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?
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