Yoga is good for you.
Yoga induces an inner peace and calm. Yoga is a form of meditation. Yoga can de-stress and deliver many healing properties. It is a spiritual practice. An inner journey of balance and peace. It can restore the equilibrium in today’s consumerist busy world. Gurus have been teaching it for 1000’s of years. It is one of life’s organic cleanser’s for the mind, body and soul.
With this in mind I thought I’d write about the day I was barred from Bikram Yoga. This is a guide how not to do Yoga.
A little bit of background first as to how I came by yoga: I used to be known as ‘Angry Nick.’ Never shy of venting my spleen and pointing out the truth. Patience and tolerance have never been my strong point. It’s a family gene—my father was fond of bombarding various DIY projects with industrial expletives. ‘Assholes’ being his favoured term.
He was also very keen on arguing to himself with imaginary enemies, which always ended in the term ‘fucking w****s’. It’s in my genes, see. That inverted arrogance and confrontation is something that courses through my veins. I have no time for perceived injustices, no matter how small. In fact the smaller and more pathetic the better sometimes. I was obviously absent on the day they taught, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” at school.
I’m calmer these days. Why? Well sobriety certainly helps. I used to get hacked off with something that bothered me, drink heavily and explode into a frustrated monster at the drop of a hat. I was a loose cannon.
These days I still get frustrated, impatient and intolerant about some things but now I have a different set of tools to deal with it. It’s called recovery and it teaches me that I am the problem not everyone else. Plus of course, I’m older though not necessarily wiser. Yet.
The more sober I get the less angry I am, the more faith I have the less angry I get. When I first stopped drinking I was furious. My ‘go to’ method of dealing with frustrations had gone so I was left with me. I was fuming.
In early sobriety I was kicked off buses for having a pop at the driver and barred from Marks & Spencer. I purposefully dropped a yogurt and pint of milk on the foot of a security guard when he refused me service due to my not having a top on after running in the sun for an hour, even though I had been queuing for 15 minutes and was next in line to be served. I looked him straight in the eye and said ‘whoops.’
I was a nightmare.
Someone suggested I should try Bikram yoga (it was a well known model) as it would help with my anger. If the truth be known my motives for going were not wholey spiritual or indeed to work on my anger. It was more to work on her (which sadly never happened).
I did actually get into it and enjoyed it and became a regular from 2006, though my flashes of anger were still a problem and reasonably frequent.
This was plainly obvious in 2007, when I surpassed all my previous pits of ridiculous fury when I was barred from a Bikram yoga class and in a studio in London. Yes, you really did read that correctly: I was barred from yoga in the middle of the class for arguing. Show me a man who is barred from yoga for arguing and I’ll show you a man who has anger issues.
It was my rock bottom.
I’m not a natural yogi—it requires patience and inner peace. Hence, why I struggle. But Bikram is heated. You sweat. I love the heat and its 70 percent females in skimpy swimwear. I took to it immediately.
Bikram yoga is looked down on by other forms of yoga as too physical, self absorbed and materialistic. It is 90 minutes of 26 postures in a heated room of nearly 100 degrees. I think of it like a mini holiday and it flushes out the system. It makes me feel cleaner and purer as I put so much crap in my body (diet cola, cigarettes, processed, buttered meat).
I’m not really sold on the spiritual side of it, as it’s very expensive and Bikram is an ego maniac multi-billionaire. Good luck to him but money and ego don’t have any relationship to spirituality in my book. I take it all with a pinch of salt and just get on with it as a relaxing health flusher.
Lots of people go on like little Bikram disciples but I put them in the same category as born again Christian,s except these are born again Bikrams. People who do things under the radar for no money are the true Gurus in my opinion—a fleet of cars and an international brand does not make you a spiritual God.
I practiced at the Fulham studio in London, which is great. Super chilled, really relaxed and you weren’t given a hard time by the teachers to get every posture 100% right. Professional but relaxed. Just how I like it.
So when a studio opened near where worked and lived. I thought: ‘Nice one, what a result.’
The only downside was the owner. A militant, intense Hitler-style teacher. Non-smiling, cold, unfriendly and hell bent on rules. He ran the studio like a yoga equivalent of Colditz:
No water in class. No shoes. No talking. No smiling. No laughing. No fun. Do all postures properly otherwise you get sent to solitary confinement for 21 days.
It was harsh and not really for me.
I dipped in and out and we immediately struck up a mutual relationship based on hatred of each other. Even his wife was a female version of him (except she had a whiny American nasal accent—the sort of voice that made you want to scream. If they could make rape alarms out of that voice it would reduce sex crimes by 50 percent).
On this particular week, I’d had the man-flu; a really nasty bout, that in my mind should have been treated with intensive care and 24 hour team of nurses bringing me tomato soup and boiled egg and soldiers, rubbing my brow and saying “Ooohhh, you poor little thing! Who’s a brave little soldier.” I was in a bad way—it was almost terminal.
I reached Saturday feeling weak, so a nice gentle afternoon sweat in Bikram would aid my recovery. I went with a girl I was trying to woo into becoming my girlfriend (remarkably she did and became a Bikram teacher) and there were three other people in class who I’d recommended to the studio. I was doing the owner a good turn and my bit for local new business. Being a good citizen.
The class was three in the afternoon. I set up on the second row in my ridiculous tight Speedos and settled behind a big guy so I could hide from the teacher and not get picked on. I wanted a chilled 90 minutes. Maybe even a little snooze, if I was lucky.
The teacher was a Gestapo owner. The class went okay for 30 minutes, until we got to position number eight ‘hands in prayer,’ which involved bending forward putting your hands in prayer and extended in front of you touching the floor. In Fulham ,they weren’t fussy about putting your hands in prayer, however in this studio, failure to do so was treated as a flogging offense and more serious than treason.
I was feeling weak, so I didn’t put my hands in prayer and what followed is the oddest five minutes of my yoga career:
Owner: “Put your hands in prayer Nick.”
Me: (Glancing round room to see 50 percent of the people didn’t have their hands in prayer and ignored him.)
Owner: “…and change, other side.”
Me : (Didn’t put my hands in prayer.)
Owner: “Nick can you please put your hands in prayer?”
Me: (Ignored him.)
Owner: “Nick, put your hands in prayer please.”
Me: (Ignored him.)
Owner: “Nick, that is not the correct posture. Put your hands in prayer. We do all postures properly in this studio.”
Me : (I had my face down in a position at this point. Ignored him.)
Owner: “…and change second set.”
Me: (I’m not going to put my hands in prayer now just to wind the little Hitler up.)
Owner: “Nick, I have told you put your hands in prayer and do the posture properly, or not at all.”
Me: (In position) “J****y (I will not print his name) Leave me alone—I’m just here for a relaxing class.”
Owner: “It is my class and studio and I demand everyone does the correct postures here, so put your hands in prayer.”
Me: (Fuming now) “Listen, I’ve had flu all week and I’ve only come here to chill out. Leave me be.”
Owner : “…and change other side.”
Me: (Yes, you’ve guessed it: hands a part, definitely not in prayer.)
Owner: “Nick, if you’re not going to do it properly don’t do it at all.”
Me: “Can’t you pick on someone else?”
Owner: “This is my studio. I am the teacher. If you will not listen to me, there is no point in you being here.”
Me: “I haven’t paid £16 to be talked to like a kid. I’ve brought three people here and I just want a quiet class. Just chill and leave me alone.”
Owner: “Well, I’d rather not teach you, if you’re not going to listen or try to do it.”
Me: “Are you asking me to leave?”
Owner : “Yes, it’s best you are not here. I will not teach you. I am the teacher. It’s my studio.”
Me: “I paid £16 for this shit, who the fuck are you to talk to me like that. You’ve picked on me all day and half these people are doing it the same as me. You’re totally out of order. What is this? A militant yoga retreat?”
Owner : “I think you should leave and not come back. This is for true yogis.”
Me : “Tell you what you can stick your yoga up your fucking asshole.”
That is when I stormed out of class, leaving everyone in the tree position, looking embarrassingly at the floor. Not the ideal yoga class, I must admit.
Yoga is supposed to make you peaceful, calm and relaxed. I was shaking with indignation and anger. Not the effect I was hoping from yoga. I angrily showered and changed, all the time continuing the argument in my head. I had to win, to get the final word. (Why do I always need the final word? Quit when you’re behind, Nicholas.)
On the way out I poked my head in the studio, however before I could fire off a volley, a girl at the back of the studio who looked close to tears turned around and shrieked, “Just leave.” I left, not quite believing what had happened.
I sat down at a cafe had a cup of tea and immediately rang my sponsor from the recovery fellowship I attend. My first words to him were: “I’ve just been barred from a yoga class.” It was an awkward conversation; he didn’t quite know what to say to me. There are no words of advice from this kind of statement. It is not every day something like this comes up.
And what of the girl I was trying to woo? She’s never going to want to go out with me now? I’ve just had an argument in a yoga class in front of 30 people and told the owner to stick his yoga up his ass. Surely I’ve blown it?
Luckily, I didn’t. It was all cool afterwards and in time she learned to laugh about it, though it took her about two years.
Obviously, I never went back to the studio as I was serving a life ban, however I occasionally saw the owner around town. I was always tempted to assume the ‘awkward’ position but never did. I regret that now.
I returned back to the womb of my ‘home studio,’ Fulham, which I loved and word got round. People seemed to find it amusing. Apparently, the owner has got a bit of a reputation and I think other owners were secretly glad it happened.
However, it’s all coconut water under the bridge now (best line on this website) but it showed me at the time I had serious anger issues.
I have worked hard on my anger and I know I’m getting better, as I haven’t been barred from yoga in the last five years. I’m improving all the time. In hindsight, I should have just put my hands in prayer and saved all the hassle.
I should have let it go, but my ego and defiance took over. When that happens, I’m on a collision course against the world.
I’m sure lots of people get annoyed and angry during yoga or exercise. How many of you have felt intimidated by people who look amazing at it and know what they are doing? You feel like a dumpy little dunce next to them and the old inferiority complex takes over.
What if you can’t do something properly? You get annoyed and frustrated. What if the instructor or teacher annoys you? They either talk too much or not at all. They may pick on you, you may hate their voice or you might be having a really bad day. A yoga class sometimes brings it out, acting as a microcosm of your emotions. Or you may just be a bit touchy like me!
Well, anger is a feeling. If you’re feeling it, how can you let it out safely? It gnaws away at you turning you into a miserable tetchy soul. Sometimes you meet people and they just rub you up the wrong way, releasing all your defects.
It’s a shame that happened in a yoga studio full of 35 people. Mine was a very public expression of anger, of childish petulance. I’m not proud it happened but back then, I was emotionally immature. Today, after much work, I think I have now achieved the emotionally maturity of a teenager—I’m definitely improving.
The owner maybe a grumpy and cold human being. He may have pocketed £16 and talked down to me like I was a child. He may have been having a bad day. One thing is for sure, I certainly made it a whole heap worse.
I haven’t yet made amends, as part of me still feels justified and ever so slightly heroic. Such is the nature of my sad little head and ego—male pride, see.
What is the moral of the tale? Put your hands in prayer. Follow instruction no matter what and don’t practice yoga the Nick Evans way.
Was I right or wrong readers? I need your moral judgment on this one. It’s the only way I learn.
I am a 40 year old recovering alcoholic. Eleven years sober and living in London. I am single, don’t have any kids, mortgage but i do have a bag full of life experience. I am a double ironman triathlete, 6 time marathon runner, Part time personal trainer. I have changed radically from an overweight lager swilling drinker to a slim camommile swilling man. I still have a negative head though and my challenge is to not listen to it. Apparently having just turned 40 I am now grown up. I run a monthly comedy club and am passionate about making bad situations funny, open in talking about them and helping people grow and change. I am committed to helping people affected by alcoholism, addiction, obesity, mental health problems—oh and apparently I look like David Beckham and Gordon Ramsay. Hope you enjoy my articles and you can follow my daily blog clicking here.
Editor: Edith Lazenby
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