Published Mar 19, 10 AM
By Sarah Li Cain
I started practicing yoga when I was an expat in China. I didn’t speak a lick of Chinese at the time, and none of the classes were offered in English. I signed up for a two-year membership right way. Nobody said I make the best decisions.
The yoga studio I went to was very competitive. It’s an unspoken rule in China that the female patrons make sure they are dressed to the nines in expensive yoga gear so they can look the prettiest. They also compete to be the best in every yoga class, bending and twisting whichever way they can. Once I was in a class where two women sitting next to each other wore the exact same outfit! What sacrilege! Let’s just say they both worked their butts off (well, as much as you can in a yin yoga class, anyway) to prove who was the best. Maybe the prize was the right to wear that expensive outfit again?
Men go to yoga studios to pick up women. Why wouldn’t you want to be the only male surrounded by twenty other females and have your pick of them?
I became quite competitive within a few months of doing yoga there. No, I couldn’t afford the fancy outfits. Nor did I want to pick up a man during a class; I was happily married thankyouverymuch. But I did work to make sure I could go the deepest in triangle pose and rock a headstand like nobody else. I constantly looked around me and thought about how awesome I was compared to everyone else.
One day, I decided to sign up for a Sunday workshop with a yoga teacher I’d been going to for months.
She usually did the same type of yoga each time, so I didn’t have a second thought when signing up—even though the course name was in Chinese. I headed over to the classroom, sat on a mat, and waited for class to start.
To my surprise, a staff member rushed in, all in a tizzy, and plopped down a 4-liter water bottle in front of me. I noticed that everyone around me had a bottle as well. The teacher then walked in with a box of what looked like salt, started opening the bottles one by one, and poured a little into each bottle. Everyone around me closed the lid and shook their bottle. I did the same. The teacher then sat down and spoke a bunch of gibberish. I of course nodded my head like I understood.
Here comes the best part. We poured the water in a cup and guzzled it down. We then stood up and went through a sequence of five poses. At this point, I was clueless. In about fifteen minutes, we drank more water and people start running out of the room. Some came back looking exhausted. I started feeling queasy. My stomach was bloated. It was rumbling. I alternated between drinking salty water and doing yoga poses for another ten minutes before I realized what was really happening.
For those who aren’t familiar with what I’m talking about, I went to a Shankhaprakshalana class.
In English, this translates to something like “intestinal wash.” Without going into too much detail, the point of this process is to clean out all the gunk so your body can function optimally. Kind of like a detox. Drinking the salty water and doing the yoga poses was a way for the water to help clean out our systems.
So here I was, in a yoga class, with the intention of competing with other people, but I couldn’t because I was too worried about my bowels. I think I must have screamed and ran as fast I could to find some relief. I did this six more times over the course of two hours.
I was in pain, and did not care about being the best anymore. All I wanted was for this torturous episode to end. I was so relieved when the teacher signaled the end of class. I showered and hoped to forget about the whole thing. But, alas, more of my “ego” was released throughout the day. I kept having to excuse myself.
That was the last time I bragged about a yoga class and how awesome I was at it. I also made best friends with Google Translate to ensure that this type of episode never happened again.
About Sarah Li Cain
Sarah Li Cain is an international educator, Ashtangi, freelance writer and blogger. She has recently delved into the world of entrepreneurship and being more mindful through Ashtanga. She documents her failures and successes at sarahlicain.com and her yoga journey at mumbledjumbles.wordpress.com. You can follow her on twitter (@slicain).