June 12, 2015

A Conversation About Yoga on Haight Street in 1992.

house on haight

I remember the very first guy I ever met who practiced yoga. We were sitting in a house in the Lower Haight in San Francisco. It was 1992 and I hadn’t started doing yoga yet—I hadn’t done a lot of things yet.

It was a time of Nirvana and used clothing sold by the pound. I read books written by the beat poets who—long before I got there—drank in the bars in North Beach and by the piers where I was slinging drinks for a living, and I was more than a little lost. I figured Krishna consciousness was an LSD thing. But I had a lot to howl about myself, which I’m sure would’ve sounded more like a deafening shriek if I had the right words.

Unsure. Flailing. Panic-stricken. That about sums it up.

I have no idea what his name was, but I know he lived on Page Street and he sold futons. Maybe I’m way off here—you know how your memory can play tricks—but this is what I remember when I was with friends on another Wednesday or Thursday, late in the morning after eating massive piles of biscuits and gravy at Spaghetti Western.

Friend: I’m off to yoga.

Me: You do yoga?

Friend: Yeah, I practice yoga.

Me: What’s that like?

Friend: It makes me a better person.

Me: Lately I feel like I’m a sh*thead to everyone I know.

Friend: Maybe you should come to yoga.

Me: It sounds cultish.

Friend: It’s not a cult.

Me: I don’t want to end up like a weird grungy psycho hippie freak.

Friend: You won’t end up like a weird grungy psycho hippie freak.

Me: I’m afraid of swamis.

Friend: There’s nothing to be afraid of.

Me: I don’t want to go to live in Tibet.

Friend: You won’t have to go to live in Tibet.

Me: I don’t recycle.

Friend: You can still come to yoga.

Me:  F*ck that.

Friend: Yoga? Or recycling?

Me: I can’t go with you. I’m going to my friend’s house to get tattooed all night and listen to White Zombie until the sun comes up.

Friend: That sounds good too.

Me: I don’t believe in anything.

Friend: You don’t have to.

Me: What if there’s no god?

Friend: You can still come to yoga. You can talk to my teacher about all this.

Me: I don’t need a guru.

Friend: That’s OK too. 

Me: Did someone put you up to this?

Friend: No…

Me: There’s no such thing as angels.

Friend: You might change your mind one day.

It took a few years, but that dude was right. I did change my mind one day.

I don’t know what I was so afraid of, except to say at the time I felt better about getting a needle stuck in my skin 14 times a second than evolving as a human being. I have the permanent ink to prove it.

I never saw that guy again. And it took another five or six years, but I finally did make it to my first yoga class. I’m still not sure about much, except to say clearly I’d be a goner without yoga. I recycle. I’d love to see Tibet. And I’m desperately missing those biscuits with gravy we ate late in the mornings.



Author: Anne Clendening

Editor: Evan Yerburgh

Image: Flickr

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Little Orphan Jun 12, 2015 12:42pm

Thanks Richard, I DID hear the Belfast accent, and I love the "women's stretching classes!" Funny how we remember things… And now you do Ashtanga, yes?! xoxo

Richard Jun 12, 2015 7:15am

Thanks Anne – I felt like I was there.

My version is nowhere near as cool. Read this with your best Micky Rourke Belfast accent.

Scott: I've been going to yoga classes- they really help me relax.
Richard: What are you talking about – women's stretching classes, how could that possibly affect how you feel?

This is how Scott tells it. I don't even remember the conversation ( denial ?).

Hey Anne… you could have called it Haight Street Dialog – you know..like the Rodriguez song

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Anne Clendening

Anne Clendening was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She is a yoga teacher and author of Bent: How Yoga Saved My Ass, published January, 2018. You can read her darker thoughts on her blog Dirty Blonde Ink. She is currently living in L.A. with her husband and their boxer dog Sabina.