Because living in Harmony takes good manners!
During this incarnation, which she is sure will be her last, Miss Yoga Manners will happily interrupt her samadhi to answer your yoga etiquette questions and eat the occasional grape. She prefers questions without the following words: buttock flesh, perineum, groins.
Dear Miss Yoga Manners,
Sometimes my yoga teacher has us pair up. How do I gracefully say no to partner work?
I do understand, as I understand most things. I myself have fled yoga class to make an unnecessary stop in the powder room of the ashram when it’s time to pair up! But I wonder if those of us who recoil the most from partner work are just the ones who need it. Let’s ask ourselves why we don’t want to do it.
A) I’m afraid I won’t have a partner.
B) It feels intimate, boundary-crossing, to touch or be touched by a stranger, especially one who may be sweaty or fragrant.
C) I’m afraid I will get hurt when a fellow student attempts to help me into a risky pose.
If it’s A, I get it, believe you me. Memories of being the last one chosen for the Duke of Devonshire’s croquet team still causes my stomach to knot! But fear not! You will have a partner, even if three of you pair up, or you end up working with the yoga teacher.
If B, wince and dive into that shoulder-rubbing circle or what have you. As we un-barricade ourselves from other human beings, even human beings with pre-British Raj attitudes toward hygiene, we might feel not just our shoulders but something deep inside us softening, like the tender custard at the center of a canalé.
As far as C goes, nder no circumstances do partner work if you feel unsafe. Let’s agree to agree that being spotted by or spotting a dilettante who may be a physical mismatch for you as you try a mid-room handstand is not a good idea. Just imagine Miss Manners and her egret-fine bones trying to catch a large hurtling man! Beg off, saying you’d rather watch this time. “I’ll be over there on that zafu for this daring-do, but you kids have fun,” you might say. Or there’s always that powder room.
Dear Miss Yoga Manners,
I always get stuck next to the groaner in class. What can I do?
Alas, you can do nothing about the situation other than control your own mind. Turn each groan into a strike of the ghanta, a bell, that when rung, is meant to intone Om and remind us that sound is yet another thing that may not be held onto—that even the container of the ear contains nothing for long. Or make the groan a tool for examining your own reactivity: why should this be irritating? What exactly about it is irritating? What is this experience I am calling irritation?
Your teacher might put the kibosh on the groaning next time, if you point it out to her, after class, its interruptive quality to your practice. Then again, she may not, if she is pro-self-expression-through-intrusive-noisemaking. Be assured, were Miss Yoga Manners teaching, she would end the groaning tout suite.
(She would do that by waxing on generally about the value of a quiet, smooth breath, or saying to a specific person, “Do less,” or “Make it easier,” or, “Come on, Steve, Give me a break.” There are those among us who would wrestle heroically with alligators for hours, waiting all the while for someone to tell us enough now, it’s okay to put the alligator down.)
Miss Yoga Manners believes that although you should probably stay home or live a monastic life if you want perfect silence, that groaner should stay home if he wants to be free to make any noise he wishes. Excess noise is an undignified way of splattering one’s energy about, as wearying as letting one’s eyes dart to and fro. Yoga itself is a vehicle to increase and better contain our energy inside our temporary container. If we send our energy outward through sound, we disallow its movement in and up, we prevent its transmutation into something finer.
Above all, let us pity the groaner. Not only for the energy he is wasting but for the death he does not want to die. Every groan is an assertion that one exists. One, by groaning, hears oneself exist; one declares one’s presence in the room. Learning not to groan means becoming comfortable disappearing, accepting one’s own impending non-existence, one’s disappearance from this room and all rooms. “Shush,” Miss Yoga Manners might well say to the groaner, “Shhh,” comforting the child in all of us who wants to live loudly and forever.
Ask Miss Yoga Manners your questions below!
Author: Amber Burke
Editor: Travis May