I’m already mad sweaty from the first 30 minutes of sun salutes and I’m not sure how much of the yummy yoga essence floating in the air is coming from me.
Forrest Yoga is “challenging” enough with all of its required arm balances, inversions, tailbone tucks, shoulder wraps and hip openers. So you can imagine my discomfort when my instructor asks us to step out of our comfort zone and get intimate with each other.
“Go ahead, pair off with someone about your height and weight and let’s practice headstand and forearm balances away from the wall.”
Why dude, why? I don’t know any of these people. You want me to do what? Put my legs where?
This is not what I came here for.
The room starts to divide itself—the waifs walk towards the waifs, and one dude who has been eyeing a sleek, stealthy yogini and mouthing the words, “Wanna be on my team?” during the demonstration has already lead his partner of choice to a corner.
I stand in the middle of the room alone, contemplating the chipping nail polish on my big toe.
My mind takes me back to fifth grade (“We’re going to get picked last again, no one wants to play with you…”). I scan the room looking for someone to make eye contact with. No one to the left, no one to the right. Then, I turn around and see him sitting against the wall, looking the way I feel.
“Hey, are you my height and size?” I ask the pretty, penny brown boy with glasses.
“Sure, sure…” he responds in a thick south Asian accent. He’s extra cute, stocky, with broad shoulders and a gentle smile.
All of a sudden, I am in the mood to be touched.
My partner is instructed to stand in a crouched, straddle position with his back against the wall, with his legs wide enough apart for me to maneuver myself between them in a down dog position.
We haven’t even really made eye contact yet, and already this is getting very intimate.
We begin to work together, at first things go okay. I try to laugh off my nervousness, while his jitters surfaces in a bossy tone.
“No, not like that,” he barks. “You have to move your legs this way. Now position yourself. Now bend your knees and lower down; I know it’s difficult because gravity is going to pull you straight down but just try it.”
His directions make me a little irritated, but I take the instruction. After a few false starts, I crawl toward his knees, position myself in adho mukha svanasana and hoist my legs in the air, toward his shoulders.
Once inverted, I tackle a brief temptation to wrap my ankles around his neck as he holds my waist and encourages me to move into alignment…
…Sometimes, I really love yoga class.
Jazmyn Burton, a mother, writer and Philadelphia-based yogini, has immersed herself in the physical and spiritual practice of yoga for nearly a decade. Along her journey, she found that she was often the only woman of color in her studio classes. In an effort to bring more women of color to the practice she founded Yeye yOga, a weekly community class open to yogini of all shapes, sizes and colors, that stresses the importance of black women regaining control of their mental and physical health. In an attempt to start the process of saving the world one enlightened soul at a time, she recently enrolled in a 200 hour teacher training with Beyond Asana. Read about her yoga journey at yeyeyoga.wordpress.com.
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Ed: K.Macku/Kate Bartolotta
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