I'm in the zone; head down, butt up, as close to a perfect inverted v as I can manage. Blood rushes to my head as I let go of all my worldly cares and concerns. I imagine I am floating above the earth , maybe just a little superior to other earthlings. I'm in the classic Yogic position of "Downward Dog".
Just as I reach a near state of nirvana, the pounding rhythm of a techno beat comes crashing through my inner calm. I focus on my breathing as I've been taught, to observe the distraction but not judge it, not own it.
I can't do it, I'm distracted and I sneak a peak under my arm and see the idiots in the studio next door. They're all jumping up and down on the step like their lives depended on it while I and my enlightened sisters continue to seek the path to truth. I can see their instructor, a skinny 20-something who is shouting out commands like "GET YOUR KNEES UP! YOU WANT YOUR BUTT TO LOOK GOOD IN THOSE NEW JEANS DON'T YOU"
Fools, I think, as I move into a near-perfect triangle pose. (That entire previous sentence is anti-Yogic by the way). But I can't help but look down on those sweaty people in the next room. In Yoga we are taught to accept ourselves where we are, to know that we are just where we should be and to never push or punish ourselves. Yoga is a healing, not punitive, practice. And above all it's about the spirit and the body as one, not looking good. We would never discuss how a pose might help us get into our jeans.
Of course, we might be thinking it. Because the truth is, that after 25, no wait, probably closer to 30 years of jumping up and down in aerobics classes, sweatin' to the oldies, using goofy excercise devices from leg weights to the Bosu ball at trendy gyms from Elaine Powers to Bally's to keep in shape and be heart healthy (yeah right, that's why I was doing that, so my heart would look good), I am now --ohm---a Yoga convert.
I didn't move to Yoga intentionally. In fact, I stumbled across it. I had taken a few classes but always thought, "What a waste of a perfectly good hour I could have been exercising." In short, I lacked a bit of respect for the centuries old discipline. But then they changed the class schedule at my gym and the Yoga class worked best into my schedule. After three consecutive classes I was hooked.
I'd like to say I was drawn to yoga for it's calming and enlightening benefits. But the truth is, after just a month or two of Yoga my husband said, "You look great. What are you doing? You have back muscles, and abs all of sudden." And he was right! Though aerobics and weights kept me in decent shape they did not give me, in 20-some years, the definition and strength that Yoga has given me in 2 years.
Tight abs and defined back muscles drew me there but the whole idea that exercise can be healing and nurturing has kept me there. That and I look great in my jeans. Well, really, you can put a little eastern into the girl but you can't take the western out of her. She needs results, she needs outward proof of her inward growth and maturity and what better way to show that growth and maturity than by slipping into a pair of skinny jeans?
I finish my Warrior II pose and look over at the sweating people in the next room. I wonder how it is that they (and I for years) haven't noticed that the people in this Yoga class all look noticeably more fit than they do. I want to run in there and turn off that stupid, migraine inducing music and push those people off their exercise balls and say, "Look at us in there! If you want to look good AND be relaxed then grab a Yoga mat and leave this nonsense for the twenty-year olds!"
But I don't. Instead I breathe in rhythmically as my Yoga teacher gently brings me mindfully back to my Yoga practice and leads us all through a strenuous but not unpleasant Sun-Salutation. She encourages the newcomers to rest if needed and then says calmly, "And when you're done, we'll all meet up in Downward Dog."
Indeed, I hope someday we can all meet up in Downward Dog.
By Judy Zimmerman