August 9, 2013

Yogis Behaving Badly: ‘Mean Girls’ On The Mat.

As a little girl, I always envied the boys on the school playground.

Oh, to simply be able to fight, with vigor and without pretense, when the need arose, and then to let it pass!

Woe to the young woman who says what she thinks. ‘Nice’ girls don’t do angry.

Instead, our culture encourages young women to communicate disapproval through a series of snide remarks, cold shoulders or backhanded compliments. This leads to passive-aggression, backbiting and intimidation.

Internecine warfare is common in girl world. We never knew when our comrades might jump ship or when they might choose to turn on us for the slightest provocation. As such, we are trained to be super-attuned to the shifting social landscape, much to our detriment, I believe.

By now, we have shed the trappings of youth—Trapper Keepers, blue eyeshadow and shellacked bangs. Unfortunately, the ‘mean girl’ stuff still rears its ugly head.

There are ‘mean girls’, ahem…’mean women’ in yoga studios (and mean men, too, to be fair). And, yes, they are in pain, and, yes, all human beings are in pain and, yes, life (sometimes) is suffering. And sometimes the meanness just bubbles up, like venomous slime from a fetid brook still waiting to be alchemized into something pure and whole and hearty.

Luckily, we have yoga to knock some sense into us.

I, as a human being, am sometimes in pain. I can be mean.

So, here it is (and maybe I’m super mean for writing it; but, boy, was it fun and cathartic) .

1.) Ms. (or Mr.) Stand-Your-Ground:

This person arrives 45 minutes prior to yoga class. She plops down her mat front-and-center in the most prime piece of real estate in the room.

Eventually, at quarter till, the unwashed masses queue at the studio door. Ms. Stand-Your-Ground will not scoot her mat an inch to make room. How dare these peons demand she relocate! She will not acquiesce! They can perform yogasana from the ceiling or maybe hang out the window! AcroYoga, after all, is all the rage!

2.) The Prop Nazi:

In the studio, neatness counts. The Prop Nazi takes this too far. This person insists that blocks, blankets and bolsters be realigned perfectly on the shelves after class. The Prop Nazi will whip out a tape measure to ensure the golden ratio of blanket to blanket-fringe is maintained. Often, she is a teacher or studio owner. Students break a sweat just waiting in line. Their post-yogic hazes are so disrupted. Oh, the stress!

Note: psycho-compulsiveness is a turnoff for making friends and influencing people. (Prop Nazi is not to be confused with ‘Helpful Facilitator,’ a person, usually taller than average, who will help to position props after class.)

3.) The Yoga Whisperer:

Team hut! Every studio has the pre and post-class huddlers. They are fond of the whisper/lean-in, a move popularized by Tom Brady in various Super Bowl tourneys. They also perform the more sinister whisper/lean-in/giggle/point/stare from time-to-time.

It is best not to take this behavior personally.

They may be talking about you. They may be talking about a sale at Nordstrom’s. They may be making fun of you. They may have some kombucha caught in their throats. If they are talking about you, I hope they have some really great material.

You may employ the following deductive reasoning: But I am in yoga! And these are yogis! And we’re warm and glowy. And we should all be friends!

Don’t do this. Practice some pre-class heart openers. You will need them. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.

4.) The Show-Off/Teacher’s Pet:

There’s a fine line between working one’s edge and pushing one’s fellow practitioners to theirs. Don’t let your ego be your guide.

Super Beginner Yoga, for example, is not the time to showcase one-armed handstands or trial runs at levitation.

5.) Grin and Bare It:

It’s hot yoga? You work out? I get it.

Please, YogaLand, let’s keep it classy and keep (somewhat) covered up.

6.) The Type A:

This person may miss the forest for the trees in her drive towards perfection.

I remember once being used as an example of somebody who ‘just couldn’t’ get into a handstand during one class. At the time, I was trying my best to heave my size 10 frame into handstand-against-the-wall, while everybody stared. (I was the largest woman in the room.)

I was so embarrassed. I felt the hot sting to my ego. Miraculously, I held it in. After class, I pulled into another parking lot and erupted into tears. I was pushed too far, but it ignited tapas, the fire of transformation. I made handstand part of my daily practice, and eventually made it up. Remember, yoga is about the journey towards a pose, not the destination.

7.) The Fashion Plates:

They arrive like a conquering army clad in workout regalia from the eponymous clothing line that starts with an ‘L’ and has a sour fruit shortly thereafter.

Don’t let sour grapes knock you off course. They may eye you up pitifully —you, of the oversize Hanes t-shirt and pajama pants with smiling toads wearing crowns. Suddenly, you feel dejected, like you are in seventh grade all over again. They are like sleek Ferraris and you feel like your grandmother’s old Buick with the busted headlight and hanging muffler.

Fear not! Our culture places too much emphasis on clothing anyway. Say heart mantra for yourself. Say heart mantra for everyone. Don’t fret the little stuff. Cotton is good for the soul—and these are magic pants. Soldier on, my friend!

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Ed: Sara Crolick

{photo: via Pinterest}

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