by Matt Baran-Mickle

January 31, 2013

For most of my life I was skeptical, frightened of, and generally disgusted by yoga. To be clear, I’m referring to American yoga, not any of the Hindu practices that seek to unite the soul with God or Spirit; union with God sounds fantastic.

In my limited knowledge of bastardized American “yoga”, vegans in tights try to systematically weaken their tendons and ligaments through series of poses named after animals and celestial objects, with the ultimate goal of uniting the forehead with the pelvis.

I’m fully in support of a supple and toned body, but I tend to prefer methods that precisely address mobility issues, like that promoted by Kelly Starrett, DPT, of* (check it out – you won’t regret it). Regardless, many of my friends do yoga – and aren’t vegans – and I became convinced that it might be worth a shot, especially if it were couched in the context of my climbing gym.

Conveniently, I started my membership to Central Rock Gym just a few weeks ago, and classes are free for members. I could no longer avoid a confrontation.

Twenty of us gathered on the second floor, near the kids’ climbing wall, and got our mats out. I was one of the last ones there, and found a spot in the back next to one of my friends and a stout teenage girl; with only a foot or so between each of our mats, we were guaranteed substantial intimacy.

After awakening the four corners of our feet (with which I was unfamiliar), I put my game face on and bravely conquered downward dog for what felt like five minutes.

Just as my triceps were about to collapse, we each swung a foot forward, into a lunge, and assumed a triangle position. With my left foot forward, I was afforded a view of the neighbors on my right, and – lo and behold – we had our very own Yoga Superstar in the back left corner!

Superstar was, I would quickly learn, very good at yoga, and insisted on doing his own progressions of every position. Despite my repugnance, I couldn’t help but admire his shimmering head, perfect posture, and astoundingly well-proportioned thighs. Superstar definitely knew the Sanskrit names for everything we were doing.

From the front of the room the teacher implored us to extend our thoracic spine and reach toward the ceiling with our front legs in external rotation. I knew what she meant (external rotation, right bro?) but couldn’t help but wonder how anyone else knew what she was talking about. My neighbor to my left was having trouble with this, and was gently corrected – “external rotation, away from the body, remember?” Although she couldn’t possibly, as a first time student.

Our next movement was a high middle splits position with our hands forward for support, putting my face firmly in front of my friend’s butt; my neighbor to the left giggled awkwardly from my butt, making some quip about having enough space.

All I could think about was Superstar. He definitely had enough space. A feeling of inadequacy flooded over me. He must be a vegan.

After another ten minutes in downward dog, and a few more triangles, we all gathered in the front of the classroom to learn a shoulder stand. Shoulder stands seem to be sacred to the American yoga practitioner, despite the obvious problems they might pose for the typical sedentary westerner with poor scapular mobility and trunk control.

Our teacher again stressed the importance of extending the thoracic spine and getting the shoulders into internal rotation (right bro?), and then we took it for a spin. Mine was more of a neck stand than a shoulder stand – a potential pitfall we had been warned about – but was better than my neighbor’s, who ended up behind her mat in an awkward, contorted pile. She must not have had her thoracic spine in full extension.

We lay down for five minutes to close out the class, and let our egos surrender to our hearts. After putting my mat away and thanking the teacher for class, I hobbled out, wondering what I could do to reclaim my Friday night from the haze of yoga class.

I climbed some rocks and got drunk. Next time, I’ll do that first, and put yoga on the backburner, next to the quinoa. 


*Switchboardmag has literally no affiliation with We don't even know what that is.


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