This happened on Christmas Eve.
I understand the studio will be closed for one day people, but your names are on a list for this last (Rock Star Guru) class, there will be room for you without having to push me to get to the front of the line.
If this was my first ever yoga class I’d have said a few things. In fact, I’ve only been doing yoga for a couple of months now. I tried yoga several years ago in my small home town in Canada and ended up leaving the class mid-way swearing like the trucker’s daughter I am, after the loveless instructor pointed me out a few times with, “You in the pink, you’re doing it wrong” and “Headband, lean back further”—I let it slide the first few times; maybe I’d signed up to the wrong level of class, maybe it was my fault. Except I was in a bloody Bikram yoga class and isn’t that supposed to be open to all?
Having been bullied and picked on by meanies in elementary school there was no way I was going to stand, or back bend, for it as an adult.
“This is fucking bullshit.” I said, steamed up in two ways.
I grabbed my keys and huffed out, leaving my mat and my bad Chi behind.
I didn’t go back to yoga until two months ago when I’d arrived in Santa Monica, a community where you can’t swing a sweaty mat without hitting a very bendy yoga instructor. They’re more plentiful than all those stealthy Prius’ that creep up and scare the shit out of you when you’re on your bicycle at a traffic light. (Kind of like your first grey pube. Or so I’ve heard.)
Anyway, being of the mindset that life begins outside our comfort zone, I’d decided that even though I’d had a very unfavourable yoga experience the first time, I’d give it another chance. The worst that could happen: I’d get points for being a brave little bird.
Surprisingly, so far most of the classes I’ve taken have been with amazing instructors: kind, insightful, loving, knowledgeable, gentle spirited. Okay, I like this.
After my first month, I wind up going to a class more advanced than I’m really qualified for but I figure I’ll do my best and that’ll be good enough (for me) and maybe I’ll learn from the more advanced yogis or at least be inspired.
The waiting area is standing room only. I’m thinking, “Okay, this is weird. Is there a rock concert going on?” But the anxious concert goers are carrying yoga mats and knitted hats so it must be a yoga class. Several people jostle past me to get closer to the entry door. My spidy senses are up. This energy isn’t very peaceful. I wonder if it’s me projecting my childhood fear of crowds. But a few others nudge by me with nary an apology and I realize something’s amiss with this group.
In the class, there are at least a hundred people squeezed in like sardines, several of which are crowding around who can only be the Rock Star Guru Yoga Instructor.
Oh my god—there are yoga groupies? Really??
I take a deep breath, close my eyes and repeat in my mind, “I am Zen. Judge not.”
There’s no place for me and no one is making space so finally Rock Star Guru announces, “Make a space for green mat.”
And I say, “Not at the front, please.”
And Guru says, “Not at the front. She’s afraid.”
My cheeks flush and now I am the shy kid back in seventh grade peeing my pants in class from fear of drawing attention by raising my hand. (Yes, I get the irony.) Lovely.
Either because I’m a sadomasochist or doggedly determined (read: stubborn), I keep going to this class even though the cliquey crowding to get in to class continues and it totally is beyond my level of ability and the instructor reminds me of this when she says to the group, “Most of you I’ve been teaching for 10 or 20 years…” blah blah…
Okay, so she is a very good instructor: giving tips on the nuance of each pose, adjusting alignment, pushing just enough. I’ll give her credit, because it’s justifiably due, but her cronies I have a bone to pick with.
She’s moving out of town. The last class she’s to teach arrives: Christmas Eve. I’m signed up for the class. When I arrive to attend, there’s an actual loosely formed line of fidgety yogis. I can already sense the jittery energy. I’m in line for less than five minutes and have been shoved thrice by impatient persons wanting to assure their spot.
I think to myself, “People, if you’re on the list, you’re in. Where is the Zen? Where is the love??”
I’m rapidly losing my Zen.
A guy shows up and pushes in front of the guy sort of behind/beside me and is positioning himself to move past me. Patience run dry, Santa’s Eve or not, I say to him with disdainful expression, “You can go in front of me if you’re that eager.” But I’m looking at him like, “Take one more step and I’m going to yoga punch you in your fifth chakra.” (That would be the throat.)
His head jolts back and he blinks a few times and “uh, oh, no, no.”
And I look at the guy behind him, who was just in front of him, and say, “This is comical.”
He agrees. (He’s also way more Zen than me.)
I shake my head and exit the line and get on my bike and ride home, where I do my own yoga practice. (Note: it took me a full 10 minutes of very conscious breathing to get back to my heart center, let me tell you. Note 2: I did my very first forearm stand without the wall for support. Three quick breaths, but still.)
What have I (re)learned?
No matter where you go, people are people: fearful, insecure, flawed. There are cliques, groupies, cronies, hangers-on, and gurus in every faction of life. There are also kind, thoughtful, loving, gentle, giving, forgiving people if we care to see them—or be them. Note to self.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Heather Hendry/Editor: Bryonie Wise