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  • It’s not you, it’s me. Or is it?

    17 comments Published Jul 3, 10 AM
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    By Vanessa Fiola

    Yoga is boring.

    I remember the days when I used to hang out with my friends – other teachers – in the studio on Friday nights. After the last class ended, we’d close the doors, put on some music, light candles, and round robin a class for hours on end. Around 11 p.m. we’d finish with a savasana so deep we’d have to set a timer so the whole thing didn’t get out of hand. We were redefining what it meant to be cool in Austin, or so it felt. I miss those days. I miss the exuberance I once felt for yoga.

    Eventually I moved to Los Angeles, stumbled upon a studio that felt enough like home, and enrolled in another teacher training – this time Anusara (or, as I like to call it, Dramusara). I taught at night and on weekends, and practiced whenever I could, which, with a job as a consultant, became increasingly difficult. I started taking class to plan what I wanted to teach. I stopped identifying with the yoga scene. I quit teaching. I co-founded Recovering Yogi. I traded asana for art.

    I used to assist a yoga-lebrity at his teacher trainings.  I remember one morning he asked me to his cabin to practice before class. “Do you think you’ll always practice yoga?” he asked. At the time, I couldn’t picture any other way.

    That question has stayed with me as my own practice has ebbed. It has loomed as I’ve watched my friends become yoga-lebrities in their own right and develop inspiring practices that rival Cirque du Soleil. There have been times – several times – when I’ve wished I had something more physical to show for the years in which I practiced with religious fervor.

    In the space between what was and what is, I’ve missed yoga. I’ve missed the discipline of getting on my mat, where discipline can be understood as longing. I wistfully remember how good it felt to be wrung out and spent and shifted in the space of an hour and a half. I miss that glow. 

    I’ve tried to go back to classes and recapture that feeling, but fittingly, it’s elusive. The classes haven’t changed. They remain the same poses, the same aphorisms, the same everything: everything is impermanent, live in the now, be your potential. Thirty minutes in and I’m counting time. The end of the standing series signifies we’re in the home stretch. They haven’t changed. I’ve changed.

    And the truth is, I don’t know why. I could blame it on an aversion to the pop-spiritual cheerleading, de rigueur in so many yoga classes.

    (In fairness, I was that teacher, too.) Often I find myself thinking, “Could you maybe please just teach?” as I glance at the clock. But that would be too easy. My practice has changed. It’s not the practice that I remember. My shoulders, from years spent hunched over a laptop, do not bind as nimbly as they once did. I half-ass every chatturanga, and that has nothing to do with platitudes.

    One of my best friends teaches me yoga. When my shoulder hurts she tells me to get on her mat and she leads me through the simplest of practices: down dog, dolphin, child’s pose. I move to her instruction, slowly, into the subtlest of spaces, the place where organs listen, though she would never describe it as that. We do maybe three postures and then we’re done. Actually, I’m done.

    Today, I scour local studios’ websites for the shortest class. I want just enough. Ninety minutes is unthinkable. Seventy-five minutes is marginally tolerable. Later, I will secretly judge teachers who don’t end their classes on time. Recently, I found a studio a couple of blocks from my house that offers thirty-five minute classes. It’s the first time in years that I’ve been to a studio and thought, “You get me.”

    About Vanessa Fiola