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Hansen: Why am I afraid of yoga?

May 07, 2013|By David Hansen
  • Gabby Levine, owner of Ritual Yoga Arts in Laguna Beach, strikes a simple yoga pose. The Ganesh elephant head in the background was painted by Laguna street artist Bandit. The deity is revered as the "remover of obstacles."
Gabby Levine, owner of Ritual Yoga Arts in Laguna Beach,… (David Hansen )

For the uninitiated, yoga is intimidating. There's hot yoga, cold yoga and for me, lukewarm yoga.

Seemingly overnight, yoga has grown into a subculture, a club, a movement. With its many names and rules, it is complicated and inscrutable. You are not alone if you believe it is impossible exercise, unattainable spiritualism, fleeting serenity and holy hell punishment.

There is a reason it is a four-letter word.

Nonetheless, I was intrigued and tentatively made inquiries. My only challenge was finding a yoga studio with a sense of humor.

Showing up with a vintage "Star Wars" T-shirt with a picture of "Yoda" probably would not go over well. Instead, I had to buy expensive, black, see-through yoga tights.

Yoga definitely is a little different. It's nuanced, fluid and artistic.

By contrast, all these years we were told to get in shape by running or lifting weights using fancy equipment. We have spun, pumped and jazzercised our way into buffness.

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As a result, first-time yoga people always look spooked and ready to bolt. It's assumed you are afraid. If you aren't, you probably don't want to change your life.

And so I went. In Laguna Beach, there are a few large studios and a handful of smaller ones that may mix disciplines or activities.

Elizabeth Bella McCloud teaches at YogaWorks and Ritual Yoga Arts, two of the larger studios.

There is a learning curve to yoga but it's not bad, and there are some rules, but they are not onerous. The one obvious thing: It is done mostly by women, which has its advantages.

Let's just address the pink elephant in the room: Yoga is very sexy.

Seriously, yoga is basically a mixture of anatomy, exercise, Eastern religion and the game "Twister."

It's slow, rhythmic and sustained, like sex is supposed to be.

All the women have amazingly manicured toe nails. There might be one frumpy guy in the corner wearing gym shorts, but he's easy to forget.

It's just you and a bevy of ballerinas.

But back to the point: Yoga is heady stuff.

Once you've broken the veil, it means you've stretched yourself in new ways — ways so simple, primal and organic. It's not a magic pill or a Hail Mary. It's a technique of physical control that gives you permission to release.

It's abandonment but not recklessness. It's a low-tech, no-fuss way of hitting the delete button, clearing your mind and purging your body.

As the beads of sweat start to form, they mock you because your ego cannot accept the fact that you've barely moved.

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