Last week while on a business trip to California I took the opportunity to go to a local yoga class every night after work. On my last night I went to one center’s “Happy Hour Yoga”, a $5 all-levels class. Perfect way to end a long business trip, I thought. I chatted with the instructor, a very bouncy and over caffeinated woman who was subbing for the regular instructor, and told her that I was visiting from the East Coast. “Right on, man, come on in!”
An hour later I came up out of savasana with a look of shock on my face. The instructor came up to me and asked, “So how was that? Is that how they do yoga back East?”
“Not even close,” I said.
“What do we do different? Or...” she said with a conspiratorial wink, "...what do we do better?”
“Well, first off, when you start a class by saying ‘take whatever comfortable position you want’ no one would then come around and adjust your comfortable seated position. In fact, no one would ever walk up behind you while your eyes are closed then grab your head and shove it down. No one back East would talk incessant blather throughout the class. No one shouts ‘Be in the NOW! Be in the NOW!’ over and over again. We like to give people a little bit of space to let you find your posture without having to listen to the instructor wax philosophical with quotes from the motivational rack at the supermarket. No one back East would be able to keep a straight face if an instructor said ‘be the stretch’ in an oozing, quasi-organic tone. And back East we like to let savasana be the time where you find peace and contentment, pull your mind and soul together, and exist in a happy, quiet place. No one would ever spend all of savasana banging gongs, slamming drums, and making the cacophonous racket that you just did for the last ten minutes. You know people with PTSD are finding their way to yoga, right? Do you think the clashing cymbals are going to help them?”
At least that’s what I would have said if I hadn’t spent the flight out reading about ahimsa. Instead I smiled, put my jeans back on, and walked until I found a Thai restaurant. That was some good pad thai.