July 20, 2010

My Yoga Breakup.

“It’s not you, yoga; it’s me.”

Yoga and I had such a great relationship once. When we met, it was love at first sight. “Finally,” I thought, “something that really gets me.” I would have bet a million rupees that we would be together forever.

But then we started fighting, and eventually I had to break it off. It was sad, but I knew it was for the best. I moved on to mindfulness meditation. We’d been flirting for years, and once yoga and I broke up, I knew it was time to give meditation my all. For the last few months, I’ve been really enjoying my time with Buddhism, but still feeling a little gun-shy about jumping in with both feet again after what happened with yoga.

Nevertheless, I recently attended an all-day mindfulness meditation workshop. And guess who showed up? That’s right, yoga.

During our lunch break there was an optional one-hour yoga class with a teacher I’d never heard of. “What the hell,” I thought, “It’s been a while, and maybe I’ll actually enjoy it again.” Truth is, I’d been missing yoga and wondering if I’d made a mistake. Sometimes I can waffle like that. I have a hard time letting go of loyalties once they’re secured, and I’ve been known to take love interests back before. I should realize by now that it’s always a mistake.

Sure enough, less than ten minutes in, I knew my decision had been right all along. I’m over yoga. And it’s not yoga; it’s me. I’m the one that’s changed.

I used to love every part of yoga’s quirky personality: the endless sweaty classes, the platitudes that sounded so life altering the first time I heard them, the sense of belonging to a really cool cult.

The teachers. I used to love the teachers. And if I didn’t love one of them, I would give myself a little talking to about how triumphing in the face of adversity is the mantra of a warrior and how if I could cultivate the patience and insight to make it through a bad class, I would be a better person. (This sort of attitude is encouraged by yoga studio owners, who want you to feel like a bad yoga experience is your own fault for not having the right outlook. “Shift your vision,” they say. They don’t want you to pick favorites with their teachers. They want you to patronize all their classes equally, for obvious reasons.)

At some point in any relationship, things need to go to the next level.

The next level of yoga is to develop a home practice. And if you never do that, well, it’s kind of like only seeing your husband out at bars. It’s like he’s hanging out at the same bars he’s been hanging out at for ten years, and his bar friends are getting younger and sloppier and more intolerable.

That’s sort of how I feel about yoga teachers. I mean, not literally, of course. But, well, kind of.

I am getting older and wiser (about myself, at least), and they are just hanging out at the same old bars doing the same old things: telling me to “lock your knee,” repeating things their teacher said in a Valley of the Dolls voice, playing intolerably nostalgic Beatles songs that remind me of my bad childhood.

For whatever reason, yoga and I never got to the home practice stage. I lack the discipline. And that’s not yoga’s fault. I was expecting yoga to keep giving me what I needed year after year, but I was refusing to give back to yoga.

So, back to that one last fatal class.

In the spirit of Buddhist equanimity, I tried to give this particular teacher my beginner’s mind attitude. I put my mat in the back, kept my eyes down, and let her assume (as she apparently did… they always do) that I had never tried yoga before and have zero body awareness.

That’s the only thing that can explain why she came over to me in Padangusthasana, leaned in, and condescendingly whispered, “Straighten your legs, honey.”

Obviously, I was bending my legs on purpose. I was bending my legs (and just a little bit!) because I hadn’t done a shred of yoga in a month and I’m tight and it was barely noon and if I force my legs straight, it HURTS MY KNEES and really? Do you really care if my knees are a little bent? What does it matter to you, lame random yoga teacher?

I’m sure she caught the look of murderous disdain I shot her as she walked away. That’s the only explanation for why she came back and did it again. Yoga teachers like to be right. And the easiest way to make yourself right is to make someone else wrong.

With barely masked contempt I muddled through the rest of the class, a billboard flashing in my head the entire time: NOTE TO SELF! DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE AGAIN!

It’s really over for me and yoga this time.

(I am 99% sure.)

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