I’ve decided to quit going to yoga. That is, I’ve decided to stop paying to go to yoga classes. Instead of going to yoga, I’m starting to practice yoga. Maybe even starting to live yoga a little. It’s pretty awesome having a happy spirit with me in my own living room.
I’ve written about yoga before – it’s a practice that has been quite beneficial to me over the last two decades of my life, starting from the time I moved from LA to Oakland and had a 9-5 job in The City (that damn City that’s so pretentious, its residents just call it “The City”). (I love that place, goshdarnit.) There was a yoga studio in the neighborhood where I worked – it was sort-of-Potrero Hill-adjacent, probably a very groovy area now but in the late ’90’s, when the tech boom was just taking off, it felt more like potential than actualization. A yoga studio was an indisputable harbinger of the change that was a’ comin’ to this ‘hood.
Starting with Suzanna’s Tuesday night yoga class, I became a perpetual “beginner” at yoga. It was a level I became comfortable with staying at, even when I could see that, as the years went by, I actually did know a fair bit more than when I started. After Suzanna taught me the basics, I went back to grad school and pretty much dropped everything outside of my school life, yoga included.
Some years later, I had a great teacher in Sedona who taught a small group of women during the day in her living room, and I received really useful hands-on instruction at the now-defunct City Yoga in West Hollywood (on the corner of Fairfax and Santa Monica), where the teachers were direct disciples of the “founder” of Anusara Yoga. It was there I learned that I was actually able to get myself into a headstand – I didn’t keep that practice up, so I just marvel at the thought today, and remember the high it brought. Turns out, the ol’ “use it or lose it” adage has some semblance of truth to it (go figure).
All of this leads me to today… the day I’ve decided to stop taking more yoga classes, at least for now, and to bring the practice home. I’m done feeling guilty about not using my monthly pass often enough to make it “worthwhile.” It’s been quite worthwhile, notwithstanding the fact that the classes at my current studio are repetitive, not to mention redundant. It’s actually this fact that has enabled me to essentially memorize all of the poses AND, to a large extent, the order in which they’re done by most of the teachers at this studio.
It’s okay that I’m not actually ‘learning’ anything in these ‘classes’ – and haven’t for some time. I’ve just come to realize that I’ve learned what I’m going to learn, and now it’s time to take it home.
Bringing yoga into my home is just one part of bringing my spirit here, and it’s an important one. I’m all about hanging out with a happy spirit in my home. When I do yoga here, I can just sit and feel happy about being in a spacious living room on a beautiful wood floor in a comfortable, light-filled apartment in a building full of neighbors with whom I’m creating new friendships. That makes me happy. I can listen to my favourite music – really drink in any music that I like, and there’s a whole lot that I like that I don’t often take the time to listen to any more. I make the play list; that makes me happy.
When I was young, I learned somewhere that it was a sign of immaturity to say that one’s greatest desire in life was to be happy. The point of the lesson, I recall, was that happiness is impermanent, and instead, it was better (or preferable) to seek contentment (and be content with that, I suppose).
Listen, I get it. It’s hard to face life’s disappointments if you think you’re going to skate through to Judgment Day scotch free of ’em, ’cause Boom, someone could throw a stick under your skates and before you know it, you’re headed south. Sure, some people can probably go a lot of years feeling up and never down. But that’s not my experience… and while there may be some truth to your thinking that it’s “kind of a Jewish thing” to look at the cup half empty, you also have to admit there are plenty of goyim who experience depression and anxiety too.
The pursuit of happiness needn’t be a distraction from the parts of life that are not all shiny and wonderful. Life’s a bit of everything, we need the rain to grow flowers, et cetera, et cetera. And I still think that happiness is something that is good to want. I like being happy, I want to be happy, it is good to be happy. So there.
Okay, off my soapbox now. In summary:
On the mat, off the mat. There’s no place like om.