Twice a week, just as the city is starting its day, I sit crossed legged on a raised wooden platform that is covered in shawls, flowers, and tapestries.
I sit in baggy clothes that drape and flow from my sides while I read through books of postures and poses, meditations and mantras, instructions and anecdotes. I face a small group of students who put their faith in me while I direct their morning yoga class. They pay me to instruct their lives for an hour and fifteen minutes.
This power comes with an imposed responsibility.
The students expect that I will guide them towards inner peace and self-exploration. They see through me a path to serenity. “Stress free” is the product I push and enlightenment is my elevator pitch. And I can give it to you. Or at least this is what you tell me.
So I teach. I twist you this way, and turn you that way. I am the metronome to your lungs. I alter your breath—its pace, its depth, and rhythm. I can make you stop breathing; holding your breath until you are blue in the face. I command your vocals. We chant in English and in some other foreign antiquated language that you are not quite sure of but definitely believe in its cosmic vibratory powers.
I lead you in chant as if you were a child in a church choir. Your voice coyly crescendos as self-consciousness gives way to confidence. I am also in charge of your body—putting yourself in postures only newborns could stumble their way into. I make you hold these godforsaken poses until you are seconds from collapse. You hit the floor exhausted and take a few breaths. Then, we do it again.
I make you do all sorts of idiotic things—and you follow.
You listen to me, the young man you just met who is half your age with tattoos and long hair, walking into an expensive yoga studio in Soho. You listen because I am different, and because I am so different I must know something you don’t know. And because the instructions I give are so alien, they must provide something that you cannot. You have accomplished another class. The guru has given you light. But in the end it is all bullshit.
In the end, you have done it all yourself.
In these 75 minutes, there is nothing that you have not done, and there is certainly nothing that I did for you. You are responsible for everything; every experience, every grimace, every moment of bliss. I only read from a book, share a few stories, and play some ethereal mood-setting music. I did nothing more than sit on a stage and watch you wrestle with your own ideas of how much you needed to struggle before you could give yourself love. It was all you. You were the one holding the keys to the chains shackling you down. The guard masquerades as prisoner; a mere game of hide and seek.
But on some level you already know this. And you will come back.
Because you like this game, and you would like to figure out just how much longer you will need me to tell you what to do. And for the time being, I will sit here on this stage, watching you squirm and squiggle until the unmentionable happens—when you realize that you are in control.
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Editor Apprentice: Carrie Marzo / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: elephant journal archives