Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on October 10, 2011.
My first day of yoga.
By Kirk Hensler
Walk into a yoga studio and I immediately notice things: Buddha statues, incense, books, clothing, teacher training courses, a smiling receptionist with an Om necklace. It’s all very nice.
Before I have a chance to think for myself, I am eased into an unfamiliar mood – it’s like I feel holy or something. I instinctively start pretending that I don’t say fuck every other word. I decide to say that I’m a vegetarian, too. What is this Om business? The elliptical sound of the universe, of course, I hear it all the time. I’m one with the universe. Hmm, looks like I have to put my hands together in front of my chest in order to say hi to this person; I can handle that. And what’s that she’s saying?? Nah..mas..day? Ok. Sounds good. I got this. I totally fit in here. I have to remember to smile at everyone, even though I’m not feeling that great today. I’m tired of chasing money and rush hour traffic reminds me of Armageddon. But that’s no matter. I can’t bring those feelings into this space. I’ll tuck them away and deal with them later. The receptionist asks me how I’m doing today, with a strange smile. She might be medicated. I’ve seen smiles like that before — on neglected housewives and people in nursing homes. Not sure what to say, one negative word seems like it could knock this whole building to the ground.
Oh I know… “I’m feeling blessed,” I say.
Bingo. Her face lights up like a sorority girl in Lululemon. “Ah yes,” she says, “yoga will do that to you.” I can’t help but notice all the nice clothing and mats in this giant retail showroom. Is this normal? I feel like I’m at the mall. I look down at my rags and feel a little embarrassed. Maybe I’ll get one of these Prana t-shirts…. $40! That’s a lot for a shirt, and it’s not even organic. But that guy with the ponytail over there is wearing one, maybe I need it. I walk through the store front and into the classroom, hidden in the corner. There are mirrors everywhere. I should have gotten that damn shirt. I want them to think I know what I’m doing. They stare at me crazy-eyed, like I walked in on a group masturbation. I’m just here for the yoga, people. I whip my mat open and snap it like a wet towel in a high school locker room where naked men are running around not being gay. I immediately realize that it’s a total asshole move and I shouldn’t try things that I see other people do anymore. Class begins. I don’t understand much of what is being said once the teacher starts talking. I just hear the word asana after everything. I look around and see what other people are doing and copy them. I catch myself glancing in the mirror from time to time. I can’t help it, the mirrors are everywhere. Damn, my arms look great in this position. I’m sweet at yoga. Whoa, that girl is so flexible! And incredibly fit. Wait, what did I come here for? Shit! I’m falling over. I need to focus. I’ll just keep my eyes closed.
I’m sweating like a whore in church, and it’s not sexy.
Class is finished. We close with some nice singing and chanting. It feels pretty good. I have no idea what we are saying, but I finally feel – what is that thing they say – connected to everyone around me. Then it is over. People get up, put their things away and begin to leave. But wait, I want to talk to you. I’m sorry I peeked at your butt a couple times, it was right in front of me and it was not intentional. And you, I like your mat. How long did that pose take you? Do you have a boyfriend? Is it ok if I didn’t imagine white light from the universe flowing through the top of my head in upward dog? Does anyone want to get some burgers? I mean veggie burgers. Nobody seems that interested. Probably my outfit. It’s time to go. I’ll buy a class pack, I’ll be back. These people will warm up to me.
About Kirk Hensler
Kirk Hensler was raised in metro Detroit on a steady diet of meat, potatoes and team sports. As a competitive athlete, he relied on his speed, power and dominant attitude to excel. Years later, when he took up martial arts, he was tossed around a sweaty dojo for months by various women and children. One day, while horizontal on the mat, he had the profound realization that their patience and finesse quietly trumped his strength and aggression. This led to an exploration of ancient Eastern philosophies, which, in turn, led Kirk to Taiwan, where he taught English, studied martial arts and ate a lot of delicious and strange street food. When Kirk returned to the US, he began applying what he’d learned to his Western, urban life and to his career as a wellness coach, martial arts instructor, and yoga teacher.
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