Religion & Beliefs

Om. My. God.

I want to make it very clear that I tried to hate yoga. I tend to be the kind of girl who will kiss you, ignore you for the next two hours, have seven shots of whiskey and then end … Read More

By / February 27, 2007

I want to make it very clear that I tried to hate yoga. I tend to be the kind of girl who will kiss you, ignore you for the next two hours, have seven shots of whiskey and then end up beating the crap out of you behind the bar. (It amazes me, too, but some guys totally dig this.) Anyway, none of that seemed even remotely compatible with yoga, which, as far as I could tell, was a bunch of grass-eating hippies taking deep breaths and then balancing on their noses while farting Sanskrit. In high school I got into kung-fu, and it always seemed perfectly compatible with my angry and aggressive personality. But then in college some of my friends started talking about how great yoga is, and when I finally joined a fancy gym I thought, hey, okay, I’ll try a yoga class and then I can legitimately ridicule yoga for the rest of my life. The first yoga class I ever took was called Power Zen and was taught by a flamboyant man who kept referring to the class as “my beautiful friends.” I would have cracked up completely but I was too busy working my ass off. Yoga was insanely hard. I’ve always been fairly strong and very flexible, but the class made me feel like my muscles were about as sturdy as cream cheese. I’m a sore loser, so I kept going to classes, and a year later I’m downward dogging five to six days a week, sometimes as early as six in the morning. (Note that this hasn’t infringed on my ability to introduce you to the business end of a knuckle sandwich). As reluctant as I was to get into yoga to begin with, I’ve been even less inclined to be one of those annoying people who claim that doing yoga makes them all spiritual. I mean, it’s a workout. Why would yoga be any more spiritual than one of those spinning classes where someone yells at you to pedal a stationary bike faster (which, incidentally, I also love)? According to Ida Unger, a 22-year yoga veteran, “What Yoga does, is it makes your relationship with the divine a more physical, tangible reality. With that, God is just more present in life.” Then she goes on to say that yoga will make your prayers more effective because “you'll have access to more of yourself.” I can't stand how touchy feely that sounds, but it’s basically right. I think yoga works especially well for people who are used to ritual because it takes ritual up another notch. It’s an extreme physical act you have to focus on completely otherwise you will fall on your ass. And it’s not stressful or competitive the way lots of sports are, so it fosters this inner intensity… I hate that I say crap like that now, because I much prefer to be all tough and angry, but it’s true. I mean, I have no desire to ever attend a Torah Yoga class, but I see how it appeals to some people. It does feel like the kind of concentration one brings to a good yoga practice should be what we strive for in prayer. When I attend the 6 AM class at my yoga studio I get up shortly after five to have time to daven and then rush over to class. And honestly, my yoga is way more sincere than my davening at that time of day. But I am old school and I will never consider downward dog the same as Ashrei. Plus, I kind of like showing up to class with tefillin strap marks on my arm. It makes everyone vaguely afraid of me because they assume I’m into daybreak bondage. Nice.