Sunday, February 01, 2009

Fucking Yoga (A Rant)

You know, I like the act of yoga. I do. It makes me feel better than anything in the world. Without it, I’m prone to back pain and sore joints and strained muscles, especially now that I’m a wizened old hag. Yoga keeps me off the anti-Ds. Yoga feels really good to my body. But the culture of yoga, I have to say, often annoys the living shit out of me. It’s so restrictive. Good yogis don’t eat meat, or smoke or drink or toot a line now and then because they’re out on the Lower East Side and the DJ’s really good and beautiful people are dancing and some cute boy invited them into the bathroom and gave them a bump and then made out with them all night long. You know what I mean? I’m speaking hypothetically here.

I’ve never been much of a joiner, especially not when joining means behavior modification in pursuit of a “better” self via enlightenment or spirituality or whatever, which I’ve noticed can sometimes lead to viewing those around you (beneath you, really) with pity and disapproval, because this helps you to justify the fact that your life is now bacon-and-cocaine free and maybe a little bit boring. I think this is the same reason I’ve been resistant to organized religions. I don’t do well with proscription and I’m not a very goal-oriented person. If I had any, my mantras might be something like: “Make tremendous mistakes” and “Are you going to eat that.”

I think the culture of yoga can be incredibly helpful for many people. Yoga teaches you to have compassion for yourself, which many people—say addicts, or abuse victims, or people who, for whatever reason, don’t like themselves very much—could use a lot more of. In that respect, the belief system behind yoga can be good and healthy. But the thing about yoga culture and some of the people steeped in it is I get the feeling that they never lacked a healthy amount of compassion for themselves. And now they have permission, via a faux faith-based exercise regimen (which is the way it’s often practiced in America), to think about themselves all the time.

And look I’m a no stranger to narcissism—I’m a writer. This blog is like a tribute to narcissism. But at least I don’t pretend to be doing good works while flexing my awesomely toned muscles in front of a room-sized mirror. I mean, I’m still, metaphorically flexing the muscles in the mirror, but I goddamned well know I’m not helping anyone or putting any good vibes or auras or whatever-the-fuck out into the world. And I certainly don’t talk in an irritatingly soft voice and pretend like nothing ever pisses me off. Fucking yoga instructors.

Which brings me to the real, secret, selfish reason behind today’s yoga rant: My local yoga studio has a “public-school teachers and single parents discount” that just makes them affordable. Since they have no student discount, I thought I’d take them up on the teachers’ prices because, hey, I teach in the Utah public school system. I went for a trial class but was turned down for the discount on my first visit by a yoga instructor named Jim who refused to speak above a whisper. So when I got home I emailed the owner, explaining my situation (I teach at the University of Utah and would like the teacher discount) and was turned down again:

I offer the discount to teachers to honor their work with our youth. Not so much the money or lack of it, but the stress they are under and the good job they do. This is the same reason I offer the deal to single parents.

I’d just like to draw your attention to that phrase, “honor their work with our youth,” because that phrase in particular makes me want to punch this person in her calm yoga face. If you haven’t been to a lot of yoga classes before, this might sound like a totally normal and reasonable sentence. However, “honor” is a big yoga word and for me it conjures the image of a middle-aged, social X-ray-type in two hundred dollar yoga pants bowing to herself in the mirror and reverently whispering “namaste” in order to “honor” herself. I don’t know why this bothers me so much. Maybe I’m jealous that the hot-for-50 lady is hotter than me, mediocre-for-31. Or maybe I’m jealous because she can afford $200 yoga pants and mine are Old Navy brand and six years old. Or maybe, looking at that lady, I sense she’s never lacked for being “honored” in her life. Probably something like all of the above.

So that expression, “honor,” just galls me in the first place. And then there’s the rest of the email which is galling in general because it insinuates, by negation, that the work I do is less stressful and “good.” Forget for a moment that the line between teaching college freshmen and high school upperclassmen is flimsy at best. And let’s assume that I don’t do “good” work at all, that my desire to become a college professor is completely self-absorbed and maybe I’m bad at it. Maybe I’m poisoning young minds and bodies with episodes of “Family Guy” and the occasional donut. That’s fine. I’m not a special ed resource teacher who works with behavior-disordered and mentally disturbed youth. But you know what? Not all teachers are good and deserving of awesome yoga discounts. In fact I’ve met some pretty shit ones in my day, including:

-the pretty girl who teaches kindergarten until her doctor-boyfriend becomes her doctor-husband.
-the jock who may know something about coaching football, but not much about American history.
-the Dude who loves to sub because it’s easy.
-the “Mostly, I wanted to keep having summer break” teacher (note: actually the majority of teachers, according to a recent survey I read somewhere once).
-the one who sleeps with--or gives the appearance of being willing to sleep with--students. (related, tangentially, to the arrested-development high school teacher who cannot or will not relate to adults and instead seeks to relive glory days of own youth.)

I mean, as long as we’re going to generalize about groups of people and the “good” “work” they do or don’t do!

Look, I know most teachers work like crazy and that it’s a demanding job. I’ve seen season four of the “The Wire.” Seriously though, I get it. Teaching is hard. I’m not saying teachers don’t deserve an awesome yoga discount. I’m just saying I do too. My stress levels since beginning my PhD are absolutely through the roof. Not to mention that, no matter the false distinctions this yogi’s email makes between “money” and “stress,” when one’s annual salary is $12,000 (approximately 1/3 of the beginning annual public school teacher’s salary), the two cannot be pulled apart. And although from a professional standpoint I think education reform is very important in this country, personally, I just kind of get annoyed when people say shit like “honor their work with our youth.” Think of the children! I kind of hate the children, if you want to know the truth.

(sidenote: why isn’t she offering discounts to social workers and cops, whose burnout (and suicide) rates are far higher and faster than those of teachers?)

But anyway, you know, whatevs. If this yogi had just said, like, “Sorry, I can’t offer you a discount because I can’t afford to” and stopped there—fine. I would have had some measure of respect for that. But this flimsy and illogical response to my assertion that I should, under the terms of what’s listed on the yoga studio’s website, qualify for this discount, is sheer bullhonkey. And maybe that’s what this comes down to in the end—a sort of side-stepping of reality. The reality is: there’s something on your website that says I should be able to receive a discount. Don’t hide behind the pretty, silky veil of “honoring good works” when really, you just want me to pay full price.

I’ve noticed over the years at different yoga studios around the country that there is a nearly pathological resistance to discussing money or discounts, and yet yoga is incredibly expensive and very much caters to the sensibilities and cultures of a certain class. And I do mean “caters.” I don’t for a minute take for granted that yoga instructors or studio owners are necessarily of the same class as their clients. Maybe that’s why they don’t talk about money—it’s just not something they think the upper-middle class likes to do. Maybe they’re right. Maybe instructors and studio-owners are a bit trapped by the class system in which they’ve chosen to do business, which causes people like me, who have weird class hang-ups anyway, to throw shitfits on their personal blogs. I don’t know. As usual, I don’t know anything. Except that I should probably just buy a DVD and shut the fuck up already.

6 Comments:

Blogger worm said...

Toot a line?

4:24 PM  
Blogger Screwsan said...

Toot toot!

5:09 PM  
Blogger Screwsan said...

ps Did I ever tell you how much I loved those Charlie Huston books? I love them and have bought their successors.

5:10 PM  
Blogger worm said...

I'm glad. Looks like he has a new one or two for me to catch up on now. I want Pulled Pork.

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Gabe said...

That was glorious. Loved the discussion of the word "honor"; I have similar feelings for the phrase "The Community" (with all of its implied capitalization). Often, those who are better than me are fond of "giving back" or "building" The Community.

Miss ya, dude.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Screwsan said...

Miss you too dude. With luck, I will find my way to NYC sometime this spring. Been thinking about all you guys a lot lately.

Fucking Community Building.

3:51 PM  

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