Thursday, January 27, 2011

Just an inch

Two weeks ago, I took advantage of the free classes offered at the grand opening of the Center for Yoga's campus location, attending three Hot Vinyasa classes between Friday and Sunday. The studio space is simple and no-frills, and the location right off State Street is very convenient. I made a friend, dragged along some friends and in general had a very positive experience in some very close quarters among some very impressive yogis.

Until my final class on Sunday evening.

I was sour from the very beginning, as we rushed through the sun salutations with what felt to me like abbreviated breaths. We practiced mat-to-mat, and the instructor did a good job keeping us in poses that didn't end with someone else's foot in our faces. It wasn't so much the flows I took issue with, but the descriptions she gave.

"Bring your knee down to an inch above the ground," she said, moving us into crescent warrior. "I can tell who is good at math; your knees should be hovering an inch above the ground. An inch is very small."

Shak, who attended this class with me, had a considerably more positive interpretation of the teacher's instruction. (She also enjoyed the Top 40 music selection; I could take it or leave it.) However, I found the teacher's hard-and-fast specification antithetical to the very idea of yoga. It's common practice for a teacher to instruct her students to lift their legs higher, to bend their knees deeper, to reach farther; in fact, cues like these give me focus in a pose, push me to reach my personal potential. I appreciate this extra nudge from the outside--it's part of the reason I go to class or follow a podcast, rather than practicing on my own. But the trick to these instructions is that they are subjective; their realization hinges on who hears them. Lift your leg higher, bend your knees deeper, reach farther than you were before. Yoga as therapy and self-improvement, I guess, rather than geometry class.

As it was, though, the instruction nagged at me. Not only was it much deeper than I could hold at the time, it took me outside my practice. "An inch?" I thought. "How can I tell if my knee is an inch about the ground? Should I bend over and look? How am I supposed to get a Yoga Buzz if I'm thinking about inches?"

She repeated the instruction several times, suggesting that perhaps we just did not know what inches are, until I tuned her out completely.

Despite my somewhat distracted final class, I liked the Center for Yoga. The classes were challenging yet accessible, and the spiritual rambling of the instructors was not more distracting that you would find at any studio. (This used to be one of my least favorite things about yoga class, but now it's comforting, like the white noise of the radio.) The Center for Yoga was almost exactly what I expected it to be.

Short an inch.


  1. Yeah, I was hella-pissed when the teacher said inch instead of 2.54 cm.

  2. It's interesting how miniscule peccadilloes can disturb yogis from their meditative state. I personally love the spiritual ramblings common in Vinyasa classes and will get very upset if a Bikram teacher leaves the room without saying "Namaste." I was also really put off to find that Bikram Choudhury drinks Coca-Cola while teaching class. Not exactly a Sattvic food!