I began a yoga practice a little over six months ago at the suggestion of my therapist. I was a total novice to yoga, save a few maternity DVDs I did religiously for about three days during each of my pregnancies. As most writers are, I’m a diligent researcher, so before attending my first yoga class I tried to learn as much as I could about what to expect so I didn’t look like a complete idiot during my class. I Googled things like “yoga etiquette” and “yoga studio rules” and “what do expect during your first yoga class.” Of course on this side of yoga experience I realize that Googling these things would be akin to Googling “how to cook.” Yoga takes on many forms and each yogi has his or her own interpretation of the practice. Likewise, yoga studios develop their own vibe and ethos, which range from traditional Eastern-spiritual practices to Evangelical yoga-lite, and everything in between. There are, however, a few rules that I would consider yoga-universal. If you’re not a yogi, here are some rules to know before you go:
- This is the way you turn off the outside world, the way you connect your body to your movements, and the way you focus on your practice and nothing else. It’s the hardest rule to follow.
- First, your focus doesn’t leave your mat. This means you are focused on your practice and yours alone. Modify when you need to, stretch yourself when it feels right. Yoga studios are judgment free zones. Keeping your focus on your mat means that you are not allowed to hope the woman in front of you with the perfect breasts, flat stomach, and rock-hard tush falls flat on her face mid Standing Bow. Perhaps this is actually the hardest rule to follow.
- Be gracious with yourself. Yoga is a practice, not a performance. Sometimes your practice brings progress, other times, not. But all practice is good.
- Bring water.
- Don’t pass gas.
A few weeks ago I went to one of my favorite yoga classes and I only followed two rules. Luckily, #5 was one of them. I also brought my water. Blame it on recovering from a cold, or the fact that I’d had a frustrating day, but I broke every other rule and my practice suffered. Instead of breathing, I was trying to remember if I’d brought a Kleenex with me. Instead of focusing on my mat, I was writing a story in my mind of the middle-age gentleman next to me. He’s lost a tremendous amount of weight in the 6 months we’ve both attended the studio. I don’t know his name, but I decided it was probably something sweet like Dave. In case you’re curious about my story, he was an investment banker whose marriage was in shambles. He embarked on a journey of self-discovery in which he found himself and reignited love with his wife. Now they spend their evenings cooking together, slow dancing in the kitchen after he gets home from yoga. Their first grandchild is due soon, poetically a boy to be named David after his grandfather. I find myself staring at him in the mirror and resist the urge to leave my mat and hug him. I remind myself that my story, though wonderful, is indeed made up.
Back to my practice. My body was tight, my stamina low, my form poor. Directly in front of me was a woman who somehow still looked elegant 30 minutes into our class. Her hair perfect, her body dripping with Lululemon and not a drop of sweat. I just know there wasn’t a single stretch mark on her body. Her form (like her blasted figure) was perfect, and just before I could wish her a pose-induced fall, our instructor called us to our mats for Savasana.
Savasana is a time to focus on nothing but your breath and is said to be the hardest of all yoga poses. Instead of taking this time to clear my mind and have a mental “do-over,” I became so distracted by the music that I could think of nothing else. I didn’t know the song, but I recognized the artist’s voice from the opening song to Suits, “Greenback Boogie.” Naturally, I started singing the song in my mind and wondering whatever happened to Mike. (We’re a few seasons behind.) I made a mental note to look up the artist’s name which, I am sorry to tell you, is Ima Robot.
Needless to say, I left my practice disgruntled and not the least bit zen. I walked outside and it was raining, of course, so I decided that what the night really needed was junk food. Calling to me like a beacon of hope, I spotted the neon green lights of Whole Foods just across the street. Dripping with yoga sweat and rain, I walked in the store and went to the queso section which, of course, was empty. My favorite salsa? Gone. My favorite chips? Only small bags. Of course.
I grabbed a bag of frozen tater tots and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and headed to the only open checkout aisle.
And that’s when the night really went down hill.
I found myself standing face to face with the cashier who was the embodiment of every reason Boomers hate Millennials.
I looked at him with his perfectly combed and organic gel-encrusted coif with the quintessential matching beard, both carefully raked with custom bamboo combs he undoubtedly bought on Etsy and had engraved with his name, which is probably Rain. He smelled like a walking Google search of “essential oils for men,” from the cedarwood, bergamot, and whiskey infused beard butter on his face for which he paid $58 per 2.5 ounce tin. The upcycled tin label surely reads Locally sourced and handmade with organic vegan ingredients and sprinkled with fairy tears. I couldn’t see his feet, but I’d be willing to put money on organic socks with hemp shoes. He finished scanning my gluten-ridden, non-sprouted, dairy infused, poisonous groceries, and took a superior sip of his chia seed kombucha which was sitting by the register.
He looked at me and saw me and my post-hot-yoga-meets-post-partum-fly-away hair. He saw my non-fair trade yoga pants purchased from Nordstrom, a store fraught with ethical violations. Where my organic socks should have been, a pair of Rainbows, which probably reminded him of every ocean in crisis. I’m the epitome of commercialism and everything this man stands against.
As though the fate of 1000 dying rain forests rested squarely on my shoulders, he looked at me in all of his smug hipster glory over his thick Warby Parker glasses and said, Do you want a receipt?
Yes, I hissed. Yes, I do.
The truth is, I didn’t actually need my receipt, but somewhere between his perfect beard and my saturated fat laden tater tots my mild huff was nearing rage level. I walked away from the register feeling irrationally angry and unreasonably hungry. I got home and ranted to my husband, Porter, about my encounter with Rain. He said all of the right things, nodding sympathetically while I shoveled tots into my mouth. After my last bite, I think I said something along the lines of, “Seriously, he was such an ass. And the real irony in this situation is that I actually care about the oceans in crisis. I drink kombucha and eat fermented vegetables, I support fair trade and cottage industries, I use essential oils, and if I wore socks, I’m sure I’d want them to be organic. But you know what else? I like tater tots, and mac & cheese, and the thought of cauliflower pizza crust just makes me want to scream What’s the point?”
Just as quickly as my monologue began, it ended, and my husband uttered the most beautiful (and safest) words a husband could say to his ranting wife in a moment like this: Would you like some ice cream?
The next morning Porter told me, You should write about Rain. Seems like good material.
Ice cream offers and writing advice, just two of the reasons I’m so thankful I married him. So, I sat down to write. For several weeks I’ve thought about this story and tried to come up with my angle. I considered things like the ways in which yoga teaches us life lessons, or the fact that each of us is a walking contradiction of convictions, or judge not lest you be judged. I even considered the fact that Rain might actually be a pretty nice dude with a boring name like John, although I think we can all agree that it’s unlikely. Draft after draft after draft, all hackneyed and worthless. The blank page continued to taunt me.
As much as I wanted a good story with a point, the fact is, sometimes a story is just a story, utterly pointless.
Like my damn receipt.