to try and calm my mind while AC/DC played loudly during tree pose? No thank you.

One day I decided to take a vinyasa flow class at the studio I was managing in San Francisco.

Not my regular style, but it was convenient and I thought, “Hey, better than nothing.” The teacher was incredibly aggressive and self-centered. I knew this going in. I wasn’t, however, prepared for what followed.

A sweet woman student—maybe around 50 or so—asked mid-class if the teacher would turn the music down. An honest request, and good for her for speaking up! I myself have a tendency to initiate self-torture and just suffer through instead of saying something.

But this teacher decided to teach her a lesson. Instead of turning the music down, he turned it up, and with great satisfaction. A challenge to the mind, of sorts— a way of showing her to not be attached to the external and to find peace inside. Okay, I get it, but not all of us are on perma-yoga-retreat, like most yoga teachers I crossed paths with in California seem to be. I had real stressors in my life, and at the time was going through some rough health stuff. This poor woman was speechless. My body got tighter, my breath shorter. Thanks, yoga teacher.

As a former yoga teacher myself, I understand the needy, difficult student.

It gets tiring dealing with people’s shit and having them project their tight hamstrings, lousy job, or bad relationship on you—but on the other hand, good for them for showing up, right? For trying to dump some crap on the mat instead of housing it, even if some gets dumped on you from time to time. I thought that was the point?

That little incident, however, kept me off the mat for a while.

Then there was the day a young woman bought the snakeskin yoga mat bag for sale at the studio I was managing. This woman was willing to pay $100+ dollars for a f-ing bag to carry her stinky yoga mat in. Again, as an ex San Fran bus rider, I get the need for a bag with a handle. It makes life a bit easier. But come on folks, $100??? And shiny snakeskin? Let’ s get real.

Five years later and I find myself living back in Boulder, where most of the mom and pop studios have closed and corporate yoga has now taken over.

I occasionally go and suffer through a “core power” class, complete with pop music and ab workouts, because it’s better than nothing. Then there’s my gym. The schedule consists of mostly “hot yoga” classes, at which I cringe, and “vinyasa level 8 booty buster”-titled classes, which I scrunch my third eye to.

I am remain optimistic that someday I will get motivated to go to class and stumble across the kind of yoga session that made me fall in love with yoga in the first place. Until then, I will stretch alone in my living room.

About Kelsey Riley

Kelsey is the creator behind NAYA Organics, a delicious line of organic skin care that is totally machine FREE. She also works part time as a graphic designer and marketing buff and drives a ’62 Ford Falcon named Bobby that she plans to refurbish and paint yellow. She also enjoys crafting, flea markets, drinking tea, bulldogs, letterpress, and has an obsession with the South of France. She has been teaching and managing yoga studios on and off for the last 10 years in Boulder, Hawaii, San Francisco, Marin County, and Berkeley. She now calls Boulder, CO home—where she is optimistically cynical about developing her yoga practice again some day. Follow her blog for free skin care recipes.

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Artwork by: Vanessa Fiola 
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