Yoga redux

When we first arrived at San Miguel five years ago, Stew and I joined a beginner yoga class held three times a week in the solemn setting of a 250-year-old former convent downtown. The room’s 20-foot-ceilings, enormously thick walls and huge, creaky door seemed to fit the contemplative, ancient aura that I associate with yoga.

Our favorite yoga teacher then and now is Alejandro, a long-haired Mexican in his 30s, whose improvised 90-minute routines flow seamlessly. He is clearly an accomplished yogi and also a perceptive instructor, aware of the limitations and general un-yogishness of the AARP group, mostly women, who attended his classes. There was also the fact that unlike some of the other instructors–some of them Twiggy-thin and apparently triple-jointed–Alejandro, while not fat, is developing a discreet gut. One more reason to like him. He’s one of us.

After we moved out to the ranch a little more than a year ago we drifted away from our weekly yoga routine. Stew and I never crawled out of the beginner level but still by the end we could do plausible simulations of most of the poses Alejandro demonstrated. And besides, when the doctor asked during our annual physical what we did for exercise, we could legitimately say “yoga.” It’s not exactly training for a marathon but it sounds a heck of a lot more energetic than “nothing” or “sitting on our butts eating guacamole.”

On Monday morning we attempted to relight our yoga routine but setting was all different and Alejandro wasn’t there. Part of the ancient roof at the convent had collapsed (no one was hurt) and the building is closed for renovation.

So the classes moved across the street to the very modern and uncontemplative setting of the local Arthur Murray Dance Studio. The main room has a wall of mirrors and halogen lights and a disco ball hanging from the low ceiling. To the right a curtain made of silvery tinsel undulates at the slightest breeze or movement. The furniture is vaguely Mexican in style but painted black and accented with black-and-white zebra throw pillows and tall peacock feathers nested in mauve vases.

One almost expected John Travolta to burst from behind the tinsel curtain and reprise his Saturday Night Fever routine, the one in the skin-tight white suit, except it was 9:30 in the morning and by now Travolta probably weighs about 75 pounds more than during his brief disco reign in the mid-70s.

The crowd of about 15 yogistas, most Travolta’s age if not older, were led by Yolie, a tightly wound young woman. It was supposed to be some sort of “mixed level class”, a description I should have taken as a bad omen. Indeed, Yolie began with gentle moves that rapidly revved up into a series of Sun Salutations and Tibetan pretzel-like postures that had my eyes fixed not on Yolie but on the clock at the front of the room.

I tried to concentrate on a young woman in front of me but that only fed my frustration. She was svelte and gorgeous in black leotards, and apparently had been doing yoga since grammar school. Next to her was a teenage girl who was almost as graceful and limber. Not only could they follow Yolie’s poses but these two sometimes added extra touches of complexity.

So I took my gaze to the left, where I found a much older and more ample woman whose slow moves, stolid mien and shaggy hair reminded me of a yak. Even my pathetic yoga moves were better than hers.

Then there was Stew to my right who sometime during the 90-minute class had developed a yoga routine of his own, sometimes matching Yolie’s, sometimes not.

Around 10:45 the class culminated with a shoulder stand, but instead I adopted the Dead Man’s Pose, a legitimate yoga pose that has you lying on your back with the hands on the sides of your body and eyes closed. But I didn’t even get that right: I just kept looking at the disco ball and thinking about John Travolta.

2 thoughts on “Yoga redux

  1. Loved it!!! I've been practicing yoga for many years now, and your words really resonated because I've had both Alejandro-type and Yolie-type instructors. I've also practiced in dramatically different settings, such as you described. Although I'm not a terribly visual person, your account of your experiences made them come alive for me. Thanks for your great columns.


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