When partner yoga attacks!

Published on July 6, 2011 by      Print
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By Matthew Teague Miller

The following is a fictional account, but it could easily be true.

After a typically crazy day of kids, traffic, school, traffic, work, and traffic, I decide to head to Santa Monica’s Yoga Yada Yada for a nice, relaxing, and easy restorative class.

Oh, cool. Jeff is teaching. He is awesome. Pretty full class too. We “tune in.” We chant.

Jeff speaks: “Alright, everyone. Looks like we have a nice even 18 of you today, so find a friend and pair up. For the next couple of poses you will need a partner. Don’t be shy, we are all friends here. Remember, yoga is union, so find someone! Find your Wonder Twin!”

Partner yoga? My Yoga PTSD begins to kick in. I’m about to experience the most traumatic two minutes of my day, in my $20 yoga class.

Nothing personal, yoga peeps, but I can’t get all Wonder Twins with you. I just kind of, sort of think I maybe need to leave immediately. Didn’t I leave something cooking on the stove? Isn’t my back hurting or something? Oh, and the black bean chili I had at lunch? That is definitely a partner yoga deal-breaker, right? I think the final episode of “Biggest Loser” is on tonight, can’t miss that! Yeah, I think I am the biggest loser here in this class, because there is nothing that scares me like partner yoga with virtual strangers. Gazing into the eyes of someone I’ve never seen before. A stranger’s body pressed against my own, mingling sweat. The class is gleefully atwitter as I contemplate building a secret fort out of bolsters to hide behind. Nobody will notice! Brilliant!

Anything, everything, but this; anywhere but here.

You know, I think I’ll just slink over here to the water cooler, drink a gallon of water while this madness passes. I’ll pretend to have not heard Teacher Jeff’s admonishments to “find your Wonder Twin.” I’ll avoid all eye-contact, become like a stone.

Damn! Jenny, a yogini of the highest order, just got me to make eye contact, and now she’s walking my way. Oh sweet, sweet jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, please let her walk right past me to Frank; he is great. Frank is cool. He’s really sweet, and handsome — a bit like a short Rob Riggle! I could really see Jenny and Frank in a relationship. Yes, they should definitely hook up! Immediately, would be great, in fact. Jenny and Frank! I can see it now. Frank, oh, you are paired with Gwyneth. Dammit. This is the most harrowing six seconds I have had in the last twelve seconds.

Did I bring my Xanax? No, and Jenny is walking my way. Panic. Setting. In.

“Matt?” Jenny is standing right in front of me. She is talking to me, to my face, right there. Panic. Deepens. I blurt: “Oh god, yes? Make it stop? Did I say that out loud?”

Jenny, who is always so kind, patient, always totes tranquilo, and very, very petite, stands before me, with an expectant look in her eyes. “Can we partner up, Matt?”

“Uh, not—, I mean, sure, it’s just my… thing—“ I fumbled.

“I know! I love partner yoga too! It’s totally my favorite thing here, too!” Jenny said, with a blinding smile.

“Uh, no, my thingy… back-thing, back pain. Hurts. My back does. Maybe you could partner with the teacher?” Naturally, my powers of speech leave me, and my inability to lie is laid bare.

Jenny is perplexed, looking a little vexed actually. “Are you okay? You look a little panicked. Relax. I’ve done this before.” All I can think is “Yes, you have, but I haven’t and oh God I want an emergency donut because I am about to pass out.”

I should have said: “Jenny, look, you are great, but I am afraid I will crush you, as you weigh maybe 105 pounds, and I have 95 pound on that, and frankly, if we pair up, we will be Wonder Twins, form of: Very Sad Pyramids.”

What about the teacher? What was Jeff thinking? Flinging all these strangers together to touch and push and hold and elevate and invert together, as in: with each other? An actual, live woman is going to be, you know, on top of me for that one pose I saw in Yoga Journal? No, no, no. I have to be touched? By Jenny? She’s…. so… did I bring any Xanax?

Jeff’s voice bellows over all the jabbering of happily excited yoga students: “All of you found partners. Great. Matt, will you allow me to use you as our guinea pig? That okay?”

“Absolutely!” I nearly shout, lying, with, a creepy everything-is-as-it-should-be smile stuck on my mug. I realize I am wringing my hands, like Woody Allen in an unmade movie about the vagaries of the yoga scene.

“So Matt is going to start by sitting on the mat, preparing for Paschimottanasana. I’m going to scooch up behind him, in the same position, getting my buns as close to his as we can, comfortably.”

Whoa-whoa-whoa: Nobody said there would be any bun-touching today.

15 pairs of eyes, all watching intently as Jeff takes my hands (!!!) and I “unfold” over his back while he gently pulls my arms over his head and lowers into a deep paschimo. And it feels…wonderful. I suddenly start thinking about baseball, to get my mind off of what is happening here, as his sweaty hands pull on my clammy wrists. I let out an uncontrollable moan! Everyone laughs! At me (with me?) as I begin to laugh a little maniacally.

“Now Matt will take my hands and melt into paschimo.” Baseball floods my brain again, random stats start bouncing around my head as I pull Jeff on to my back and do my best to fight back to irrational, otherworldly fear that fills me at this moment.

We close the pose and we both stand up. “Okay guys, I’ll come by to adjust and help as needed,” Jeff says in his typically confident, cheery and direct manner.

Jenny invites me over to her mat. “This will be fun!” She says.

I smile, “Jenny, did you bring any Xanax?”

Jenny stares blankly at me, “I don’t even know what that means. Come on! Scooch your buns over here.”


About Matthew Teague Miller

Matthew Miller lives in San Pedro, CA with his daughter, Lark. He is employed in the auto industry, a full-time dad and part-time yogi. He makes pretty good spaghetti sauce.

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  1. Amelia Catone says:

    “Wonder Twins, form of: Very Sad Pyramids” the best line ever. inspired a laughcry!!

  2. Elise says:

    HAHAHA!!! Loved your article! I never understood why some teachers love throwing partner yoga at their students. Seems so counter-yoga to me. Isn’t it about moving deeper into your internal space? Hard to do that with a stranger’s booty pressed up against yours! :)

  3. Jenifer says:

    Dude, you are so right! :D

  4. Svasti says:

    Your “Yoga PTSD”? I’m sorry but that’s a pretty obnoxious thing to write, because if you’d ever actually had PTSD, you wouldn’t think it was something to make light of like this.

    Disliking partner yoga is one thing, but comparing it to actual trauma is another…

    • Matthew says:

      Making light of heavy things can give you power over them. What a sad world it would be if we couldn’t laugh at the things that afflict us! I have long-term, first-hand experience with PTSD, as well as a raft of various forms of abuse, and finding humor out of that anguish has been my number one coping mechanism. And yes, yoga triggered those things for years, which is why I avoided it and wrote about it in an earlier post. Another thing to ponder, Svasti, is: who are we once we stop re-telling our tales of abuse? Clearly, you have written about these things a lot, and are very sensitive to people who have suffered from abuse. I appreciate that. But please don’t presume I am making fun of PTSD victims because I make light of my own experience.

      • Svasti says:

        Matthew, it was not clear from your post that you actually experienced PTSD first-hand. Only that you spoke of “Yoga PTSD”. So that was out of context, and its reasonable for me to assume you are making light of PTSD – not *people* with PTSD. That is not what I wrote.

        It’s interesting though, that you can talk about people making assumptions and then assume things about someone else. So what if I’m still writing about PTSD? I’m *not* actually re-telling stories of my abuse any more. I’m talking about PTSD related issues.

        Your comment alleges that I need to ponder who I am? I know very well who I am, thanks very much.

        Again with the assumptions! I’ve got a racuous and sometimes inappropriate, but very hearty sense humour, thanks! But for one reason or another, I do take issue with someone using a term like “Yoga-PTSD”. Maybe that makes me “sensitive” or maybe that just makes me someone who thinks about other people who might still be going through some of the hell I’ve managed to extricate myself from.

        That said, I’m glad for you that you’ve also recovered. Be well.

        • Matthew says:

          You assume I presume that your assumptions about my presumptions are presumptuous. Assuming of course, that I made any presumptions about your assumptions, that is. I make no allegations about what you should or shouldn’t ponder, just point out that there is an interesting question there, worth examining , for all of us. RY has generously given me some space here to say what I think, which is a personal thing, but if you want to take it personally, that is up to you.
          I need some Excedrin, now.

  5. Chrissy says:

    Brilliant ! Partner yoga flips my lid as well….eeeek!

  6. Stacey says:

    Loved this! Great job capturing the anxiety that partner yoga brings about for some of us. Enjoyed the piece and your sense of humor!

  7. Laura Neal says:

    Things I’ve actually done that were more pleasurable than unexpected partner yoga:

    Had a tooth filled without Novocain.
    Workplace team-building retreat (almost as bad, but not quite since nobody touched me).
    1,080 prostrations in one day (and trying to walk the next day).
    Shoveled out a chicken coop on a hot summer day.
    Back surgery.

    • Matthew says:

      I have had the pleasure of doing all those things, except for the 1,080,000 (close enough) prostrations, and I agree that they may at times seem a better choice than a morning of sun salutes.

  8. It's called humor, people! | RecoveringYogi says:

    [...] Knock jokes would be more appropriate, so in honor of Matthew Teague’s recent story “When Yoga Attacks,” here you [...]

  9. Anna says:

    Loved your story…I was laughing so hard, I almost peed my pants. PTSD is definately worth laughing at when ‘we’ wgo have lived with it are finally able to grow and get a handle on it. Thanks for writing Matthew :)

  10. It’s called humor, people! | elephant journal says:

    [...] Knock jokes would be more appropriate, so in honor of Matthew Teague’s recent story “When Yoga Attacks,” here you [...]

  11. File this under “over-the-top yoga marketing that makes you go hmmmm” | RecoveringYogi says:

    [...] is apparently great for that all important “personal space” (or my all-time favorite “partner work” [...]

  12. File this under “over-the-top yoga marketing that makes you go hmmmm” | elephant journal says:

    [...] is apparently great for that all important “personal space” (or my all-time favorite “partner work” [...]

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