June 8, 2015

A Brain, an Athlete, a Basket Case, a Princess & a Criminal walk into Yoga Class.


I’ve seen some pretty ghastly personality conflicts in yoga.

For a community of conscientious, peace-loving hippie types, all that vinyasa-ing side by side can heighten the most annoying parts of the less-than-pleasant self. I’m talking about OM-ing like a fiend, asking too many inane questions or just breathing too freakin’ loudly.

What is this, spiritual detention? Maybe we’re all stuck together in a transition of sorts, in between imperfect worlds, where screws fall out all the time.

I shudder to think what it would be like if some of us were in put room together for eight hours. But do we just see what we want to see? In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions:

There’s the brain:

The one who wrote a book report on the Bhagavad Gita in the fourth grade and named his Pomeranian Arjuna (“Juni” for short). The guy who schedules three different yoga classes, a workshop on the neuroscience of the practice and a get-together with his Sankrit study buddies all on the same day. He’s dorky, he’s book smart and he’s never been in any real trouble a day in his life. An only child, he longs for social interaction and science chit chat. He has a passion for the precise anatomical focus and physical benefit of every pose: “I find when I lift my sacrum and back ilia upward and away from the lumbar region in bhujapidasana, I get a sense of expansion of the costal attachments of the latissimus dorsi muscle.” 

And the athlete:

(This one’s almost too easy.) He’s the strongest man in the world. There he is in the front row: Johnny Asana, who just kicked the poor girl next to him in the face when he flew into Eka Pada Koundynasana 1. His mat looks like a swamp. Rumor has it he was born in a remote cave in the Himalayas to an esteemed lineage of self-realized masters of transcendental consciousness, where he learned energetic mastery over the physical body at a young age and eventually ran off with the circus. Even the teacher is duly impressed by his physical capability; when she brings it to everyone’s attention that Johnny can hold himself in a handstand using only the tips of his index fingers (which he does), it briefly occurs to you they’re sleeping together.

The Basket Case:

I was once told that I was wearing too much black eyeliner for a 10:30am yoga class. Am I the basket case? Yes, I wear a lot of black everything and yes, I’ve fallen apart more than once on the mat. I showed up in the mornings every weekend for three teacher trainings, completely exhausted, raspy and haggard looking from bar tending all night and staying up past 4:00 am. And maybe my heart did die a little when I grew up and realized I wasn’t going to marry Scott Baio and party every night with The Stones. But I’m not a compulsive liar, and it’s been years since I’ve worn my converse high tops with a long skirt. I’m happy, and that black Chanel eyeliner was $32 so it’s not going in the trash.

Then there’s The Princess:

She’s kind of perfect. Perfect body, perfect life, perfect black Mercedes G-Class SUV. Even her accessories sound like they’re rolling in dough, if a little inappropriate. Not long ago, my friend was in a restorative class next to a woman who was wearing bangle bracelets—like, a hundred incredibly noisy gold bangles. Do I need to describe the ruckus? Look, prom queen, if you feel compelled to wear your diamond earrings and jewelry to yoga, please don’t. I’ve accidentally kicked people’s watches across the room and stepped on someone’s Gucci sunglasses. When it comes to the obnoxious jingling of bangle bracelets in restorative when all people want to hear is the Jeff Buckley music playing, you may as well be chomping gum in their ear. And by the way, that $300 All Saints top and stretchy pants with the built-in skirt? Hot. Let’s talk about that later.

And finally, The Criminal:

And if you’re a criminal, you’re the reason I use an old bandana as a tie for my mat. Because of you, rebel yeller, I’ve snuck in Danzig and Guns N’ Roses on my playlists. You’re the guy with a past, a bit of a present and the job-blocking neck tattoos, but far from being scary and gang-y, they’re OM symbols and cherry blossoms (or something else that might be covering something scary). I know you’re just a softie inside, no matter if you rolled up on the loudest motorcycle ever with a cigarette dangling out of your mouth. Now, Eat. My. Shorts. And finish your jokes.

Who do you see yourself in? Perhaps we’re all more similar than you think.



Things Your Yoga Teacher is Dying to Tell You (But Probably Won’t).

Relephant bonus: Spiritual Wisdom From and Idiot:


Author: Anne Clendening

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: Reviewing Hughes

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