Yoga may suck, but so does everything else
By Jessica Wheeler
Let’s face facts. For those of us with a tendency toward anxiety and depression, exercise is a vital component of mental health.
And while a home yoga practice might suffice in theory, the hard truth is that sometimes we need to get out there and push ourselves a little harder in order to keep the demons at bay. That means showing up to public classes. But as we all know, and the articles on this website accurately reflect, the yoga world has problems.
I’m not just talking about the things we love to hate: women aged seventeen to seventy in brand-spanking-new outfits for every class, teachers who spout at least ten words from the banned list per hour, the shunning of anyone with a body mass index over eighteen, the studio prices, the dudes.
I’m talking about real problems you can’t ignore. I don’t mean to brag, but I probably have more injuries than you. My neck, knees and lower back require a lot of attention, and most teachers aren’t too keen on students who insist on doing things their own way. In fact, I recently let a senior Iyengar instructor convince me she could safely put me into a supported shoulder stand, and the result was a trip to the chiropractor and a bottle of narcotic painkillers.
Another time, I took a class that focused on “detox” by way of overzealous twisting. I limped for a week.
I’ve also discovered that a new thing is lecturing students about savasana while they’re in savasana, which is crazy-making. I could go on, but you get the idea. Not only do I have to do mental gymnastics to force myself to show up for class, but when I do, I usually leave disgruntled and hurting.
So over the course of the past year, I’ve tried to find an acceptable alternative to the pain of yoga class—an alternative that might keep me sane, healthy, off the pain meds and fitting into my jeans without having to resort to the latest juice cleanse.
Granted, there may be another way. I haven’t tried everything. Crossfit terrifies me, my bum knees keep me from running, and I have a mortal fear that riding a bike will give me “helmet hair.” But everything except yoga has so far left me cold, bored and medicated.
First there was the personal trainer. He weighed, measured, poked, prodded and took notes. In the end he decided I “needed” to learn how to do pull-ups. The thing is, my neck injury affects the muscles in my upper back, and I have bilateral knee injuries that prevent me from enjoying the generally spastic activity that goes on at most gyms most of the time. I gave him three tries, then left bored out of my skull to get a massage.
Then there was Barre class. Let me tell you about Barre class. At Barre class, they play loud music, a peppy young woman in heavy makeup barks at you about “cute booties” and “getting rid of that muffin top,” and you stare at yourself in the mirror while all the women measure themselves against one another.
Meanwhile, the Barre studio sends you emails with life advice that includes never “overindulging” on holidays or weekends, spray-tanning twice a week and always dressing up in your cutest workout clothes (conveniently sold right at the studio!) for class. I found myself tempted to contact eating-disorder organizations in an effort to have the studio shut down. Not to mention that every morning after class I woke up unable to move.
So after my break from the yoga scene, and in full denial about my true feelings about public classes, I bit the bullet and signed up for a yoga workshop.
And you know what? It was fun. Sure, there was some babble about the 72,000 nadis connected to my heart, and people—strangers!—stepped on my mat. And sure, everyone was talking about the upcoming summer yoga festivals. But I vinyassa-ed the hell out of some surya namaskars and sweat in time with live music, and by the end I was wondering if maybe I had missed it.
I’m not a robot or a clone. I’m perfectly capable of ignoring outfits and chatter, and in the meantime, I can show up for class once in a while, use the knowledge I’ve gained over years of practicing and teaching to protect my injured body, and find a way to be just a little healthier and happier without having to spray-tan or do a pull-up.
But give me a few months, and who knows. CrossFit might not sound so bad. I’ll let you know after I’ve popped a few Advil.
About Jessica Wheeler
Jessica lives in North County San Diego with her husband and their cacti. She’s on hiatus from teaching yoga, and is a retired philosophy student, boutique clothing slinger, pizza restaurant hostess and tour hippie. She has never traveled to Thailand or Costa Rica and doesn’t have a blog. Hopefully, though, you’ll soon be able to read the novel she wrote while not teaching yoga. You can find her on twitter @2weird2rare.