Yoga Gives, Right?


I used to find it laughable that people claimed that going to the gym was “relaxing.” I found it anything but. The only way it could be truly relaxing was if you already had a killer body and already knew how to use all of the equipment. So, I made the decision to try yoga, where I imagined that free spirited people (with a variety of bodies) would gently stretch to meditational music. Experts say that exercise conducted while under stress is actually pointless; therefore, why kill myself attempting to look “in shape” on a treadmill when I could take it easy in a dimly lit room?
Not to be mistaken as one of those who think non-gym exercise is not a real workout; personally I hate the gym and I frequently take dance classes. But unlike a dance class, team sports participation, or a session with a trainer, I associate the practice with the tranquility of getting a massage and the ease of visiting a spa. But of course, this is not always the case.
I recall the first time this notion was chucked out the window. I was planning to go to a studio where a friend of mine attends and chose a class early on a weeknight, right after work. I brought my own mat, of course, because I don’t like other people’s germs. And unlike the other yogis, I was not happy to be asked to take off my shoes before even approaching the front desk. But I got over it and settled into my spot in the studio. Other people continued to file in, and my personal space went out the door. They were stepping on my mat. By the time the class was to begin, I was standing shoulder to shoulder with two others, feeling leery that when I go into warrior two pose, I would be constricted to stay in a straight line. I can barely do this while I walk, let alone exercise.
To my left, another female roughly my age, so tattooed and wearing non-skin hugging clothing, I was sure she was a seasoned yoga professional (because all hippies are yogis, right?). On my right, a middle-aged man wearing nothing but a skimpy pair of shorts and no t-shirt over his hairy, flabby chest. While unattractive, I decided I would focus on myself and not his lack of clothing. To each their own.
The class began, with the soothing voice of our instructor reminding us to let go of our inhibitions one by one, with every breath. I was enjoying my attempts to clear my mind in the silence, when the girl to the left let out a huge moan while exhaling. Jolted, I opened my eyes and upon realizing this had disturbed no one else, I squeezed them shut in order to continue concentrating. She continued to do this every single time, for the next nine breaths. Then, we went directly into the sequence of poses. As soon as I realized which pose was occurring, people around me were already on to the next one. Most deceiving was the ability of the man to my right to complete everything, hold every pose, even when my legs felt as though they might give out. So deceiving, because he appeared to have neither muscle nor stamina. I hope that’s not a bonus of yoga – physical fitness that no one else but you knows about. I was here to get toned. I was truly in awe of him, until mid-pose he farted really loudly. I am all for “letting everything go,” as the instructor said to, but this was taking it too far. I would rather have gone back to listen to Miss Ecstasy moan for the rest of the class. It smelled awful, but no one else returned my look of disgust and surprise so I sheepishly went back to focusing on breathing and the sequence of poses. Until he did it again, this time it was worse. I did hear a giggle, but it was from someone on the other side of the room. (How is anyone supposed to breathe with this kind of fog in the air)? And the room was getting really hot and I was starting to detect the body odors of other members of the class. Or was that me? Who knew, but I was beginning to get angry that this experience was not relaxing at all. This wasn’t what I signed up for.
Later, back at my apartment, I could barely stand up. I was so worn out, and unlike I had planned, not completely devoid of stressful thought. Do people truly need to make such a show in a place where one should be able to relax? I felt taken advantage of, that the others in the class were selfish in their pursuits when I needed peace and quiet. Perhaps I had been watching too many celebrities at yoga classes on Access Hollywood to know what real yoga was like, including being so comfortable with yourself that you lose all inhibition in front of others.
I decided to try it again, not because I had something to prove but I had paid for two classes when signing up for the previous one and I am not one to let anything go to waste. Neither of my previous neighbors were present in this class, and without their presence, I was finally able to relax and enjoy myself, feeling eternally grateful that I didn’t have to deal with them. Sure, people were moaning loudly, but I brushed it off. No one farted, which I was so happy about. The room was quieter and it smelled better this time, so I decided not to give up entirely. And the next time I found myself in yoga classes with uninhibited people, I was able to give them credit for getting the most out of their yoga practice, because I had learned how to enjoy my own and I wasn’t letting anything mess with my mood.
But I have not changed completely. I still wear full coverage, body-hugging yoga clothes that I paid too much money for. And breathe without moaning. And, I still keep to my strict no bodily-functions in public mantra. But I don’t let any of that, or the majority of stress I used to feel, get to me anymore. Perhaps I learned more about myself from the others in the class than the actual movement, and isn’t the ability to live in peace with others the best thing I could do for my health?



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