October 15, 2013

Top 8 Cringe-Worthy Moments in Yoga Class. ~ Shanan Harrell

Fess up, yogi. You are intimately familiar with at least one of these, right?


8. You are late.

Everyone is sitting silently with a straight spine and an open chest. The room is filled with a sweet grace; so quiet you could hear a stick of incense drop. Your fellow students are drawing their attention inward and preparing for practice; that is, until you come spilling through the door, mat snapping to the floor, water bottle clanging to the corner of the room.

7. OM Error.

This oming business can be tricky. If you don’t listen for the Teacher to om first, you risk the chance of being completely off key with the rest of the group. And if you’ve been transported to Happy Land during the oms, you could lose count and find yourself chanting with all your heart into the silent Void. There’s a bellowing you and 40 other soundless yogis. And yes, I speak from experience.

6. You twist in the opposite direction.

It’s just so awesome to go into a badass Bharadvajasana, twisting like a yogi star and realize that you are looking into the faces of the entire class. Everyone else has turned to the left, but you, in your enlightenment, have turned right.

5. Various body parts are unleashed.

If you’ve ever done a Shoulderstand and have even an ounce of fat in the abdomen, you know what I’m talking about. I have come perilously close to suffocation from the unavoidable pull of gravity on my belly towards my face in that upside down state. And we all know the dangers of exposure if a low cut top mixes with a full forward bend. Don’t even start with Lululemon.

4. A cell phone goes off during Savasana.

You’re flat on the mat, chest open, legs and arms fully relaxed, head at its perfect balance point, breath deep and slow, withdrawing from the world for a few delicious moments…and suddenly a Daft Punk ringtone blasts from the corner cubby, ringing its full measure at least four times before the tune goes blessedly silent. Thanks buddy. Thanks for being mindless enough to spoil the tiny glimpse of peaceful relaxation that I can manage to pull out of my asana. Oh, wait—that was my phone.

3. You snort yourself awake during Savasana.

There’s that moment when you are slapped awake by your own powerful snoring. Yep, that was you.

2. Fart!

Hey, it’s yoga, okay? We’re twisting and tangling our various parts into uncommon positions—and you know all that squeezing and soaking is doing its job when a blast of internal gas comes bubbling to the surface. Good for you? Absolutely! Humiliating nightmare in a room of deep-breathers? You bet! But not to worry. Like most classy yogis, we’ll pretend we never heard it. Just relax and hope to Patanjali that we all pretend it wasn’t you.

1. Teacher Fart!

Big and loud. In front of the whole class. I have been teaching yoga for almost 20 years—and in those decades, I’ve witnessed many a Flatulasana during class. If it’s a big enough blast, the students will twitter and giggle and the offender usually makes some awkward self-deprecating comment—and that’s when I like to chime in with my own favorite Teacher Fart Story….


One fateful afternoon, while teaching Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand), I carefully showed my eager students the proper set-up of blankets and chair to prepare for the pose. I asked the students to come in really close for my demonstration so they could see the details in the turning of the armbones, the broadening of the top chest and the tucking of the shoulders, etc. Because they were good students, they crowded in around me as I lay on the blankets and prepared to go into the pose……

“Watch,” I said, “as I swing my legs overhead and place my toes onto the chair.”

And just as I powerfully tossed my legs over my head, with my students standing only a few inches away, I let out the biggest, loudest, longest fart you could imagine. I immediately came down, laughing my head off. As I looked up at my horrified students, they were wide-eyed, stone-faced and silent. Bless their hearts; they just didn’t know how to react.

“Oh, for goodness sake, people! That was hilarious!” I reassured them.

And with my permission granted, they giggled and then laughed and then howled. Once we all caught our breath again, I reminded them: “And from now on,” I urged, “any time you feel embarrassed for anything you may have done in class or anywhere else for that matter, I want you to think of this moment. And remember, you can have a good laugh with yourself. It just doesn’t matter.”

My Teacher Fart story has smoothed over many a ruffled yoga student in times of public mortification. I’ve also been guilty of all the other cringe-worthy moments mentioned above. I figure its part of the path, right? Personal experience leads to the understanding that we all get our turn at being that yogi.

The one who is late or forgot to turn off the cell phone or twisting the wrong direction or snoring through Savasana.

My own adventures in these cringe-worthy moments give me compassion for others who find themselves in those unfortunate situations. Yep. Been there, done that.

And you?

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Asst Ed: Zenna James/Ed: Bryonie Wise


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Shanan Harrell