New Year’s Day began with a party where I was introduced to someone as the woman who created the first “intense” yoga in Nashville. Maybe it was brain vacuum from the eve before or the glass of wine that too quickly followed my toothbrush that morning but my response was “Yeah, I brought it here and now I want to burn it down”. Frankly, I don’t think that woman liked me as much as she should have after what seems to have been a shocking statement. It kind of shocked me too.
But it delighted an encyclopedic friend of mine with a wicked sense of humor who overheard the exchange and shrieked, “You’re Herostratus! He was an arsonist who burned down the temple of Artemis in ancient Greece ‘cause you know, folks might not remember you for some things but they will definitely remember if you commit a crime.”
I guess that stayed with me because here I am. And I wonder about the banner I picked for my website now dusty and old as your first laptop;
Forget Safety, Live Where You Fear To Live, Destroy Your Reputation, Be Notorious.
At the time I hadn’t heard of the poet Rumi who wrote those words. It was from a sticker a friend put on a gift one birthday long before. Life has a funny kind of synchronicity.
This year has already delivered one offense and another in yoga internet arguments. Despite its self indulgent swibble and silly sanctimony, the yoga community is sloppily slogging out of the muck in a race toward who is more authentic, many running from the title of asana teacher which is much decried by the elevated speakers for the eight limbed path. And all I can think of is Oh for fuck’s sake, get me out of here.
When yoga was still India’s domain, some of us got indoctrinated into it on the sidelines in little ways: a TM mantra (I opted for that over the downers prescribed to me for anxiety in college), or accompanied by a little weed and communal sit/stretch languorous sessions, sweet afternoons curled up with the books of those exotic authors of yoga, attempts at the pranayamas we read about and for years the one posture that I practiced was headstand because it was so peaceful it would lull me to sleep which I later learned is pretty strange. We didn’t think too much about any of it and it certainly wasn’t a career choice or even a college elective. You didn’t think you were eligible to teach something so foreign and vague, nor would you want to.
Twenty some odd years later I held the suspicious title of yoga teacher. No need to go over how or why. Who cares? The fun thing is that it exploded what was the silent work of a secret society into a mainstream party in a town I happened into by accident which is how I do all my big moves. I have no regrets. In less than ten years that town, this town, the country was a melting pot of yoga, dance and music. Folks more ambitious than I am marketed it. It flowed freely through every neighborhood; power this and creative that. Ho Hum. Then people fought about it. Now it’s just boring.
I haven’t done the work of hold your edge like a Marine while you vamp like a lady in years but people still associate me with it. Destroy your reputation is harder than it seems.
I didn’t mean to pose as a yoga guru, I just used the word yoga because I taught what I knew of it. I had started a class called the Bodymind Workout which seemed like a unique name at the time and a decade or so later the new age mantra of mind-body turned that name into something as unremarkable and not trustworthy as a Swanson T.V. dinner. Now yoga is starting to look like its ugly swarthy cousin who forgot to wax her upper lip. But you need a name to go with a picture or you can’t describe it, right?
Tomorrow on the big Dreamer’s day I’ve got a Kirtan band of fellow travelers playing and singing their renditions of ancient chants depicting timeless sentiments and beautiful fables for my not yoga class. This one’s coming out of the fire like a soft silent bird. I am a dreamer too. I will dream up a way to move and breathe together with you in harmony with our friend’s music. Call it what you like.
(written on the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)