A tale of two black fridays

Published on November 28, 2011 by      Print
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By Samantha Mabry

The morning of Black Friday I woke up to an online news story about a woman who reportedly started pepper-spraying shoppers at a Los Angeles-area Wal-Mart in order to gain a competitive edge on so-called “doorbuster deals.” Apparently the “prize” which she sought with such ferocity was an Xbox.

Also on the morning of Black Friday, I went to teach yoga. The studio at which I teach offers “power vinyasa” classes which are meant to be challenging; however I’ve lost track of the times in class I’ve said things to the effect of “please modify” or “work at your level” or “this isn’t a competition” or “start breathing again” or “be kind to yourself,” etc. I am truly not interested in someone being able to put their foot on their face in an arm balance or whatever, as my own inability to put my foot on my face in an arm balance has yet to cause my personal, emotional or spiritual downfall.

Still though, despite all of my constant bickering helpful suggestions, I frequently see people bullying their shoulders into what have to be awfully uncomfortable arm binds, making hideous facial contortions to try to stay balanced in Dancer’s Pose, and otherwise kicking their own asses in merciless ways for reasons unknown. This type of thing happened the morning of Black Friday; it happens in almost every class. Once upon a time, I was this self-harming yogi, and I sometimes still get competitive with myself even though I know better and have suffered a few ego-related yoga injuries that prove that I should know better.

While a majority of people would agree that it’s certifiably  batshit to cause bodily harm to random strangers in order to get 20% off a Kindle at a Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving, I often see yoga students cause bodily harm to themselves in order to achieve… what exactly?

These are. The same. Scenarios. Let’s tease them out: 


Shopper at Wal-Mart believes that Xbox will fill some kind of void in her life.

Yogi believes that finally putting foot on face in arm balance will fill some kind of void in her life.


Shopper at Wal-Mart will get her hands on Xbox by any means necessary. This involves the declaration: “Bitch, stay away from my Xbox, or I will pepper-spray your ass.”

Yogi will get her foot on face by any means necessary. This involves the declaration (unspoken): “Hey shoulders! Shut the fuck up, because I am getting into this goddamned pose whether you like it or not.”


Shopper at Wal-Mart causes harm to others.

Yogi causes harm to herself.


Ultimately, shopper at Wal-Mart gets not-that-great of a deal on Xbox that her family won’t care about by this time next year and is known far and wide as a total a-hole.

Ultimately, yogi gets… I don’t know. Bragging rights? Compliment from some teacher who believes that vinyasa yoga functions on some type of point system? She isn’t known far and wide as a total a-hole but her shoulder has really been bothering her lately.


I’ll end by saying that there is nothing wrong with proving to yourself that you are strong.  Strength, however, comes not in the form of brutalization.

About Samantha Mabry

Samantha Mabry grew up in Dallas thinking she’d one day be a bass player for a famous rock band. She is now an English teacher, writer of young adult ghost stories, and yoga instructor. She enjoys books about monsters and maintains the blog May the Stars Fall Down on You Like Rain.

Filed under: Zombie Yoga and Tagged:


  1. Matthew says:

    It would be hilarious if the game she wanted with the XBOX in question was the new Deepak Chopra game.
    Nice piece….

  2. Jade Doherty says:

    ooh I ever so enjoyed this!

    I’d never thought about going after yoga positions being similar for grasping at stuff, but totes get the connection now!

  3. Marta Harvell says:

    Nice article.

    Definitely something I needed to hear as I routinely work to pry my foot off my face in said yoga pose.

  4. Vision_Quest2 says:

    You are called out for not teaching those NYC yoga teachers a lesson of your own.

    It sometimes does not come from the student first.
    Sometimes an overzealous yoga teacher will crank on their students, or exhort their class to push, push, and push some more, thus setting up situations that spill over to many other poses …Students not having an adequate kinesthetic sense, such behavior will affect students whose hips are not open enough yet, NOT to screw up their shoulders trying to get that foot near the face.

    I’m on the side of the students, because it is rare indeed to find a power yoga teacher with your philosophy of life …

  5. Samantha Mabry says:

    I hear you Vision Quest re: aggressive teachers. There’s a difference between being supportive/encouraging and being borderline bullies.

  6. Kimberly Johnson says:

    Favorite line:
    “otherwise kicking their own asses in merciless ways for reasons unknown”

  7. Kate says:

    Adore this piece. Self-awareness in any context is so much harder than it seems.

  8. Laura says:

    “Shopper at Wal-Mart believes that Xbox will fill some kind of void in her life.
    Yogi believes that finally putting foot on face in arm balance will fill some kind of void in her life.”
    Well-put, you really nailed it on the head.
    I pity the ego-maniac on the mat the same way i pity the ego-maniac behind the wheel of a SUV, the only difference being that the SUV driver does a lot more damage to others. Both have a fairly low level of self-awareness and probably suffer from an inferiority complex.

    The way yoga is taught in the West is also part of the problem. In classical Yoga asanas are just one of the 8 limbs of yoga, and ideally the yoga practitioner shouldn’t focus so much on asanas while still failing to grasp the basics of the other 7 limbs. No one element should be elevated over another, because each is part of a holistic focus. Focusing only on asanas it’s like handing over a Ferrari to a 17 y/o who hasn’t even passed the theory test. Scary!

  9. Chrissy says:

    I love this piece! ANd could not agree more….I was that yogi, thinking that nailing crow was somehow a big dilly in the grand scheme of life…it…just..isn’t….period.
    I have found that as I have become kinder to myself, it has spilled over to other areas of my life…and GOD help any teacher who tries to tell me what to do….I know my body…

  10. A tale of two black fridays. ~ Samantha Mabry | elephant journal says:

    [...] of two black fridays. ~ Samantha Mabry  Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on November 28, 2011.  [...]

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