Thursday, October 16, 2008

Class #5: Anusara Yoga at Yoga Kula.

I broke my ‘itinerant’ rule tonight and paid-in-full for a class, but I’m going to have to do it anyway if I want to meet Subramanya né Larry anyway. It the first class after the shingles, and since Yoga Kula is right down the street, I figure it’s a good way to get back on the horse.

When I get there, there is some sort of little conference going on in the studio- I’m thinking it’s teacher training or something, and gobs of people are listening to this grey haired man speak, with such undivided attention and deference that I think this might be Friend himself, preaching to his devoted disciples.

We, the lowly acolytes, are shuffled along into another studio, and the nice lady teaching is talking about….well, something about dissecting sadness, I’m not sure, as she is rattling her story off at a speed that I can’t follow, although several days under the influence of shingles and Vicodin may have gummed up the ole’ synapses. She is exuberantly cheerful, although this discourse on meditation feels forced, like she is required to Speak of Meditation, as per the teacher training instructions. She is dissecting her own sadness at having to return from vacation and having to go back to work, a sadness a bit incomprehensible to me, being unemployed.

Frankly, I’m distracted- we can hear the conference through the wall, and I can’t help but wonder if it really is John Friend, and that I, his snarky namesake, Good Friend, am just inches from him, the Yin to his Yang. I can’t help but wonder, though- am I the Skexie or the Mystic?

Class putters along. There are only 3 of us, two males, probably the only class I’ll attend where the men outnumber the women, as least student-wise. The woman to my right- probably in her late thirties, guessing by the crow’s feet barometer, has the body and lithe flexibility of a 19-year old, and for this reason, the teacher feels we can do some advanced poses. She pulls out one that she- the teacher- can’t quite do.

Now I’m not ready for this, but somehow- I have no idea how- I manage to come the closest. The teacher lauds me, and I am immediately endeared to her, so shallow am I to be so pliable by a few ego-stroking words. I push myself too far, pull some unnamed tendon in my bunk knee, but whatever, it’s worth it. At the end of class my knee is screeching and my heart is elated.

We finish with some ‘bolstering poses’- one to support the immune system, one to contact the Cosmic Banana, and one to literally squeeze the poop out of you.

“You always have to start this pose on the left side, due to how your intestines are set up,” she tells us.

“Umm…” I say, “Is this sort of like squeezing cookie dough out of those Toll-House packaging tubes?”

“Yes! Exactly! That’s exactly what we are doing!”

I’m always a better student when I like the teacher.

At the end of class, I ask her if what was transpiring next-door was indeed a teacher conference, if the man I saw was John Friend, Our Lord in Anusara. She says no, which is all I need her to say. She carries on, telling me and any others who cared to listen that it was a philosophical session, a discussion of the ancient Indian Anusara principles steeped in holistic tradition since 1997. She keeps going on, quite the commercial for all the pricey workshops on the calendar, and I get the impression that this is a rehearsed diatribe, Sacred Testaments directly from the mouth of Our Friend, trying to get me to buy in to the Anusara Pyramid Scheme. These speeches, coupled with the litany of John Friend DVD’s in the lobby are what irritate me most about this corporatization of Yoga, the pressing of the discipline into a Business Plan. I’m not entirely convinced that this is strictly an American impulse- I’d be willing to bet Indians do the same, as it seems the pinnacle of ‘teacher credibility’ is to have studied in an actual Ashram in India, under a Guru, or least a well known Powerbroker in the global market-floor of Yoga. I guess you have to outsource at some point.

All my criticism, though, belies a major benefit of the Anusara system. I’m fine taking potshots at John Friend, as he is nothing but a figurehead, raking in profits and looking pretty. What he has managed, though, is to make the Yoga accessible, provided a common language for the teachers and students alike. I find- much to my surprise- that I have internalized the concepts of the Inner and Outer Spirals. When called to use them, I find my body responding without needing to think about it, and it pleases me. I ‘m noticing, too, that after class I feel properly aligned, a respite from having all my muscles winched tight, plodding around town in a Neanderthal gait.

I feel good, and I’m finding myself attached to this studio, but I must press on to others, staying true to my plan. Fortunately this studio offers free classes at the Elephant Pharmacy on Wednesdays, and you know how much free appeals to an unemployed ex-public school teacher whose meager pension plan is currently funding sausages-on-stick for the $430K spa thrown for AIG with their economic bailout check. I will see the Anusara people again, albeit in the back of a swanky grocery store.

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