When my friend P said she was thinking of becoming a yoga instructor I lost it. I may have screamed, "Are you out of your mind?" She had a career, albeit a frustrating one. Several books published, articles written, ideas and irons in the fire. Yes, being a writer was hard, but really, please, not another yoga teacher. I was able to talk P down. But others have risen to take her place. There is a yoga teacher born every minute.
I think of it as the Elizabeth Gilbert syndrome. Hey, if she could eat, pray, and love so could anyone. She sure made it sound fun. I give her full credit. In fact, she's the reason I meditate every day, (my husband doesn't believe it's meditation, he says I'm taking a nap, but what does he know?) I figured if a pasta-loving gal from the big city with a sense of humor could do it, so could I. But here's the thing. It's fun when you're Elizabeth Gilbert but not everyone is like her. Ask Julia Roberts if you don't catch my drift. Or try to sit through that movie.
That, in a nutshell is how I feel about yoga teachers. Not everyone is meant to be one. Of course, my first introduction was a little weird. Long ago in a land far far away, when I was just shy of twenty, my first instructor was a young guy who taught me how to breathe Kundalini style. He waited till I was dizzy to stick his tongue down my throat. After that I avoided yoga for quite some time, just because. But then I grew older and my body grew less flexible. Everyone said that yoga was supposed to help. I did a little research. Wow, things had changed. There were so many brands to choose from. Vinyasa, Anusara, Hatha, Power, I wondered if there was a hot flash yoga. Hmm. There had to be something out there that was a perfect fit.
I started with B. Once an opera singer, she was now a mom and a certified yoga instructor. The word, certified did sound a little close to certifiable, but I am naturally cynical, as you can tell. I'd heard good things about her class. It met in her house in her upstairs workspace. It was a little cold and a little cramped but fine for the three private students. She would tell us to breathe deeply and then we would imitate whatever she was doing, the downward dog, the upward thrust, the child pose, the pigeon pose etc. Through it all she would keep up a running patter about how to adjust our pose and what we were likely feeling. She would inject personal questions into the mix, then segue into a discussion of something difficult that was going on in her own life, (I believe that's called sharing). It was talking yoga, or maybe therapy for her and yoga on the side. By the end, I was physically flexible and mentally exhausted. I reached my limit when she produced a CD and hawked it to us after class. Apparently we were there to support both her careers. She was now a cabaret singer who had been moved to explore her own rich Jewish heritage in song. No one noted the irony in that she had spoken about hating her family, claimed complete disinterest in her roots and married a German. B has since departed to Germany where she continues this exploration without me.
After that there was M. She and I had gone to graduate school together. We became friends because we were both hugely pregnant, a rarity in that setting. We moved to the same suburb to raise our children. Over time her relationship with her husband soured and she became, well a bit intense. She discovered yoga and began to take classes at a local yoga studio, (in our town alone there are no less than ten and no more than fifty of these). This class inspired her so much she went on yoga retreats. This from someone who had worked at two high paying, high pressure, high profile jobs, had a post graduate degree and was possibly the most competitive person I'd ever known. She decided to become an instructor. M's version of yoga was like M, extreme. She was constantly trying new and more elaborate poses. She invited me over to take practice sessions from her. I kept meaning to go, but never got there. I was afraid that if I took a class from her I would break something.
I signed up next at a modest studio nearby. I bought a seven-class pass. The first time the teacher was a substitute. I tried to follow along. During quiet time, (the same denotation used for my pre-schooler's nap), I lay in the corpse pose. But it was hard to mimic death when the man next to me was snoring. The second time there was a different substitute teacher, so whatever I'd learned from the first one went right out the window. Meanwhile, my snoring friend was there. He moved his mat right next to mine. The third time I went, I carefully set mine as far away from his as possible. The teacher arrived and it was actually the one whose class I'd signed up for. Excellent! She was gentle. Clear. I liked her even though I learned a bit too much about her own search for spiritual centering and how yoga or her particular practice had changed her life, helping her through the severe physical injury caused by an auto accident, and she had to apologize for her continuing back problems but the yoga was the only reason she was even able to cope and . . .wow, it was time to lie down and shut our eyes. How time flies when you're trying to twist yourself into a pretzel. Damn, here came my friend, my yoga stalker, taking up his mat and moving right across the room to join me. I rolled mine up and hightailed it out of there.
This year I tried again. My current teacher is okay. I tend to zone out when she talks about what might be going on in my body. It's all very vague. My friend says she's incomprehensible. Quite possibly but at least she doesn't rush me. And she's certainly gorgeous. Blond. Lithe. A former dancer. Of course, when she illustrates what I should be doing I want to laugh. Really? That? Please. Right now I have gotten past discomfort and despair to a place better known as, what the hell. It's once a week and everyone says it's good for you. And just this week, two friends posted that they were certified and teaching their first class, we were welcome to stop by and try them out. One is a former photographer, the other a former pianist. They have arrived just in the nick of time to fill that gaping void. What the world needs now. More yoga instructors.