I am probably the worst yoga student on the face of the planet. I have a seriously conflicted relationship with the activity, in that I like the act of yoga itself, yet so many of the other things that go along with it I find completely objectionable (e.g. yoga teachers, other yoga students, the atmosphere of pretension surrounding the activities of an average yoga studio). My patience quickly fades with instructors who overuse words like “space” and “energy”; whose nonsensical explanations of yoga’s metaphysical benefits and irritatingly perky demeanor make me want to head for the door. I don’t know the asanas, I am mystified by the eight branches of yoga, and I cannot meditate to save my life.
When a yoga teacher instructs the class to “clear your mind” or “focus on your third eye center”, my crazy-ass brain is going every direction except the one it should be: I’m mentally writing a grocery list, or wondering why the entire room smells like seven-layer burrito farts, or staring daggers at the guy next to me whose ujjayi breathing could wake the dead. Lately I’ve been going to a 90-minute power flow vinyasa class on Saturday mornings that’s a real barn burner and a great workout, but sometimes I have a difficult time convincing myself to go because inevitably the first 10 minutes or so of class are eaten up by the instructor’s inane psychobabble on yoga philosophy and such. My bad attitude has become a familiar part of my yoga practice, and I think I’ve actually started to embrace it: the familiar place of negativity has become my place of personal zen and comfort.
My love/hate relationship with yoga began about 2 years ago in Boise, when, on a wild hair, I decided to try out a class at a brand-new Bikram studio that had just opened in my area of town. I was running a lot at the time (another activity I’m cynical about), training for a half marathon, and I decided I wanted to mix it up. I fully expected to go once, hate it, and never return again. Miraculously, I came back for more. In spite of my seething cynicism and overall exasperation about the whole scene, I keep coming back.
As negative as I am about it, yoga definitely has its benefits. Since I started practicing yoga I feel overall a lot stronger: though I pretty much suck at most of the balancing series, I’m fairly decent at the poses that require strength and flexibility. I’ve got a mean headstand, and I can add a bind to many of the standing series postures. For me personally, I think a big part of the appeal is the ritual of it all. The routine of yoga satisfies the raging Type A, schedule-loving nutjob that I am: putting on the outfit, getting my yoga mat and gear together, and mentally preparing myself for the 60- to 90-minute physical routine ahead. Plus, if you’ve never been to a yoga class, the people-watching is top-notch. Hippies, New Age creepers, sorority girls and the boys who chase them, soccer moms, midlife crisis dudes… they’re all there, and so am I: the anti-yogi, who loves to hate being there.
Will I ever find my chi? Maybe. Until then, I’m going to suit up, show up, groan silently to myself at the ridiculousness of it all, breathe, and take a vinyasa.