One Friday night in January, 2016, I went to an Iyengar yoga class. I felt tired and lazy, but as much as I didn’t feel like practicing I didn’t want to skip, either. Iyengar was the compromise. Done at a slower pace, Iyengar emphasizes structural alignment and precision. The instructors encourage you to ponder issues like whether the root of your skull is in line with your tailbone. It’s the kind of yoga you leave feeling three inches taller and aware of the space between each vertebrae. In short, Iyengar is magical.
Another transcendent aspect is that there’s also a fair amount of lying about on bolsters, like limber Victorian ladies on portable fainting couches. In a 90-minute class, you probably tackle 10 postures. It’s all about quality. Since that night I’ve become a weekly regular.
Overall, I feel like a puppy surrounded by well-versed senior dogs. Twice my age, they calmly hold shoulder stand for five minutes, with a nonchalance implying they do it every day. Which they might. After glancing over and deciding I’m nuts (true), they give me a wide berth. This would be a workable dynamic.
Except…there are other puppies. Puppies with their shit decidedly together. The rest of the class is full of absurdly flexible peers featuring 0.00 ounces of body fat.
They’re lithe, graceful, and bendy as beef jerky. Like Slim Jims come to life, but without the chemical weirdness. Just lean meat and yoga clothes.
I get it. We’re in image-obsessed LA and all that.
Beyond envy, I feel confusion. We barely break a sweat in class, so how do they stay so thin? Are they also Cross Fitters? Do they live in a converted (or literal?) sweat lodge in Echo Park? So. Many. Questions.
To recap, my classmates run yogic circles around me, many are nearing retirement, and the rest are athletes/stunt doubles/superstars.
If there were a dunce cap for yoga, I’d be forced to wear it during Iyengar. Until that day, I strive to keep a low profile. I set up in the same corner, behave hyper obediently, and generally strive to not be called out as The Flow Class Interloper.
In short, I persist. And persist in feeling like the village idiot, because the push to try something new is its own reward. I stay at the edge of my capabilities. As Paul Arden, a creative director of Saatchi and Saatchi wrote, “Start being wrong and suddenly anything is possible. You’re no longer trying to be infallible.”
Ain’t that the truth. In my head, at least, I’m always one misaligned pose from being asked to never return. So I must stay present. Distraction guarantees further mistakes—more puppy antics—amid my methodical classmates.
Since I’m willing to be wrong but stay open-minded, I learn a ton. I’m in the unknown, where Arden insists, “there’s no way of knowing what can happen, but there’s more chance of it being amazing than if you try to be right.”
So what’s your Iyengar? What can you try, at the risk of looking like a bit of a dope? What can you show up to and stick it out, even if you think, I'm no longer sure what I’m doing, I’d like to go home now, why did I think this was wise?
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