Beth of Both Worlds
I used to be a total yoga snob. So when one of my yoga friends reappeared in our world-class class and confessed she’d been ‘doing yoga at the gym,’ I thought, ‘Gym Yoga?! I would never do gym yoga!’ She was back in our class now, because she’d been injured. Sure, gym yoga! Only a fool would do gym yoga!
Then my living situation changed and I couldn’t make it to my world-class class five times a week. Or even four. Or sometimes even once. I did everything I could. I rushed away from things before they ended, I over-extended, I pretended. Basically, I fought the flow that I had worked so hard to learn in my practice.
When I did get to class, my yoga friends would ask where I’d been.
“Practicing at home,” I would say. I could see that pitying ‘I would never give up these classes’ look in their eyes.
“Isn’t it lonely?” they would ask.
“Oh no,” I would say. But it was lonely. Yes, I tried downloads, CDs, DVDs and being my own teacher. Still, lonely.
In desperation I bought one of those dayglo rave hula hoops because they were pitching hooping as a complementary practice to yoga. The only thing was, I wasn’t actually practicing enough yoga for hooping to be a compliment!
I made it to my world-class class one day but I couldn’t even enjoy it. “Are you okay?” my teacher asked.
“I feel my practice slipping away,” I said.
“It’s just asana. You’re living your yoga.”
“That’s sweet,” I said, and I started to cry.
I decided to join a gym because this way I’d be in shape to practice when I could get to class. And because there is one two minutes from my house. It’s called World Gym. If there was any word that could make me want to join a gym it might be world.
As long as I’m there, I check out the yoga. And to my shock I find a teacher I really like. Now, of course, I’m happily practicing ‘gym yoga’ three times a week. Never say never. Didn’t Pantanjali say something like that in the fifteenth Sutra?
At first doing yoga at the gym freaked me out. So loud! So bright! The classes are only an hour!? Mirrors in the studio? I missed the yoga studio sign in, where incense and ohm chatchkes create a kind of overture for class. Now I enter through a subway-esque turnstile whose electronic ID tracker raises paranoiac feelings about governments and RFIDs [Radio Frequency Identifications] if I let it. But I found that actually, I wasn’t letting it. I was becoming my own source of calm, not depending so much on the lighting and soundtrack.
And what a soundtrack! Instead of the hushed sounds of post-savasana yogis blended with harmonium and waterfall, I am welcomed by POUNDING DANCE MUSIC. So loud I can barely hear myself think. Hey wait, isn’t that a lot like ujjai breathing?
It’s not the only noise. Beyond the turnstile at World, a bank of a dozen TVs hang from the ceiling, blaring “Terror! Gossip! Financial Ruin!” I remind myself that Ganesh is not only the remover of obstacles, but also the placer of them. And that obstacles create opportunities. And that these dozen high-def fear-based images give me the opportunity to consciously embrace love!
Inside the yoga/bike/step/hip-hop room things change. The lights are low, and the Gayatri Mantra plays. But it never quite disguises the other music. Or the punching bag. On the best days the sounds actually blend harmonically into one. And looking at the guys pumping up on the machines it occurs to me that I am pumping up too. Pumping up my drishti (point of focus) , pumping up my ability to focus on the sitars without letting the thump-thumping freak me out.
One extra bonus at the gym: yoga virgins wandering into class. It’s an excellent opportunity to suck new people in. I mean help and give guidance. And then there they are on the Nautilus machines, happy to help me klutz around.
Then one day my teacher pointed out how a particular asana would be expressed “in the perfect Yoga World!”And his tone of voice implied that this was a world we should accept that we might never enter. And while it was true for me with that pose, it occurred to me that I may have entered some sort of other ‘perfect yoga world.’
I notice, partly thanks to World Gym, I’m practicing more yoga in the world. Maybe because I feel like World Gym is so unlikely a spot for yoga, any spot seems like a possible yoga spot to me now. In the car, on stage, in bed, in line at Trader Joe’s. All excellent places to connect with unbound consciousness.
But I am also always so happy to return to my favorite world-class studio. I am happy to practice. In this world or that. Or both. Always mindful in either world that the other exists, that it’s all one world. Thank you gym yoga!
Beth Lapides is the author of Did I Wake You? Haikus for Modern Living and the creator of Un-Cabaret. Find out more about her shows, workshops and seminars at bethlapides.com or email her at: [email protected].
By Beth Lapides