The Gentle Meditation Yoga Class is Neither Gentle nor Meditative. Discuss.

Or, my worst experience with yoga EVER.

My very first yoga class was, I believe, one of those enlightening experiences that may very well be included in my memoirs someday. The day before, when my husband and I decided to try out this 6 AM yoga class at the gym, my mother-in-law said with an all-knowing and proud grin, “yoga comes to you when you need it. I’m so excited for the two of you.” And she was right. It was everything we needed. Calm, meditative and energizing all at the same time, that class is what set my yoga journey in motion. Heaven knows, if my first class was the one I took a month later with another teacher (who, by the way, cares nothing about the flow of breath but everything about how his body looks in the mirror when he’s demonstrating plank pose, all while be-bopping to music that may have very well been included in a soft core production), I don’t think I’d have ever gone back. But even that class pales in comparison to the jarring experience I had with yet another teacher who apparently did not get the memo that she was to be leading a “gentle meditation” class.

It was smack-dab in the middle of the holiday craziness. Work was crazy, the weather was crazier, and I just needed some time on my mat, possibly to get the body moving, but more to just have some time to look inward with a little bit of guidance. What I got instead were lackluster poses, glaring overhead lights, and a teacher who was, well… neither gentle nor meditative. We just… posed. For maybe 3 seconds on each side. No thought. No care. No reminders that when we step onto our mats we let everything go and are just here. Right now. This teacher was bored. And probably reeeeally looking forward to the yoga retreat she was going to soon be spending in Mazatlan or some other exotic-sounding locale where you do sun salutations on ancient ruins while the sun comes up and then go eat some quinoa mango blended wheat germ bullshit.

But back to this ridiculous non-yoga experience. I was uncomfortable. And, quite frankly, a bit jolted for the remainder of the week. I’d be sitting at my desk, catching up on the news, and her loud chants would resonate through my mind: “MY BODY IS NOT A BURDEN, IT IS LIGHT AS A FEATHER,” she’d yell, boot camp style, while we held our lackluster poses for 3 seconds. Then she’d repeat it. Louder, but with less feeling. Then we’d switch sides and do it again.

I tried so hard to accept this experience as something to learn from. I know I don’t always need to write a script, things don’t always need to go as planned, and I can always learn something from any experience. Like when I’m behind a very slow driver and I try to think that maybe they’re there to make me slow down and take my time instead of infuriating me and making me late. But then.

But then, it became partner yoga. And I ended up with the one creepy guy in class. I’m not really a partner yoga kind of gal, I’ve decided. I don’t really need someone else to pull me forward while my legs are extended so that my head falls quite neatly into their crotch area. I think I’ve got the stretch thing covered. I’m a be-sweaty-and-focused-on-your-own yoga kind of girl. Which, I assumed, was what GENTLE MEDITATION yoga was. I spent a lot of my time in class formulating (and then accepting, and then letting go) my complaint for the gym suggestion box, while trying to remind myself that maybe some people really did like this kind of yoga. And I spent the rest of the week recounting my harrowing yoga experience and deciding it just wasn’t right. Just yesterday, I noticed this teacher no longer teaches the gentle meditation class and a new, more serene-looking teacher is in her place. I’m thinking about giving that a try again.

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