There’s No Such Thing As Free Yoga

On Sunday, I dragged my husband to a free community class at the local hot yoga studio, which is still trying to ramp up its lukewarm class attendence. About 11 people attended — a record, from what I’ve seen. Before the class, the studio’s owner asked if she could take pictures of the class — “only flattering ones, of course.” No one objected. The class was very relaxing and afterward we enjoyed some refreshments as we chatted with our fellow class attendees. Altogether, it was a pleasant experience.

And then today I went to the hot yoga studio’s website to check out the schedule, only to find the following picture all splayed out on the studio’s home page:

Dear lord. Yes, that’s me, the woman smack in the center wearing all black with her blond hair in a clip, in the superlatively unflattering pose of upward-dog. On the Home Page! (I hesitate to include the studio’s URL, as I don’t want them to know I blog about them).

On the Schedule page, there’s:

Which is just horrifying, because you’ll notice the outside edge of my back foot is not pressed onto the mat as it should be, and my right leg barely looks like it’s bent at all, let along at a 90-degree angle. That is one pitiful Warrior I.

On the Events page, right next to the notice about the beginner’s series, there’s:

That’s my husband on the right, checking his balance. Though he was mortified to see this, he forgot all about it after he saw the Rates page:

That’s when we realized: there is no such thing as free yoga.

Comments Off on There’s No Such Thing As Free Yoga

Sunday Salutations

Mostly-crappy weekend weather had me taking multiple trips to the yoga studio to milk my $50 unlimited month-long membership before it expires. I’ve attended 8 classes so far, meaning I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth since the going per-class rate in the Boston area is $14-17. But I’ll pass on the $105 monthly membership because driving to this Davis Square yoga studio has become the bane of my existence. For now, I’ll continue to poach introductory “new student” offers at area studios — hopefully ones with better parking.

On Sunday, I wasn’t the only person looking for a sheltered place to do Sun Salutations. The 9:30am class was already packed by 9:15am. Three times I moved my mat to eek out a few inches of free space so someone could unfurl her mat. I felt very un-Zen for irkly noting that the front of my mat was centimeters away from the back of a mat upon which a tall, hairy man in baggy gym shorts fought to touch his knees. I know I’m progressing in yoga because it wasn’t the prospect of catching glimpses of his fleshy, woolly body parts that bothered me — I’m so focused on my body and my breath that I hardly notice my classmates. Unless, of course, I get kicked in the head during three-legged dog pose.

I don’t get distracted during class, but before class, I totally check out my fellow yogis. My stealthy gaping probably stems from my own cluelessness about how to occupy myself before the instructor takes command. Many people lay down on their mats with their legs either in bound angle pose or full-out savanasa, but I can’t bring myself to do this when my morning energy is jangling like a slot machine. Some people are stretching or even doing pose sequences, which is sort of like snacking on bacon before a roast ham dinner.

I can’t help but to assign some meaning to a person’s choosen pre-class activity: What does it say about you and what you’re looking to get out of the yoga experience? Are you gung-ho about flexibility and muscle tone? Or is yoga your time to redress stress? Once I sat kitty-coner to a woman who was taking advantage of being barefoot and idle by peeling dead skin off the ball of her foot with a serene, blissed out look on her face. Obviously, her mind was on a higher plane.

This may well be my last class at the fancy Davis Square yoga studio. I sit cross-legged, my spine drinking in one last slouch, my palms planted behind my hips. I watch the women tip-toeing around the studio, looking for vacancies.

Comments Off on Sunday Salutations

Your Moment of Om

Until this morning, I hadn’t attended a real, live yoga class in about two months.

The suburban gym that I switched to when I switched jobs heavily caters their class offerings to the only people who can afford to go there: Old people looking for a legitimate reason to go to the gym so they can sit in the luxurious whirlpool. They don’t ashtanga, vinyassa, or power yoga… they want corpse yoga.

I only have time to seek out other yoga classes on the weekends, and since skiing takes precedence over yoga, I haven’t gone to a studio since before Christmas. In order to keep my hips open and my shoulders strong, I’ve been relying on my Yoga DVD library, which is dominated by the famed instructor Shiva Rea, a tall blond woman whose can do poses that look like special effects. Of course, the majority of her practices are accessible to beginning-to-intermediate yoginis, and Shiva demonstrates everything with unerring clarity and a spacy smile on her serene face. I couldn’t hold a conversation with someone who looked so internally blissed out, but learning yoga from them is entirely suitable.

But this morning, I dragged myself out into the cool sunshine and headed to a yoga class in Cambridge. The class was advertised as Ashtanga Yoga, though the instructor didn’t follow the series of poses that typify that style; rather, we did slow sequences with many gentle variations. Which was fine by me, because I realized that 2-3 months of yoga DVDs really spoiled me. I regularly skip segments that I’m not in the mood for (balances, inversions) and focus mainly on Sun Salutations and standing poses. In other words, I do the poses that I’m good at.

So it was jarring to be in a yoga class and forced to do poses that I may skip or that Shiva Rea doesn’t do. As I struggled to hold a standing split, I remembered what I liked about yoga in the first place: it challenged and enlivened my focus. It put my body in positions it never had to be in. And like many things in life, yoga requires constant practice. In fact, all it requires is constant practice. So, with all due respect to my Shiva Rea DVDs, the fact is… the revelation will not be televised.

Comments Off on Your Moment of Om

Why is Yoga So Expensive?

I was initially excited to hear the Yoga Journal would be holding a conference in Boston April 6-11. How inspiring it would be to immerse myself in yoga for 1 or 2 weekend days? Well, it would be totally inspiring… and totally expensive. According to the pricing info, a weekend pass is $495, and a one-day pass for Sat or Sun is $285. And no, that doesn’t include meals, lodging, spa treatments, or a personal concierge.

Why are all the cool yoga events and retreats so expensive? I would love to take a trip to the Kripalu Center in Western Mass., but most of the weekend events run upwards of $400 (room and board included).

I can appreciate that it costs money to put together conferences and to run a yoga center, but … why aren’t there more cheap, accessible yoga retreats that focus on instruction and community, not luxury or big-name speakers?

There are a series of special events that are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, so maybe I’ll go hang out  in Back Bay and try to assert my way into a community yoga class (description:

Comments Off on Why is Yoga So Expensive?

Cold Weather Mornings

This morning I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm went off, which is the ideal waking situation. It means I got a full night’s sleep — only 7 hours last night, due a busy evening in Boston capped by an excruciating subway delay and a 9:20pm dinner of leftover steak and mushrooms — but obviously just enough sleep, and any day that doesn’t begin with a blaring alarm is bound to be a good one.

Plus, that’s 10 more minutes of early morning yoga. Even on days when I do feel well-rested, my morning yoga sessions are never too long or intense. They are more like warm-ups, and while I would love to continue beyond the 20-25 minutes of gentle movement, the day begins to loom in front of me like an unfurled to-do list. Need to shower, make breakfast, pack lunch, wake up my husband, and make myself presentable to the world! Need to drive to work, and then actually work for 8 hours! When I practice yoga in the early morning, it is difficult to keep focused on my breath, and not on whether there is meat thawed for tonight’s dinner.

Yes, food is sometimes on my mind when I do yoga. Not that I’m hungry. Perhaps there is a biologically tie between physical activity and thinking about food. After all, in the caveman era, food was usually the goal of physical activity (food, and escaping tigers). So maybe it’s not so strange that, as I stretch my buttocks and hips to the sky in downward-dog, I’m dreaming about this:

Yes, that was breakfast… the last of the CSA sausage (which I didn’t finish — I mean, that’s a slab) and two eggs, poached in pork grease. Hey, it’s cold outside.

Comments Off on Cold Weather Mornings

An Introduction to Yoga and Meat

I like yoga. I’ve only been seriously practicing yoga for less than a year, but yoga has quickly become a positive force in my life — physically, mentally, and (at the risk of sounding dippy) spiritually. I do between 20 minutes and 90 minutes of yoga nearly every day. Before starting yoga, I was an avid cardio queen who regularly engaged in intense exercise sessions with the sole goal of burning as many calories as possible, under the belief that this was healthy. I ran, I did spinning, I plum wore myself out on elliptical machines, and guess what? It was wrecking havoc with my endocrine system, giving me constant musculoskeletal pain, and just generally making me an anxious, hungry bitch. I finally realized that, despite the current conventional thinking about regular vigorous exercise, I needed to slow down and not just mindlessly burn calories. I went to a yoga class at my gym and now I’m hooked.

I like meat. I’ve only been seriously eating meat for less than a year, but meat has quickly become a positive force in my life — physically, mentally, and (at the risk of sounding dippy) spiritually. Meat is a big part of my diet; I eat roughly 3/4 pound to 1 pound (or more) of meat, poultry, and/or fish every day. Before I ate meat, I was a vegetarian from the age of 14 until about 25, when I began adding fish into my diet for protein. Then, needing variety, I started eating poultry, and then, a few years ago, I start eating beef. Finally, last year at age 32, I took the pork plunge. But it was only this year that I really began to enjoy eating meat, to see it as an essential part of my humanness and not a dirty, unhealthy habit. For one thing, my health was failing under my grain-based diet. I was metabolically deranged and in danger of becoming diabetic. I decided to try a grain-free, low-carb diet and my health was transformed overnight.

I started this blog to more thoroughly explore my dualing interest in yoga and meat, both together and separately. What does it mean to be a mostly-carnivorous yogi who escews whole grains in favor of fatty pork chops? Why is this viewed as a paradoxical lifestyle? Are there others out there like me, who love to rip into a grass-fed hamburger patty after a 90-minute vinyassa flow practice? This blog will also chronicle my evolving day-to-day interests in a meat-based yogic existence.