I walk into the room and roll out my mat. Unable to tolerate crooked placement, I straighten the mat precisely, lining up the edges with the tape on the floor. This is my second class at the new studio and I’m happy to be here. I enjoyed yesterday’s class, though the instructor had an unlikely name—Starlight—and she called out instructions that made no sense:
“Shoot your electricity out of your fingertips.”
“Feel the force in your ears.”
“Empty the air from your eye sockets.”
A common thread in the classes at this studio seems to be “The Daily Intention.” Yesterday’s theme, chosen by Starlight, was “Be Kind.” We were instructed to think “Be Kind to Yourself” during the inhalation, and “Be Kind to Others” on the exhalation—a lot of hooey. If I were any kinder to myself I’d be one spoiled woman. And when am I not kind to others? Also, who gives her the right to assign a mantra? A person’s meditations should be private, not communal. Does she think we’re too stupid to come up with our own thoughts? Is this some absurd attempt at mind control?
This morning’s instructor, a man, arrives. His every mincing step is an indication of his high self-regard. His whole body is involved in his forward movement as he fondly strokes his abdomen and makes sweeping hand gestures. He tells us how thrilled he is that we’re all here. How serendipitous life is, he says, that we’ve all come together, in this place, at this time. Serendipitous? Not really. I, for one, planned to be here. We’re a subdued group, centered on our mats, ready to sweat. Wanting our level of enthusiasm to match his, he declares a few moments (of our class time!) in which we’re to rise up and step from our mats, circle the room, and greet one another.
I contemplate sneaking out.
“Smile!” he orders. Our smiles are pained. “Make a new friend!”
When we’ve circled back to our mats, he still isn’t satisfied that we’re joyous enough, so he takes off around the room, giving hugs to each individual in turn.
I came here to exercise.
After hugging the woman in front of me—and she looks freaked out—he aims himself in my direction. I make no effort to discipline my sour expression. A typical extrovert, he thinks that, because I’m reserved, he has something to teach me, that there’s something I need to learn about joy and adventure. What he really wants is for me to be like him. He wants the whole world to be like him.
“Here’s someone who doesn’t like getting hugs from a stranger!” he tells everyone as he wraps his arms around me. “I’m afraid I’ve scared her away!”
“Yeah,” I say. “You won’t be seeing me in your class again.”
He laughs as though I’ve made a clever joke, then flitters on to the next victim.
“He’s really a very good teacher,” the woman in front of me says, offering an apologetic shrug.
He begins the class by stating the daily intention.
“Today’s session is all about faith,” he says. “Faith that you’re where you need to be! Faith that I will not ask more of you than you can give! Faith that everything that happens to you today will be truly amazing!”
What a silly man. I tune him out, follow the flow, and think about my kitchen and bathroom counters at home, how they’re stacked with stuff that arrived two days ago in the shipment. Sweat pours from my head, runs into my eyes. Because of yoga I am flexible and strong. Back at the house I have a trunk load to take to Goodwill—pots and pans, bedding, extra laundry baskets. Towels. How did we accumulate so many mismatched towels?
“Have faith in yourself,” the instructor says. “Have faith in the universe!”
I have faith, alright. Faith that one of these days he’s going to hug the wrong person and end up with a broken jaw.