Yoga. It sounds like a friendly word. Sounds a little like yogurt. Smooth and creamy. Maybe a little like a low mobility shriveled old alien spouting words of wisdom in Star Wars. Or Maybe it reminds you a little of Yogi Bear: that lovable cartoon animal that really just wanted picnic baskets. He didn’t want to ravage people, he was just hungry for a sandwich. So what harm could come from doing yoga? Plenty. It’s a horrible practice that should have been outlawed by the Geneva Convention. The non-threatening name only exacerbates the horror and trauma it causes. I shall now attempt to explain how this system of abuse works.
It begins by a suggestion from your wife that yoga will be beneficial to you and that it’s something you can do together. While I don’t blame my wife for the suffering endured, she is responsible for tending to my injuries afterwards. Anyway, what husband wouldn’t agree with that suggestion – so off to yoga I go. Keep in mind this suggestion has been made for a couple years before I finally relented. This is a great way to spend a Saturday morning if you aren’t a fan of sleeping or taking it easy on the weekend. I am not sure what every yoga studio looks like but the ones I have seen can be best described as follows. A big open space and as you walk in you feel comforted by its openness. It’s similar to one of those big empty warehouses the mob might ask you a few questions in with just a chair sitting at the center. Except there are no chairs. Off to the side the room is stocked with many implements of your future torture. Unlike in typical torture situations where the torturer has to at least expend some effort to get the equipment, you have to get it yourself. There is the razor thin mat, which gives you little protection from the floor, but prevents your feet and hands from sliding on the floor into a comfortable position which might save you from the pain you will have to experience. There are straps which you use to bind yourself with, there are blocks and pillows that you use to prop yourself up with (more will be explained later about how these will be used to weaken you psychologically).
The class is largely full of women. If you are a single man interested in women, you might think this is the place for you, but you’d be mistaken. The only way you can impress a woman here is through your ability to take pain. Some women might be impressed by that, but probably only the kind that want a man they can inflict pain on. Others might feel sorry for you and take pity. I submit that nothing helpful in that room, that can be used for the basis of building a meaningful romantic relationship. My suggestion is that you hone other skills and impress women elsewhere. And as I’ll soon explain, it’s unclear how many people here aren’t part of the grift that is yoga.
Your instructor is the true deceiver here and you will look at her and really think everything will be alright. She is friendly and welcoming. She doesn’t look overly imposing although a careful glance will see strong muscles safely tucked into her yoga pants. Of course, she need not be too formidable in appearance as the method of torture comes from what she tells you to do to yourself, not what she does to you directly. This is the brilliance of it all.
As the session begins the trap is sprung. Why? Because this is the beginning of the psychological manipulation to follow. You start by sitting and breathing. Her voice is calming as she tries to relax you so you become more pliable later. Often there is some music in the background played at the exact right volume to make you more compliant and ensure complete submission to her orders. So there I am sitting and breathing. Pretty easy stuff. I’m getting relaxed. I look around the room…I feel a sense of unity as we are all sitting and breathing and I am on par with the rest of the class at this activity so I’m feeling good about myself. But this peaceful feeling doesn’t last. It’s not long before you have to start doing poses. This by the way is also the beginning of many Hindi words that I’m pretty sure mean rather insidious things, but sound spiritual.
I got to do a cow. That was easy. I pretended like I had a really heavy udder. Then there was the cat. That was also not bad, except cats are ready to pounce and flee at a moment’s notice. This was only making me more stationary. Then there was the cobra. All I know is that if a mongoose found me it would be over quick. Then I am doing something called “a child”, which is not like my child at all who is energetic and obstinate. In this position you are more like a worshipper praising the teacher for the pleasure of being tortured. Then I’m told to take the strap and put it around my foot to hold my leg straight up in the air. I quickly notice how my leg doesn’t go straight up in the air. It is roughly at a 20 degree angle above the floor in order to remain straight. Everybody else in the room is like a fucking submarine and I begin to feel shame. I begin to wonder, is yoga really just part of the feminist agenda so we know what it feels like to constantly feel shame over our own bodies in a patriarchal system? As a feminist I quickly agree that yoga is for the betterment of society and continue. My hamstring already feels angry as the teacher calmly has me moving my leg to the left and right. Her language becomes a maze of confusion. “Turn to the right, but open your shoulders. Pin your hips to the floor as if you are breathing through your thigh.” I quickly notice that my thigh is completely without the requisite respiratory system and begin to worry. That worry is quickly forgotten as I am told to lose the strap and do a cobra again. Now it’s downward facing dog. You will, in this moment, realize that no dog would ever pose like this. My arms quiver under the weight of my body. “No”, she says, “the weight is supposed to mostly on your legs.” I quickly try to work out how this is humanly possible because hard as I try I can only make my hamstrings scream. I collapse on to my knees and look around as everyone looks like statues and my complete incompetence becomes glaring. I’m sweating as I glance up at the clock. Only 15 minutes have passed. Also why does my sweat smell worse in this environment?
As I alluded to earlier the extreme shame you experience is what makes you go along with the instructor. Every move you try to follow her on reminds you that you aren’t worthy. All the while she will say things like, “Lift your arm up straight so that it brushes your ear. Now drop your shoulder.” What? How do I drop my shoulder while lifting up my arm? And on and on it goes, “Open your shoulders, stretch your spine, drop your tailbone, turn your pinkies inward to work your triceps, reach out with your ring finger to feel it in your armpit, bend down to the left while lowering your right hip.” Basically the rule of thumb is that whatever direction they want you to move, you are supposed to, somehow, at the same time also move in the other direction. And I begin to realize that yoga is simply the art of tearing your own body apart as slowly and painfully as possible.
I am on the ground, left leg over right and told “turn to the left, but not to move my neck, and to keep my buttocks on the ground, and to reach behind me, turn my hand, open my shoulders, but now look back in the other direction, without using my neck, only my shoulders, also open up the sides of your body, push your ribs against your tailbone.” Somehow no time has passed since my last excruciating look at the clock. As I look around, illegally, using my neck, I am reminded once again that I am surrounded by flexible supple women who look like dancers and begin to realize that they are all part of the plan to torture you. The teacher beforehand selected them to make you look as pathetic as possible. And as you look over at the teacher, you can’t even feel aggression, which would be the normal way to get out of this situation, but shame weakens you. You are ready to tell her where the bomb is located, what the encryption code is, turn over your family to the authorities, but your tormentor doesn’t want any information and only wants you to experience pain. A 5’1″ sadist who somehow manages to say “namaste” with a smile on her face from the well of darkness that must be her soul. You want to run out of the room, but this would only add to the humiliation. Peppered throughout her tormenting instruction is “Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.” Even though, minus the sitting and breathing, everything she’s asked you to do since makes you uncomfortable. If my comfort was her concern she would ask me to leave.
The final mockery comes with the warrior poses. As a man my instinct is to think that this is finally something I can sink my teeth in, but again she exposes the patriarchy for what it is. I look around and I see women who could very well be Amazonian soldiers ready to strike me with a deadly blow. I on the other hand feel like a Chihuahua who has less than confidently stood in front of Doberman Pincher, only to realize that not only do I have a sprained ankle, but I’ve also got spinach between my teeth when I try to growl. I listen to Yanni playing now. I hate Yanni. That bastard plays a note for 30 seconds while sipping a coffee, making millions and leads a pleasurable life, while his new age feeble “compositions” are now a soundtrack for my pain.
The best part of it all is that this was called “gentle yoga”. Imagine lying on the ground while a crane slowly in small increments lowers a 1 ton weight on to you. At first you are like it’s just touching me, now it’s a bit of a massage, and then “Oh my bones are being crushed and I will soon be flat as a pancake”. This is really the only way I can make sense of the use of the word “gentle”. Gentle and continuous pressure will still ruin your day.
After a length of time which can only be measured on the geologic time scale, the barefoot punisher allows you to relax and asks for you to reflect on what you did today. Afraid to relive the trauma I decide to think of the bagels I have at home and which flavor cream cheese I want. I do some more very competent breathing. She wishes us all happiness, and that we cause no harm, remorseless for the harm she caused me. I get up and put my torture implements away obediently, wipe down my mat, smelling the residue of my fear. As I leave, hips wobbling, the teacher smiles at me and I say “See you next week!”