Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Noise and The Numinous: October 2006

O.K., I just got back from yoga at the gym. I quit. I quit my original yoga studio because it was too expensive. Although I did like hanging with the rich folk. But the yoga class I now attend at the gym is just awful. People noisily walking in and out, the guy next to me sounds like he is from the tuberculosis ward, and the lady next to me looks like she belongs in the tuberculosis ward. The teacher, speaking through a headset microphone, sounds like some low rent self-help guru purchased on cassette from the 99-cent only store played back through a cheap Radio Shack stereo. The sound of rap comes in from the main door every time a clueless person walks in and out and the sound of the racquetball hitting the wall next door is mercilessly irregular, like waiting for the shoes from a three-legged man and his multitudinous, similarly appendaged offspring living in the apartment above you to drop on the floor. One at a time. Constant, but irregular. Oh yeah, that smelly guy next to me who just got out of kick boxing taking of his shoes and socks and waving them around to dry them? Yeah, that smells great pal, thanks for sharing. Plus throw in the cheesy sound track of synthetic crickets, frogs and fake Native American flute played on a synthesizer and you get the point. What do fake insects, amplified amphibians and synthesizers have to do with yoga? Once again, the noise invades the numinous.

I began yoga around 1995, a mere eleven years ago. It was really different then. (Now I sound like the old fart at the campground telling me about his 1984 Tioga Arrow, “RV plumbing was different then, pee three times and your holding tank was filled.”) But hey, yoga really was different only a few short years ago. There was a sense of people that wanted to have a total experience, mind and body together, joined in the opus. Now, as the girl waiting to get into class said, “Like, yoga, you know, is ALL about the core muscles.” Yeah, right. America has once again gone beyond just the mere exploitation of spirituality: it has reduced the spiritual to a tangible commodity, an Aether driven ab toner.

I even subscribed to Yoga Journal. It was cool, all this trippy stuff and interesting articles. Don’t buy it now. It is like reading an issue of Vogue or Cosmo, with the models just in tighter clothes. (Wait, maybe I should re-subscribe.) All the ads are abhorrent. Ad after ad for the right book, clothes, food, retreat, whatever to make you into the ultimate yoga person. Like dressing right will make you more yoga. Even cruises. Get spiritual while pigging out on one of those buffets . . . so much for forward bends, probably can’t even see your toes after one of those boat trips. What an image, one of the greatest spiritual traditions in the history of the world being joined with one of the most affluent materialistic traditions. Sweet. Maybe they have “poverty berths” so you can have the joy of the yoga without the offending materialism. Now wait, I’m not against cruises, but it does seem an odd pairing.

It all began with the rock stars and celebrities. Damn them. Why did they have to come to yoga and brag about it to all the media? Sting, Madonna, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Gwyneth Paltrow, to mention but a few. I don’t begrudge them doing it, but did they have to tell everyone? They’ve evangelized yoga into the mainstream. And while on one hand I’m happy for everybody that is doing it (because it really is a miraculous thing), on the other hand I wish everybody would not come to the class I attend. I mean everybody. Good gawd. That is the thing about these stars: they can afford private classes. While they end up riding the Cadillac of yoga, I end up in the Greyhound bus next to the asthmatic guy with dandruff and the oozing skin condition.

Yet I kept going back. Around eleven years. Because it really does feel good. I really recommend it. But I won’t be there anymore.

I’m going to stay at home and get spiritual in the privacy of my own home . . . with my DVD player and large collection of, ahem, commercially produced yoga videos . . .

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