Enlightenment can be tricky.
You walk into a studio for the first time, half expecting to see skinny 20-year-old chicks everywhere, bent into unimaginable pretzel shapes without breaking a sweat.
Girlfriend, I get it—your worst fear has come true. And guys, the gods hear you, and they say you’re welcome. And stop staring.
Sitar music is playing. Perhaps the sweet scent of nag champa penetrates the air. And you can’t quite figure out why there’s an elephant statuette with a bunch of money on it at the desk. You might even feel compelled to leave a quarter. Or are you supposed to take one? On this, you remain silent.
It’s intimidating. They all seem to know stuff you don’t. For a split second, you consider turning around and running out the door like a bat on fire, mumbling something about your sciatica acting up.
It’s looking grim. You’re already feeling defeated. Instant karma’s going to get you.
Here’s the thing: It’s not a cult, even though it might smell like one and the girl behind the desk has already talked you into the pricy “unlimited class package.”
What she said: “You can come as much as you want! Join us, we love new people! Let me show you around.”
What you heard: “Listen, idiot. Do you want your intervertebral discs to harden into rocks and your cholesterol to skyrocket? Your internal organs probably hate you! How’s all that smoking and whiskey workin’ out for you? Can you even bend down and touch your toes? Look at you! It might already be too late!”
Don’t worry, friends. There’s no secret handshake, and no one great or powerful behind the curtain (which is actually just a changing room). And there’s no one with a clipboard a lá Trader Joe’s asking you if you’re a card carrying member of the ACLU, when all you want to do is rush in and grab some cheap eggs.
Whether you’re new to yoga or not, there may always be that nagging feeling you’re on the outside looking in. It’s a shitty feeling, knowing you’ll always be seated at the kid’s table unless you get it together.
Here’s your guide to winding your way through:
1. Don’t be so serious. Yoga doesn’t like that. You’re there to stop the suffering and the madness.
2. When you walk into the practice room, try putting your mat in the middle of the room. The bendies are already in the front; the rebels are in the back. The middle is good. You can be the new Jan Brady.
3. Those $20 mats from Target are slippery death traps. I’m going to have to insist you buy a new one, even though they’re, like, $80.
4. Don’t worry, it’s not a cult, even though everyone seems to be completely blissed out like they’ve found the secret to life. (Psst… they did find it. And you’ve found it now, too.)
5. Learn to trust your instincts when it comes to the more difficult poses. No one wants you to end up in a wheelchair.
6. It may not be the Age of Aquarius, but you might run into a pack of hippies, or at the very least you’ll see some OM tattoos. They will all be barefoot. And you’ll definitely hear a dead-ish language called Sanskrit, which, according to Buzzfeed.com, “No one really speaks anymore, save for priests and some village populations.” They forgot yoga people. We like it—it sounds exotic.
7. Yoga is not a competitive sport, so don’t even start the “compare and despair” routine.
8. Say thanks to the teacher. They bust their ass to do what they do.
9. That elephant god has a name, and it’s Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. He’ll gladly take your money.
10. At the end of class, there’s a nap, and it’s called Savasana (Corpse Pose). Whaaaat? Yup, in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday, you’ll be playing dead, just like the possum I saw in my yard not long ago.
So go for it. I don’t want to use the words “deterioration,” or “hitting the skids,” but sitting on that couch ain’t doing you any favors…
C’mon, baby! Meet me in class. I’ll be there, right in the middle.
Editor: Travis May/Emily Bartran
Photo: Pixoto/Priyank Jha