Lise Liddell © 2014
For the past 23 years, five times a week for an hour and a half, I have practiced yoga – the kind where your sweat spews like a fire hose through every one of your pores, your heart rate flies to Mars and your face turns the color of the red-dyed alcohol in a thermometer getting ready to explode. Until recently this manic, burning practice kept me “chill” during the rest of my waking hours.
Last year my two favorite boutique yoga studios closed. The only studio near me now, is Big Yoga. Humungous Yoga is more like it - the classes hold up to 100 students at a time. From 6 am to 11 pm, the studio offers classes with a 15-minute break in between when one pack of winded, sweaty students dressed in neon spandex ambles out and a fresh pack scurries in. Half-naked limbs and torsos bump into each other while laughing, flirting and gossiping as they tote and often drop yoga mats, water bottles, sweat towels, blocks, and straps. My old teachers who’d spent their lives studying, practicing, and teaching classes of 20 students max, have been replaced by 22-year-olds with six months of yoga practice under their belts and four months of teacher training. They “teach” poses they can’t do, and know as much about yoga as I know about the rap and techno music they play during sessions. In my old studios, most often silence was observed. If music was played it was respectful and spiritual.
At Big Yoga, students are encouraged to shout exclamations like “Yee-Haw,” and “Woo-hoo,” during specific poses. If the group yell is at all wimpy, the teachers repeat the pose until they are satisfied with the uproar. These kindergarten gurus act more like cheerleaders at the Super Bowl than humble students of life pursuing and teaching spiritual enlightenment through the manipulation of the body. We students come and go like the millions who patron McDonald’s in search of sustenance: the burger chasers leave filled with a chemical substitute for food. We leave with a carnal substitute for yoga.
One reason for practicing yoga is to become adaptable to change – the only constant there is. Change blindsides us the moment we think we have everything settled. With the help of yoga, I’ve bared the acute pain in the gut that comes with each of life’s hurling wrenches: the loss of loved ones to cancer, heart attacks, even suicide; the snuffing out of a dream to sell my records world-wide; the wreckage of once soul-mated relationships; the middle-age exchange of my fresh face and lithe body for a wrinkled brow and poochy torso.
But the one change that yoga has not prepared me for is the changing of yoga. I feel the years of practice erase from my history book every time I go to “Big” and the Marti-Gras-like party begins. At the end of class I lie in closing meditation (the yoga poses supposedly having settled my mind and body into serenity) nerve-wracked and fantasizing about slamming the teacher over the head with the Bose boom-box blaring Justin Beiber’s song, “Bigger.” The thought alone is not good for my placement on the wheel of karma, or my blood pressure.
Oxymoronic Big Yoga is too big for me. I’m switching to Tiny Yoga: just me in the silence of my apartment.