I have been doing yoga with some regularity for 8 or so years. It started when I was working at Boston College, and life was more stressful work-wise. My coworker got us certificates to try a class. We went, and while I enjoyed the experience, she complained about how loudly one of the other participants was breathing. Loud breathing is encouraged during yoga. Not porn or lude phone call breathing, but loud from the back of your throat yogic breathing. My coworker NEEDED yoga badly as you might imagine. After I left BC I found yoga improved my life, and since I carry a lot of stress in my shoulders, I found a class to take. It was on campus at my current place of employment, and was billed as a gentle yoga class. It was perfect for winding down from a day of telling parents why I needed their tax returns and why they didn’t qualify for more financial aid. Then that instructor left to start a new life in Maine with a new man. Those of us who wanted to continue taking a class found a new instructor. She came from a different methodolgy of yoga – the first one practiced Kripalu yoga which is more spiritual and centered in my experience. The new one was an Iyengar practitioner. They seem to focus more on the physiological experience. She was very intent on proper positioning, which I appreciate since you can hurt yourself if you don’t pay attention to your knees in yoga. There is less focus on the quiet spirituality of the moment, where you can work on not just the stretching and strengthening of yoga, but the letting go of the busy thoughts and intensity of the day. The class was still fulfilling, and because the instructor is Australian, it was entertaining when she instructed us to “blossom your bottoms” while doing downward facing dog.
All of that was fine until she started insisting on doing inversions. I am not a gymnastic kind of gal. I mastered the summersault as a kid, but never figured out how to do hand stands, head stands, or even cart wheels. I am VERY grounded person. Even when my butt was half the size it is now, I didn’t enjoy trying to haul it into the air. The earth belongs under my feet. If I couldn’t master that at age 10 what do you think the likelihood is I will even begin to be proficient at the ripe old age of 43? I can tell you – ZIP. NADA. ZILCH. We are more likely to see an Obama/Clinton joint ticket than that happening.
I began by going with the flow, thinking sure, I have learned to do things in yoga I never thought I would be doing, bending in ways that my husband would find encouraging if he ever saw me do them, so maybe a head stand isn’t out of the question. But the more I tried them the more I resented the fact that she was making us do this. I expressed to her that while I appreciated that she wanted us to challenge ourselves, to try new things, if I did try it and ultimately deemed them not only not enjoyable but perhaps dangerous for someone with my lack of coordination to even attempt, that at this point in my life, with all that I have experienced and survived and learned, I think that I should be able to say no, I am not going to try to stand on my head, flinging my feet up in the air hoping that they will land against the wall and I will stay upright, rather than flop sideways and cause a domino effect of falling bodies down the row. I am a grown up and have the right to decline to torture myself in a yoga class as much as I have the right to decline to eat things I don’t like. I am not into people pleasing any more. I am not 14 and worried about being asked to the prom.
But in true Aussie fashion, this instructor turned yoga nazi, who has been so supportive in other ways, especially when I found myself pregnant just before she gave birth to her first son, kept telling me that I just need to try. She insisted that I at least work on the positioning for the head stand/hand stand/shoulder stand. I have argued I would rather take that 15 minutes and begin the stretching that eventually leads to my favorite position, Savasana, or corpse pose. This is the last pose in your routine, where you lay on your back, and literally, like a corpse, release all your muscles and try to make your brain think of nothing. Leave it to yoga to make even laying down work. But no, this instructor wouldn’t let me off the hook. So now I have stopped going to this class. I have begun doing yoga at home, but that is not as easy as I would like it to be as I have to do it where I can spread out a bit, and with three dogs, a baby and a husband, who predictably was quite fascinated by some of the poses, I have to schedule it for early in the morning when I can be alone. I did find a DVD that I enjoy, Yoga for Weight Loss with Suzanne Deason. I can’t say that by itself this work out will result in actual weight loss, but it does give me a lovely energizing and stretching workout without requiring me to haul my part Italian part German part Scottish toushee over my head.
I will probably investigate other classes, but I have discovered that yoga instructors are from the same planet as the people who work at natural food stores and are not all of the same caliber. The first instructor I liked so much was a fund manager for an investment firm by day and an earthy crunchy yoga instructor by night. That dichotomy appeals to me. I am unlikely to find such a fabulously balanced and interesting replacement. Til then I will be fending off my husband’s amourour advances and dogs sticking their noses where they don’t belong – “hey that’s what we do to say hello whenever one of our kind sticks their butt in the air” – and continue to do yoga in my living room.