I wanna go home

Published on January 20, 2012 by      Print
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By Adam Hocke

A traveling yogi tries to find a studio he doesn’t loathe.

As someone who’s practiced for a while and is now teaching, I’ve gone to my fair share of yoga studios and for the most part understand what benefits me and not from my practice. Lately, during my travels, I’ve been questioning what I’m actually looking for out of my studio and trying not to simply hate all that I find distasteful. Am I looking for a place for a good workout? A guru (yikes)? Community? Or am I looking for something more abstract? And what exactly is everyone else actually looking for?

When I was in graduate school, I had a meeting with a senior professor who quite unexpectedly croaked out the stentorian declaration: “Adam, it seems you are always emotionally, intellectually and psychosocially searching for home.” At the time, I was both amused and stifled by the weight of his pretension. Now, it’s one of those memories that keeps coming back to haunt me – especially living the life of an ex-pat for whom the term ‘home’ is a complicated one.

Back in the US for the past few months, and wanting to keep up my practice, I’ve had the chance to try many yoga studios. One well-meaning instructor said to me “you’re always welcome here…consider it a second home.” Really? I thought I was just coming to class. How is a yoga studio a home, anyway?

As I went from studio to studio, usually unhappily, I noticed some characteristics of different homes.

One particularly Mommie Dearest home had me – before I could even think of attending a class – sign a ten-part etiquette agreement ensuring I wouldn’t come late, answer my cell-phone, groan, fart, chew gum, judge, practice violence, or wear shoes anywhere near the studio. The dictatorial instructor deemed one unfortunate lady’s mat, responsibly brought from home, unacceptable. Later I had to screen my calls when the studio repeatedly rung to see why I hadn’t come back. The inner-teenager in me wanted to rebel, but naturally I just sulked.

At another place, I had to be careful not to slip on the rose petals strewn from the elevator to the studio or giggle too loudly at the students practicing Bollywood dance moves while sustaining a tree pose. Not to mention the multi-colored twinkling light show during savasana. I felt awfully left out of post-class herbal tea and vegan cookie consumption.

Then there was the ten+ studio yoga ‘megaplex’ wherein I was greeted by yoga consultants, had my mat rolled out for me, and was offered a cornucopia of hair products post steam and shower.

The latest and most expensive anti-wicking yoga fashions were on display and there was an unspoken competitive atmosphere on the mat. I think one teacher felt slightly overwhelmed by the yuppieness of it all, turning up the faux spiritual authority by apologetically announcing “in the West we call this pose downward-facing dog” before leading us through a class that was basically the same as one I could find at my gym.

Or how about the mistaken evening out at the Bhakti Shakti fest where mid-vinyasa breastfeeding was witnessed. Definitely the biggest surprise I’ve ever encountered when bringing the head around in a deep twist. The evening was capped off by spontaneous hula-hooping during which one unlucky attendee received a hula blow to the head after a hoop was thrown excitedly skybound without forethought of where it may land.

Now, while I’ve resorted to internet mocking, for some these studios were it. The people, the style, the mood was welcoming. Is there something I’m missing here? Or am I just the insufferable snark?

As an adult who isn’t religious and who dabbles with ‘spirituality’ perhaps there is a big gaping hole where church, or school, or university, or whatever sort of past community used to be. I think it’s like that for a lot of us. So we seek to fill that void with what’s available to us. Or, we run screaming away from anything that may resemble that black hole.

Maybe there is something to seeking a yoga home.

Something productive and necessary to finding a like-minded community of individuals dedicated to shared experience and practice for self and communal improvement. Maybe I’m just too damned skeptical and judgmental to let myself into that possibility.

Although, at the risk of stretching this metaphor way too far, maybe this challenge of home-seeking has become much more about the over abundance of decoration than anything else. The lotus shaped candleholders, the Sanskrit tattoos, the kirtan soundtracks, and the illusion that we’re doing something exotic and more important than just exercise is getting in the way of this community building. A focus on outer form rather than inner state – as if we needed to suddenly assume this faux-Hindu identity to improve our bodies and our minds. Our studio choices and aversions reflect our inner needs and paranoias, and often become diversionary escapes rather than centers of transformation.

I think I’m still looking for that home – much to my professor’s chagrin, I’m sure. Maybe the door begins on my mat, or maybe it doesn’t. I just know I don’t want to remain isolated in home-practice or separated by my own judgment. Home awaits – wherever that may be.

About Adam Hocke

Adam Hocke has a BFA and an MA from New York University and has been practicing yoga for 10 years. Originally from South Florida, Adam now resides in London with his partner. Visit his blog or on twitter @yogapossible.


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  1. Joy Herbst says:

    it sounds like there has been plenty of opportunity to revel in the home within given your options ;)

  2. Parvati Gebhardt says:

    Try Svaroopa yoga next chance you get. Or not…whichever feels right at that moment!

  3. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Showing up is my practice home. Literally–at this point, all my yoga practice is done at home. And showing up is done on my mat. My mat is not set down there to recline on and watch TV or play with my computer, surfing the ‘net.

    It is good to challenge yourself, but when you are tired after a long day at the job and hours of commuting – this kind of commuting being an everyday thing – and you don’t feel you want to be enervated after a practice, at times I do a relatively toned-down (but class-length) yoga practice … though now I’ve branched out into using audio downloads as well as my own practice.

    As far as a yoga community, it’s like any other such venue … at least in the big city … people are in a rush to get on with their lives and you don’t get to know them outside of class unless you really hit if off …

    I actually do take a class, from time to time, it’s in 5 Rhythms, which is an ecstatic dance-based movement practice. But, I have to, to keep on feeling at home doing yoga. Sometimes yoga does not feel like home unless there is some other, more forgiving, mindful movement modality to go to …

  4. patrick nolan says:

    in one sentence you say, skeptically, that the notion of yoga being anything more than an exercise system is illusory. yet in the very next sentence you say that focus on the outer form as opposed to the inner state is something not desirable. how do you reconcile that? have i misread? yoga is a wonderful, if ultimately incomplete, exercise system. if that’s all it is for you, that’s cool. but for some of us, it is more than exercise. to say otherwise is kind of a hurtful bummer.

    • Adam says:

      Don’t mean to imply that that it’s *just* an exercise system, moreso that the need to convince ourselves that it’s something very important and very spiritual through all the over the top faux-spiritual decoration is a little bit shallow and off the mark. As if just wearing a Namaste t-shirt or setting up a Buddha in your studio suddenly makes a yoga class a transcendent experience. That by this incessant convincing ourselves we get focused on the outer form and appearance of yoga as spiritual rather than the tough work of making it more than stretching and about deeper mind/body connections. Glad to be challenged on this and hope that begins to clear up my muddled thoughts.

      • patrick nolan says:

        that does clarify things, and i agree completely. while i must confess to having some sanskrit/yogic tattoos, i am also aware that they have little or nothing to do with my actual yoga practice on an off the mat. thank you for your article, and i hope you can at least find a space in which you can practice comfortably, if not a communtiy to join.

  5. Alex2@yogatrail says:

    Hi, this article resonates with me and I’m sure many, many yogis out there. Because yoga does have a strong community and “connecting” aspect, it can be frustrating to find a place that’s a good fit, given the extraordinary variety of yoga styles, and yoga “flavours”. For now, it seems that only a lot of trial (and error), as well as a bit of luck, are what it takes to find a studio or place that feels like home. Great article!

  6. Jenifer says:

    I don’t get the seeming slight on the breastfeeding mother. If the studio didn’t have a problem with it, and she didn’t have a problem with it, why did you?

    And, is there the assumption that breastfeeding is an affect?

    • Adam says:

      No hating on public breastfeeding – just was unexpected in the context of a strong vinyasa flow class. Or more precisely, I was out of place in a context that included babies as part of the practice as well as hooping. The baby was cute although it did crawl all over my mat.

      • Jenifer says:

        I see, the article is inverted a little bit.

        Essentially, when you see something you don’t expect, or experience something unexpected, it puts you off, as opposed to simply being open to the experience itself, and perhaps casting it in such a way as it being a positive attribute that may bring you ‘home.’

        That being said, it is not that we shouldn’t be both clear and critical when determining where we want to go and be.

        I think that this may be the difference between the “Sat yam” and the “Sat nam.” Which — very loosely defined” means “Yes, this” and “Not this.” They are two forms of meditation, really, and most people find themselves being one way or another.

        A “sat yam” sort of person will say “I really want a home that has the following 72,000 attributes!” and then will seek a place that has as many of those attributes as possible (or create that place. Every place that doesn’t have all of the attributes is categorized as “These attributes were good, here were some surprises that I’m going to put into my “yes” list, but overall, this is not the place for me as they only have 69,000 of the attributes that I want.”

        A ‘sat nam’ sort of person is super-experimental, usually saying “I don’t really know what I want, but I’ll know it when I have it.” And then they go out and taste everything that they can and make decisions about it like “well, there *were* 69,0000 good things about that place, but there were a remaining 3,000 things that were simply not right.” They may even create their own place, but as soon as it’s created, if it only has 71,999 things “right” they’ll cast it aside and go “nope, not this!” and start over.

        I’m a sat yam. My husband is a sat nam. LOL

        The “trouble” with a sat nam that I experience as a sat yam, is that any little thing can become the criticism that casts everything away. And, that criticism is harsh. Instead of going “I’m being too perfectionistic” or “I don’t really know what I want, and here were the good things about this place, but it isn’t exactly what I’m looking for for these reasons.” He just goes “That place sucked and was full of affected behaviors!”

        I might have been in the same place and gone “These parts were ok, those parts were great, and those parts sucked. It’s workable.”

        In both instances, we all need to make sure that we’re appropriately managing baby and bath-water. A Sat yam like myself will keep a fair bit of bath water around, since the baby is there and everything else is ok. A Sat nam like my husband will be like “out with all of it!” and loose the baby in the process.

        When searching for home or community or what have you, a large part of it is learning to balance your needs with the realities of the people around you. I don’t always fit perfectly, but not fitting perfectly provides me with an opportunity to grow and explore. It’s less uncomfortable for sat-yams than for sat-nams, but it works well.

        I’ll give an example. I’m a working mom. Most of my mom-friends are stay-at-home moms who have a lot of activities — mommmy-related activism such as le leche league meetings, doll making and crafting groups, and other cool things that I’m not able or interested in doing (doll-making is not my thing). When i’m in a common space — which circles around my son’s kindy — I ask these women about themselves and usually get long descriptions of doll-making projects.

        Sometimes, I feel entirely disconnected, but I try to stay focused and interested. Then, they as me about me and what lights my fire is running my business. I start prattling on about it, and about 4 minutes in, i realize that she has glazed over. Heh. I tie off and then we talk about what I hope are more common interests.

        I am not perfect, and the community is not perfect for me, but there are benefits. My son has lots of friends. Most of us are like-minded about all sorts of elements of natural parenting and natural education (or coming from a specific educational ideology). These parents are friendly and kind, and a good resource for us as immigrants (they help us find what they need or provide it for us when we ask).

        There is a big baby there. And sure, some bathwater too, but that’s ok. When the sun shines on the bathwater that’s on the drippy baby, it looks like rainbows and sparkles (or so my son, 3.5, tells me).

        It might help in finding a yoga studio.

        • Adam says:

          Thanks for offering so much in return and helping me understand. In all seriousness, and setting aside the need to joke, I think my writing this and offering it here is to work through and ‘expose’ my own judgment (judgment and confusion I suspect I’m not alone in), even being caught in the act, try to make sense of it, and move on with a little bit more openness. Realising I do need to open myself up to home seeking rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater as you say. I’ll keep your kind words in mind – and I’m sure they’ll help more yogis than me!

      • Auth says:

        Dear Chuck,I love your web site. I note that there is a list of all arecilts up to 2007 then arecilts month by month after that. Do you have a ocmplete list of 2007-2009?Blessings in Christ,Rowland

  7. Ozz says:

    Adam, you say “Maybe I’m just too damned skeptical and judgmental to let myself into that possibility” and then go on to talk about “The lotus shaped candleholders, the Sanskrit tattoos, the kirtan soundtracks, and the illusion that we’re doing something exotic and more important than just exercise is getting in the way of this community building.”

    Honestly, yeah, the latter statement seems to me to confirm the former. What is it about letting yourself into that possibility that inhibits you? Do you fear being ‘fooled’? That’s what kept me from allowing such things for too many years. Had to let it go – still working on that, in fact.

    I can tell you that it’s no illusion for me – when I practice yoga, I *am* doing something more important than just exercise. There are psycho-emotional and spiritual components that I am developing via this practice. Often, mysteriously. That’s another thing I didn’t allow at one point, mostly out of a fixed reaction to my childhood. I’m glad I can allow this sort of thing now – it’s improved my relationships – with myself, others and the world around me – markedly.

    The candleholders, the tattoos, the soundtracks – sure, you can interpret those however you choose, and you seem to be choosing cynicism as your guide, but for some, these are genuine symbols of deeply desired transformation, and such symbols can be powerful in the human psyche. Whether these are authentic expressions or not may be questionable, but it sounds like even in cases where they are, you’d be suspicious. Maybe I’m wrong.

    I guess the thing that is most compelling to me in this piece you’ve written is the sense that something within you is struggling valiantly against another part’s cynical and judgmental mindset. I hope this struggle turns in your favor, and you find a way to transform or let go of that mindset – while maintaining a healthy skepticism, which is clearly necessary. Perhaps the most useful tool I’ve found in attempting to accomplish this within myself was Vipassana meditation, though I have an awful long way to go. May you find a tool that works for you.

    - Oz

  8. Adam says:

    Hi Ozz,
    Thanks for the comments – I think you’ve hit a lot on the mark here, particularly with what I’ve been struggling with. However, I’d prefer to think of myself as a skeptic rather than a cynic but sometimes the balance gets thrown off as you note. You can refer to my previous comment to clarify the remarks about convincing ourselves that its more important than exercise as I didn’t express myself as well as I should of in the article. For the record I think it is, but I also think there’s a lot of shallow pseudo spiritual bunk that gets thrown around in (many) yoga studios. Or deeply spiritual symbols, tools, texts, music, used shallowly. May work for some, but not for me. Airing my dirty judgmental laundry here has been helpful in getting it out so I can move past it. Meditation sounds like a good idea!

  9. I wanna go home. ~ Adam Hocke | elephant journal says:

    [...] published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on January 20, [...]

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