Because my therapist and I concluded that much of my recent lethargy and even depression began when I stopped using yoga to talk to myself, I find myself in the second floor yoga room of my gym at 7AM this morning, studiously full of rage at the man next to me, who I’ve decided is representative of everything I don’t want to be or do in life.
He is older, with a paisley hankie headband wrapped around his head. He has what I think of now, after briefly living in LA, as the East Coast pedicure (this means, none–I also have this pedicure right now). He was at the desk downstairs when I arrived, arguing the price of the class–and I don’t know why I care or why it annoyed me. But this of course is why I’m here. I have become a series of judgmental projections and I need to drop this and get on with my life. So, yes, I thought the class was cheap to begin with, at 12 dollars. But it wasn’t any of my business if he didn’t, and many people are cheap and are still completely great people. The economy is, after all, like an oil freighter that has caught fire and we are all mostly standing on the part that is still above water.
I prepared to let it go, though, and then in the room, as I sat on the mat waiting for class to start, he entered and I thought, Don’t sit next to me, but I didn’t say it. And then he sat his mat down beside me, with a bristling defiance.
As if he could hear my thoughts and decided to mess with me.
This, of course, is part of why I stopped going to yoga classes.
There’s more to it than yoga, of course, or the lack of, though I know, as the class begins, this man is simply a screen onto which I’m projecting the aforementioned series of resentments that have mostly to do with how I am what Men’s Fitness would call “deconditioned”. This refers to a pair of APC jeans of mine with a 31-inch waist, that I’ve not worn since 2004.
In 2004, I left New York and moved to a series of places that required a certain amount of driving. As I was no longer on what I thought of as the Bataan death march through New York that was my life before, I started to puff up. By the time I moved to Rochester in 2005, with a boyfriend who cooked desserts three and four nights a week, and spent a winter there watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes with him to console ourselves over leaving our respective civilizations (me, NYC and LA, him, Atlanta), I had become the bear version of myself. My friends have mostly been polite about it, and some have been what I would call enabling. And then there’s the woman I ran into at a reading, who said, “You look kind of like Alex Chee.”
To which I said, “I am Alex Chee.” To which she said, “Oh, you’ve put on some weight.”
The universe was sending me messages.
This yoga class is something I wouldn’t have respected in my old days, which is to say, when I was a yoga teacher in New York and could fall backwards into wheel without much thought, doing what I then called “Stupid Yoga Bar Tricks”. I would have thought it was too easy, not hard enough. But this morning it feels okay. In those days, I went to class sometimes twice a day, studying with a severe teacher in a Soho loft studio who didn’t even want us to use props. I spent my weeks running between a host of yoga studios, most no longer open (Bhava and Shiva Shala, for example, both deeply missed). I taught a class at Atmananda and had private students also, and was proud of how yoga teaching allowed me to support myself in some small part. But my at-home practice suffers of late, to say the least, and this morning I decide it’s completely fine to use something as shallow as my teacher’s relative attractiveness to get me to go to class regularly. This is something my old teacher would refer to as Bhakti, which I used to scorn, but now understand, as I watch the teacher.
Which is to say, today’s teacher is the one from the other day here at the gym. He is a very good teacher, though the class, which is supposed to be a “flow” class, stops after every pose while he explains it. By the end I feel both educated and interrupted.
Downstairs, a woman from the class says to me, afterwards, I think next week will be more vigorous. I nod. It’s a class of mindreaders, it turns out. Some of them are nice and some are not.
I wave off my new friend, collect an assortment of reading materials from the magazine wall and march in place on an elliptical trainer to an assortment of paces and inclines that will, according to an article in Men’s Health this month, help me get in shape for this summer. I have gone on what I’d call an Atkins-style diet (Atkins plus fruit?) and am working out 6 days a week, and so far, since Sunday, have lost 5 lbs.
On the trainer, I read my friend Mike Albo’s column in the Critical Shopper, about Aloha Rag, and think again about how his columns always accurately reflect my thinking about material culture, which is to say a deep ambivalence born of being drawn to pretty, flashy things and repulsed by the idea of spending ludicrous sums of money for them. I think of him often anyway, for being a little north of Springfield, where he grew up. I also read an article from O Magazine about bad friends, specifically, the ones who are all take and no give, and how to either change the dynamic or drop them and move on. I take the quiz as regards a very specific friend and wonder if I’m being fair or if I’m under the influence of the magazine. I reach no real conclusions, then realize this is something the magazine warned about, that prolongs the abusive friendship, and then my time on the machine ends and I’m done.
When you think of everything that goes into that yoga class that costs an individual only $12 — the years of the yoga instructor’s practice, his commitment, the room — that fee seems a mere stipend. Weird how people will pay $6, isn’t it?, for a gigantic, whipped, frothed, icy, sugared coffee drink. Daily. And not complain.
Last week I paid the tuition for the awesome nonprofit arts camp my kids go to for July. They can study yoga, writing, folk music, photography, nature sketching, hip hop, swimming, musical theatre, poetry, stand-up comedy, modern dance, and other cool ways of doing things with actual practioners of those arts. Many parents complain and complain about the fee. I am always astonished when people don’t count themselves lucky to have these opportunities — right in our neighborhood! — that can really change a person, in ways that matter. Grrr, to paisley handkerchief man.
Regarding snacks, my brother and I are addicted to raw carrots and/or roasted nuts. They feel like snacks, they keep you busy, and they don’t make you want real sweets.
I hope you enjoy getting back into a yoga rhythm.
Eerie that we both returned to our former haunts yesterday. In two months’ time, I appear to my self to have melted, and only recently sought solace in a new gymnasium membership, while trying to master lunchbreaks while working in a grocery store.
Also good to know that you, like me, are prone to develop instant dislikes of people who are, to us, abhorrent.
Jane: Thanks, I agree, though there’s a legion of folks out here who remember basically paying nothing for yoga. Which I forget. And the Frappuccino thing is insane in general.
Also, your kids’ camp sounds so great I kind of want to go. We should have something like that for adults. Or families. Wouldn’t that be funny?
RJ: We are secretly the same sign, I think, somehow, despite the differences.
It’s never ending. Diligence at the gym and a lack thereof with diet has me struggling to regain some control over my love handles. I am trying to force myself to start with yoga again. Which is odd, because I know I enjoy it when I do it, it is just convincing myself to make the time commitment. I have no real excuse, not even cheapness, since the classes are included in my gym membership.