I just started getting into yoga. As a larger person with no exercise regimen to speak of until recently (I’m in my latter-mid-forties), it took a lot for me to get into a yoga studio in the first place, but I’m actually starting to like yoga, and my teachers, lots. However, there’s one teacher who always tries to get me to move to the front row when I come in. I love her class—in fact I come early so that I can always grab my spot in the back. Despite that, she tries to encourage me to move to the front even when there’s room in the back row, saying things like “I saved you a spot” or “you seem like a front row person.” What’s wrong with her? Is she blind? Can’t she tell that I am not a front row person?
Back Row Betty,
Dear Back Row,
Welcome to yoga! As you have cunningly sussed-out, despite much spiritual claptrap to the contrary, much of yoga suffers from the same hierarchical size-ist bullshit that dominates any physical practice in the US. Often the front row of a yoga class seems the exclusive province of people who may know lots of yoga but have definitely mastered the art of looking like “front-row people” (This refers to a scientific score arrived at by multiplying the yogi’s metric height to weight ratio by the number of times he/she has to pull tanks tops down or pluck panties from janu sirsasana b-place—like golf, lower is better.). This seems rational, particularly to the beginner: the front row should be full of small, skilled yogis. If they are as talented as they look, they serve as role models, and if they aren’t, they’re so skinny you can see right through them to the instructor. That’s why you think your instructor is nuts to identify you as a front row person. It’s easy to use signage to encourage people to leave their shoes outside, but hierarchical size-ist bullshit can be far stickier.
Allow me tap into my psychic powers and tell you why this instructor, who by all other accounts seems like a sighted, non-batshit (at least by yoga standards), individual, keeps trying to put you in the front row. I suspect your teacher would like a clear line of sight to students who might be less experienced so that she can adjust her cuing accordingly. Or she may just want to be close to you. Do you smell of fresh, mildew-free workout gear? Do you use a proper deodorant rather than pinning your hopes on a crystal or something so non-toxic that you also cook with it? In any case, the proper response is to decide that you are doing her a favor, and move up front. The front row can seem scary, but it’s actually a great place for the beginner. Not only do you have a less-obstructed view of the action, but you also have a less-obstructed view in general. Instead of reverse-engineering the front row scores of the people ahead of you, you can focus on your own body and your own practice, which, whether you get the poses right or not, makes you a great role model for the rows behind you.
The studio mini-fridge is an amenity for some yogis, but for others its seemingly benign hum represents yet another source of duhkha, or what the Buddhists call suffering. While the fridge seems transparent—indeed, the door appears to be some sort of glass—its contents are anything but. For the water or kombucha consumer, the tapas yoga shala fridge offers pure consolation by stocking a single tasty variety of each, with pleasing packaging in appropriate portions. However, the coconut water drinker confronts so many choices that they can often be found paralyzed before the fridge in an unconscious utkatasana. The tapas anti-duhkha strike force (TADS-Force) assembled a panel of experts at the Kovach Institute for Canine and Human Wellness to determine the tastiest of the coconut waters stocked at the shala or sold within a 2-mile radius. Tapas carries three coconut waters: 11.1 ounce Vita Coco, in a cardboard and plastic tetra-pack; 11.2-ounce Blue Monkey and 16.2-ounce Taste Nirvana, both in cans. In addition, Hy-Vee has its own private label 16-ounce can of coconut water, readily available within the geographic limits of our study. In order to anonymize, randomize, and thermo-regularize the results of our research, all waters were served at the same temperature in identical red Solo-style plastic cups labeled with the name of a celebrity to identify the sample. Each researcher was given ten gummy bears. To rate the sample, a researcher could put as many bears as they wished in the glass labeled with a picture of the celebrity named on the cup. Each bear used to rate a coconut water was a bear that the researcher could not subsequently eat—a measure that discouraged inflation, and encouraged the researchers to thoughtfully taste each water before deciding if or how to distribute their bears.
The results were nothing less than gobsmacking.* Vita-Coco, identified by America’s Victim Jennifer Aniston, definitively led the field, earning 22 bears for its “sweet enough” flavor and “notes of pineapple, with a little woodiness in the follow-through, like a soft-wood? Birch maybe?” Interloper Hy-Vee made a surprise second-place showing at 17 bears despite being identified as America’s Angry White Oversharer, Michael Douglas. Researchers noted its “high drinkability” and speculated that it would “pair nicely with a bag of Mr. Ho’s.” Not far behind, Blue Monkey, masked as blue monkey David Letterman, received 14 bears. The experts considered it “acceptable … maybe more of a gulping coconut water than a sipping coconut water.” In last place, upending all lay prognostications and theoretical models, was Taste Nirvana, its large soothing green can and spiritual yearnings represented by Oprah Winfrey. Unlike its avatar, researchers found Taste Nirvana worth only 6 gummy bears. Perhaps the comments best express its failings: “so you eat sugar cereal, right? Then you put the bowl in the sink. Someone turns on the tap for just a second, THEN you grab the bowl back and drink the milk. That’s what this tastes like.”
While the results might not have entirely aligned with the interests of the shala, tapas corporate graciously thanks the researchers and the Kovach Institute for volunteering their time and space, while suggesting that they have never licensed, nor heard of any strike force affiliated with the shala and would prefer not to comment on the alleged activities or existence of TADS Force.
* Note: no gobs, human or canine, were injured in the course of this research.
** Angelina, you’ll have to adopt me before I forgive you. Like you even care about those kids—I’ve seen the pictures where you let Brad take them out on the ATVS! Where are their helmets?
I have spent approximately 8 days in Dallas the TV show (13 seasons= 200ish hours) and exactly zero days in Dallas proper. I am ashamed, both because there are real live folks I miss in Dallas and because maybe if they miss me too they will take me to see Southfork!
In my 3 hours in Dallas, no one smelled like Aqua Net or scotch. Maybe it was because the hours were between 5 and 8 am, but I still felt like this was not the Dallas I knew. I arrived for my layover fresh off a redeye from Seattle shared with the world’s orneriest toddler. (Does cherry cordial count in the TSA liquid allowance if you only carry it to dose rowdy snotlings? What about chloroform? What about hammers?) I felt impossibly blessed and centered as I walked between terminals D and C, finding the slightly widened section of hallway partitioned off and called “DFW Yoga Studio.”
There are potted plants, poses painted on the walls, and perhaps the itchiest, gnarliest, pokiest surface imaginable for you to roll out one of the mats provided and get yogaing!
The mats are serviceable, if thin, and very necessary. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LET YOUR BARE SKIN TOUCH THE BLUE SURFACE. I have no idea where they found it, or why they thought it would be better than the straight-up linoleum, but while it is not a texture that exists in nature, it will persist in your memory should you encounter it with say, the back of your thigh. When my twin sister and I played sharks in the ocean and jumped back and forth between our beds, this is what we imagined landing in the sharks would feel like. That said, it has some natural light, it’s gawker-free, and the guest book demonstrates that it provides a great deal of comfort to travelers. Even if you don’t give a shit about yoga, it’s a nice place to lie down and read, or turn on the DVD and watch the attractive lady do yoga.
Bottom line: I recommend! If you’re really fussy about your mat, bring your own, but they have wipeys and everything. If nothing else, reading the guest book is a good time. There’s no Dallas tributes or memorabilia anywhere in the airport, so what else were you going to do?
The last thing I want to do during my period is stand on my head. So if a yoga teacher says to skip inversions like headstand, handstand, or shoulderstand if I’m “on my cycle,” I usually listen, happy for the excuse to spend a few extra minutes lying motionless on…
I’ve been complaining about this for ages, but it’s nice to see Slate on board.
Yoga Journal is to yoga what Architectural Digest is to architecture.
I don’t necessarily mean this in a bad way. I enjoy pretty things, and sometimes I spend money. Since I don’t aspire to buy or improve or build a building, but I do lots of yoga, YJ is generally fine reading for me, or at least of more interest than, say, Hobby Farms, Birds and Blooms or the aforementioned Architectural Digest. Still, YJ is primarily a compendium of products meant to accompany a particular lifestyle—a glossy grass-fed version of the Val-Pack coupon book that shows up in the mail every few months. On a page per page basis, YJ compares unfavorably with O, a magazine that basically exists to disseminate the shopping habits of a single billionaire, but has more text devoted to mindfulness and more accurate health advice than YJ. Still, my standards for YJ are pretty low, so I was sincerely gobsmacked when I opened the September 2014 issue and found a six-page fashion spread called “Love your Curves” with text by Jean Weiss and photography by Ashley Davis Tilly. The piece offers general advise for five different shapes—three of which I’d heard of (hourglass, apple, pear) and two that seemed invented for the sake of having more pictures. Has anyone ever said, I’m looking for jeans to flatter my rectangular body? In any case, the models had been extracted from the yoga mines of Colorado, and all looked pretty much like yoga teachers, except, you know, not super skinny. In fact, they looked so much like yoga teachers (and students, for that matter) that it was curious that they were only getting these six pages of YJ. The article before this was an interview with Hilaria Baldwin, who does not, in fact, look like a yoga teacher.* So far, so good—women in Yoga Journal who like women I practice with. Great! But why, YJ, would you put a “pear” in pants from lululemon? Did you forget that they explicitly don’t want to “embrace curves?” Did you want to make sure that any attentive reader would quickly realize that these “curvy” models are in fact, just kind of short? Is there a mudra for facepalm?
*Hilaria Baldwin looks like a conventionally foxy chick with somewhat unconventionally small tits, which she plays up by posing in clothes that yoga teachers don’t wear, like fancy heels and cocktail dresses. Based on her Instagram, she needs more help finding yoga clothes than YJ’s apples and pears and wedges do.
This is a new series in which I review the most necessary of practice venues for many of us: airports. It’s called “Terminal Asana” even though that sounds sort of awful, because sometimes practicing at the airport is sort of awful.
Quad City International Airport
In general I love to practice in airports like MLI. As municipal gifts from wealthy corporations, they are often far more spacious than they need to be. MLI has many amenities missing from the terminals of similarly-sized cities, including a bar on both sides of security, a warren of comfy leather tippy chairs, and tons of space to unroll your mat and practice. What could go wrong?
After doing at least 30 minutes of yoga before each of the dozen or so flights I’ve taken out of MLI in the last couple of years, I was surprised to be approached by three security guards as I transitioned from Primary to Intermediate. They were very polite, but told me that some of my fellow travelers had complained about me, and that I could continue my “exercises” in a place called the VIP room. Utterly discombobulated, I asked what I had done. A guard assured me that I was fine, he’d seen me before, but “there was just a couple people worried, y’know, about the children,” and that there would be free water in the VIP room. I assumed by “VIP room” he meant a rectangular cell with a stainless-steel commode in the corner, hard bunks lining the walls, and dead-eyed fellow travelers with unfortunate names like Hussein, Osama, or Barak. Instead, it was simply a rectangular room separated into a lounge and business center, right off the B concourse and super close to the gates (to be fair, in a terminal like MLI, you can’t ever get very far from the gates). There was indeed free bottled water and plenty of space to practice yoga. As they deposited me there, for my own safety and that of the children, one of the guards said that I should just come up to security whenever I fly out of MLI and they will gladly give me access to the VIP room (see below).
Bottom line: I recommend practicing at MLI. Clearly the patrons need more exposure to yoga. If you’d rather not be a pioneer, you will definitely get VIP service, as whoever complained about me really put the fear of Shiva into their security. It’s up to you: privacy and free water, or spacious terminal and potential accusations of witchcraft. Either way, it’s a win!
I’m totally obsessed with yoga, to the point that my friends have suggested that I might want to become a yoga teacher. I’m really torn. I’d love to learn more about yoga, but my yoga teachers seem so far beyond me in terms of their practice—they just lift right up into bakasana, headstand, whatever they need to demonstrate, and I’m not sure if I can do that. Are they mutants? Will yoga teacher training make me like them, or will I have to get bitten by a radioactive yogi?
First of all, the bad news: those friends who want you to look into becoming a yoga teacher? You have bored the living shit of them with your asananine chatter, and this is the most polite way they’ve found to get you to savasana up. The good news: lots of people make great friends in yoga teacher training!
Do not be intimidated because your role models seem so far beyond you. First of all, if you have an amazing teacher, it probably means that she has a committed long-term personal practice. She probably shapes that practice with guidance from her amazing teacher. She did not become an amazing teacher just because she took teacher training. Teacher training will not turn anyone into a tictacking dynamo. It will allow you to dig deeper into yoga with people who will not be put off by your enthusiasm. If giving 200 hours over to yoga theory and practice sounds good to you, do it, don’t let your lack of super powers stop you.
The super powers come as you teach. The adrenalin that gives moms the strength to lift cars off their young? That will allow you to demonstrate a dropback without warming up. The power to see through clothing? As you observe class after class, the hunched shoulder will shine through the baggy t-shirt. And when people get their hips up and back in downward dog? You will see their genitals right through their $125 pants.
As someone’s uncle once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Just practice and you’ll be ready for the power when it comes.