My wrist is sore. Or rather, my wrist was sore. I’m a writer, editor, and photographer… and occasionally I spend too much time at my laptop, and sometimes I decide to use the trackpad instead of a mouse and things get really stiff.
The other night, I decided to try a new yoga studio. It came highly recommended by a friend, her husband, her other friend and that friend’s husband. It’s just a few miles away from my house. I’ve heard about this studio for several years. How the owner serves red bean soup for the Lunar New Year, gives serious back massages, and lectures like a Tiger Mother.
I’ve been doing yoga for over nine years now. Which sounds like I should be able to do headstands and such, except that I average two to three classes a month at my local gym, so I’m essentially still a low intermediate type. Since the beginning of this year, I can probably count all the yoga classes I’ve been to on my fingers. My favorite instructor left the gym, I took on freelance projects, my kids picked up new activities, I picked up new obligations, and essentially everything became more important than taking care of my own body. Or so I thought. My body has been in rebellion — packing on extra pounds, aching in places I never gave a second thought about, and don’t even get me started about my digestive system. In short, I’m a mess.
Despite my body crying Uncle, I’ve been reluctant to do something about it. The form of exercise that makes me the happiest and healthiest has been yoga. “Exercise” is an inadequate word to describe what a good yoga class does for me. More like a massage, therapy, meditation, and thousands of endorphins firing off. Plus, you can wear cute clothes and don’t have to get dirty. But classes are expensive (but cheaper than therapy, drugs or long-term medical problems) and only happen at certain times. There’s also a certain cliquey-ness to them. It’s not always in a Real Housewives way (although I have sampled tried some studios filled with hissing trophy wives), but in the way that different church congregations have unique cultures.
This particular yoga studio I visited has a Taiwanese instructor. The decor was the first clue that this class would be unlike others. The pillars in the room were painted bright red and there were Chinese tapestries hanging from the ceiling. When class got started, the teacher called out instructions in both accented English and Mandarin. And while her limbs are taut and she wears what’s essentially a bikini, she mentions her grandson, and I have to guess she is at least in her 60s. My friend had warned me, “It won’t be like a Palo Alto yoga class.” No lavender oil, no soothing words, no Lululemon pants for sale in the lobby.
I had mixed feelings when the instructor barked, “YOU tell your body what to do!” I cannot force the backs of my hands together anymore than I can will the rolls off my midsection. Are her words meant to be taken with a grain of salt, as inspiration?
But the biggest clue that I have entered a familial kind of space is when not just the teacher — but also another older Asian lady — feel free to grab the waistline of my pants and ask, “Are these stretchy?”
I’m not sure this is right place for me, but I am going to give it another try.