Well, here I am. Cup of coffee: check. Sense of purpose: check. Self-consciousness: check.
Actually, this is not so different from the way I felt the first time I was in a yoga class — minus the coffee. I had joined a friend who was super into it – mostly because she had been practicing for a few months and her butt had gone from good to great. She looked fantastic, and I, well, did not. It had been a long winter of red wine and dairy products. Beyond her taut bottom, I had noticed a difference in the way she carried herself. Shoulders back, face open, eyes bright. In sharp contrast, I was, more often than not, hunched against the February wind, scowling and blood-shot. I wanted to do whatever she was doing. When I asked her what was up, she told me about her new devotion to yoga.
My heart fell. I was not "a yoga person". Yoga people drank water out of tin bottles they kept on them at all times. They had "The Artist's Way" committed to memory and were vegan. They had a gentle touch and never did things like break their brand new coffee decanter against the same spot in the sink once a month because they were washing it too roughly (seriously, the people at Bed, Bath & Beyond know me at this point). They didn't even drink coffee. They drank green tea. This was not me.
My friend rolled her eyes as I concluded my list of reasons why I could not do yoga. "Quit being such a cynical scardey-cat and just try it once," she said. I pouted, but gave in. That night, thinking about the class I had decided to take the next evening, I obsessed over the fact that I had no proper yoga clothes. I would look like a geek in my running gear and everyone would laugh at me.
I arrived at the studio like a deer in headlights. As I paid for my class, I surveyed my surroundings. Not so bad. A little twee in that San Fran, boho hippie kind of way, but not offensively so. I changed into my running shorts and t-shirt, cringing as I watched the other women in the dressing room pull on their various forms of slinky gear. It felt like my first day of kindergarten – when I showed up with a generic backpack in a sea of Dukes of Hazzard, Care Bear and Strawberry Shortcakes. I reminded myself that I was no longer in kindergarten, but a grown-ass woman. I ran the New York Marathon. I earned the right to wear these shorts no matter what the occasion. These Gwyneth wannabees could suck it.
Once in the studio, I waited for the teacher to arrive. While I was coiled on my mat with the ease of a threatened cobra snake (What do I do now? Do I stretch? Lay on my back? Attempt a headstand?), my classmates seemed to be taking that time to relax. They sat on their folded blankets with their eyes closed, no doubt thinking about things like Gandhi and tempeh. I tried to do the same, but only ended up wondering about what to have for dinner. I could pick up a salad, but I really shouldn't spend the money…What is wrong with me? What is so hard about cutting vegetables myself? How lazy am I? I should have pre-cut them all this weekend, so that they would be ready, but what did I do instead? Watched an Intervention marathon, that's what. Thankfully, I was saved by the voice of the teacher, who had walked in while I was spiraling into madness.
The details of the class from that point on blur a bit. I liked the teacher. I liked her voice, and that she began by talking to us about her day in a really open and endearing way that even my raging inner cynic was charmed by. I also noticed that she had breasts – something I had been convinced that yoga people (well, yoga women, that is) did not have. I liked her. I relaxed. We went through the poses, and because I was pretty clueless, I mirrored the woman in front of me. My muscles unclenched for what felt like the first time in months, which was not to say that the positions were easy. I struggled with most, if not all, of them. But it felt good. I let go, and before I knew it, was lying on my back in a sweaty, blissed-out haze. There was something to this yoga thing. Who knew?
I left class that night the way I always leave class now – standing taller, smiling and open. It's funny, as I just wrote that, I cringed a bit. It sounds like something "a yoga person" would say, right? Which I guess brings me to my point, if it even is a point. Of course, there are "yoga people" — people that really identify with the practice and thrive off of the lifestyle. And I've learned that there's nothing wrong with that. It's a good thing for the universe, really, even if sometimes the pretentiousness of some of these people makes me want to scream. However, there are also so many people in a yoga class that simply enjoy the practice; that like the way it makes them feel. It's that simple, really. It's not about the gear or the fact that maybe some of them can balance their entire bodies on their forearms, much to your jealous amazement. It's about feeling good, and taking that feeling with you. Sure, this feeling may be instantaneously diffused by the the fact that your face is in someone's armpit on a crowded subway car afterwards, but at least you were able to hold onto it for a few moments. It really is something.
I feel like I'm rambling. Apologies! It's my first blog and it's early in the morning. Am I supposed to thank you for reading this?? Not sure, but I will anyway. Thanks! Until we meet again….