Monday, October 13, 2008
Class #3: Anusara Yoga @Yoga Kula
I have the shingles. Sisterfucking shingles.
I have a line of blistering skin around the right side of my torso, front to back, and it is the chicken pox virus that causes this. I can’t give shingles to anybody, but I can give chicken pox to someone that has never had it, and so I worry about whether or not I should go to class. Everybody I’ve talked to*, though, has had the chicken pox, the only exception being my German friend, and she just isn’t sure, due to the language barrier. I’m sure she’s had ‘em, and I figure, too , that I have my own trusty liver-pink mat, not a loaner from the studio, and it’s not like I can spread the virus to people by breathing on them- you have to touch the blisters, perhaps even lick my torso, and I’m doubting I will be so lucky for that to occur. I’d pretty much have to pick up a naked baby from a stroller and rub him on my ribcage for me to pass it along. I wear two shirts as a precaution anyway, and head to class.
I set up my mat, and while I’m doing so, the instructor immediately pegs me a newbie.
“Hey, how are you doing? What’s your name?”
I balk. I don’t want to say my name.
I don’t want to say my name for two reasons. The first is that I don’t want to tip my hand as an Indian. In a discipline- the California version, to be sure- so married to a sense of authenticity that it makes participants chant in a language they never spoke- I’m afraid of the exoticism tag. The second reason is because of the first- I can’t back it up. I’m from Michigan, remember? I’m not even an authentic Californian, for Friend’s sake.
“Do you want a sheet for the prayer we recite at the beginning of class?”
“Uhhh…I’ll just listen, thanks.”
I need the sheet. I have no idea of what the words are. They only Indian words I know are Bangla, and a few Hindi swear words.** But I don’t want to admit that. I just fold my hands in front of my chest and try to look as if I having deep thoughts. It is not the only time during this class that I have to defer from participating.
After chanting a bit, we finish up with a few holy Oms.
“Om” is the Cosmic Banana, God’s Voice, the Entirety of Everything, the All-Encompassing Truth, the Atman/Brahman interface, the sound for which there are no words. I know all this from an academic perspective, but all I can think of, as we all hum together, is the scene from The Dark Crystal where the wrinkly, potato-shaped Holy Good Guys- looking suspiciously like geriatric versions of the janitor from The Muppet Show- all Om to the cosmic call to go re-unite their Yang to their Yin, the Evil Skexies. And so my holy Om tradition is defined by Jim Henson- may he rest in peace- and I am just fine with that as a personal interface with The Everything. The man was a genius.
Still, because of this, I can’t quite bring my self to Om loud and proud, as if by opening up to the universe, everyone will suddenly know what I am thinking. My mouth is a letterbox slot, wide enough only to insert a grilled cheese sandwich, but at least sound is coming out, and so I progress with baby steps. I am, at least, in tune.
Deferment #2 comes at the end of class. Yes, I had my own mat and I was wearing two shirts, so I wasn’t worried about spreading the old chicken pox virus until the teacher tells us to go get a blanket and insert it under our right sides.
My shingles infected side.
Considering how many blankets I used last time, I could potentially be contaminating them seven-fold and irony of the fact that an Indian would literally be giving back a bunch of pox-infected blankets to the white folk is not lost on me. I defer from this asana, folding into child’s pose, thankful that I don’t need to wear an artificial expression of peaceful bliss, as my face is pressed my faithful liver-coloured mat. It occurs to me that I can’t really attend Yoga class in good conscience until the shingles pass, just in case. I go by the Elephant Pharmacy afterward, along with roughly half of the other students, and rather shamefully purchase a Rodney Yee Yoga DVD. It is mass media Yoga for the next few weeks.
*Having to tell people you have the shingles- as no one entirely understands it, I certainly didn’t- is akin to admitting you are a leper. You aren’t, it isn’t as if you can spread it except in the rarest of circumstances, but it sort of sounds like scabies or rickets or some other antiquated sailor disease, and people look at you funny for it.
** I also know the words sugar- because I dump so much of it in my tea when we visit Calcutta- right, left, the numbers 1-4, please, thank you, and any food terms used in a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook. You could certainly say I didn’t try.