America is a country that must have everything adapted to fit its rules. Things and ideas from other cultures are not really welcomed unless there is a way to make them a “good”, something that can be consumed and then put on a shelf to show all of your conquer. A culture that is based on consumption will find a way to market and sell something that is ment to be free for the sake of freeing ones self.
In my search to find the Walmart of yoga or come across the meditation of Starbucks coffee I found Back Bay Yoga. This trendy little yoga studio is located on Boylston St. parallel to newbury st. and next to hundreds of shops. The second floor loft that contains the studio has the trendy feeling of the dream apartment to fill with things from crate and barrel. When I took the elevator upstairs im immediately greeted by a desk to my left. I sign in and pay the 5 dollar fee for the walk-in class. I am then told if I didn't bring a yoga mat I can pay 3 dollars to rent one. This so far is not a bad deal. They ask me if I want to sign up for crazy plans and packages, like wholesale yoga. I look around and see a little store section full of yoga mats and tie-die shirts and pants, 20 dollar metal water bottles to replace the plastic one you bought at Starbucks last year. I decline and quickly retreat to the mens locker room and then to the class room.
The room instantly puts me into a calm relaxed mood. The walls are exposed brick or painted black. Dim lighting that will become dimmer, glows out from some asian looking round paper lamps hanging form the celling. Over to my right are three windows with some Japanese looking curtains standing behind a little shrine. This room is hot. Damp. But it feels good. They have mastered the art of interior design and for some reason this makes me think that this is a great yoga place.
I place my mat on the floor and wait for my fellow consumers and pretentious americans to join me. As people flow in I start to look around a judge each and every one of them. Unlike eastern culture and unlike freeing my mind from possession I hold the positoin that I can figure all of these people out and or that in one way or another I am better then them. There is no way that I am in this class for the right reason.
Some of the people I see are dressed in workout clothing, they are probably here to work out. I see others trickle in sporting a more earthy look. Some of these people are young and some are old. Thin, fat. Black, white, asian, ect. Mostly women, a few men who are all in there 40s. One couple in there 50s comes in and sets up right in from of where the teacher will be sitting. They are in a full on Wholefoods loving rubber crock wearing uniform for middle age pretentious hippy. The couple are both wearing the same tie die sweatshirt. The women puts down her yoga mat that has a big logo on it and expresses it extra grip technology. She then follows that by opening another mat made of bamboo or something like that and placing that on top of it. Some where in this county there is a store selling mats to go on top of yoga mats. The yoga mat is only there to help americans feel as if they have a little barrier and to give them something to carry around to let every one in starbucks know that they are “healthy” and love being active even though they are middle aged.
Im now getting intimidated because I dont have any trinkets or badges to defend my interest in yoga and because the girl who just sat down to my right is more in shape then ill ever be on my life. I also realize that im the only over weight person In the room. The room fills with steam, ambient music and people. Some of the people are worming up by getting into some of there favorite yoga poses and this makes me think that they are just trying to show off to each other.
The teacher enters the room. She looks about my age and this makes me feel really weird. That also makes me realize that I cant just get into this thing for the right reasons but only for my reasons, the reasons I do most things. She sets up her mat, and hands out little foam blocks for every one to use if needed. I tell my self that I will not need one of these blocks because im a young 23 year old. I am also really good at being wrong.
This yoga session starts out quite easy. We start by elongating our bodes and focusing on our breathing. We move into poses on our knees and then back up. We end every pose by working into downward facing dog or upward facing dog. This progressively gets harder do to elements the teacher keeps adding into routine. We keep adding new poses and moves that we then work into the rest of what we were doing until its almost a long synchronized dance. The room is getting hot and I am poring sweat. This is getting really hard.
We move into a warrior pose. We twist this pose every way posable and work into poses with the balancing on one foot. My muscles are stretching and pulling. Iv never down any of these poses before and I with I was a little more prepared for it or had some waring. We move to the floor and sit in a position where my ankle is on top of my other knee. We use this to twist our backs. Then im asks to balance my self on my hands and support my 180 pound body weight. This workout is still building up and up and I feel as if I may quit early. With each pose we still work back out to the others we did perviously just so you can remember the one you hated the most. Just when I think I cant take it any more and im about to quit, the yoga poses start winding down. Things start getting easier and we work our bodes down slowly. The pace slows and the poses become more floor exercises. More stretching then balancing acts and more breathing exercises then sweating.
We then work into meditation. We lay on our mats and close our eyes. We look for any stress and any unbalanced part of our body. We sink into the floor. We let all the stress go and our muscles relax. My body has never been so still. I cant even remember the hard workout I just did. Our instructor has put us all into a great trance, and now she slowly brings us out of it to partake in a few chants.
This is the end of a 90 minuet yoga class. This class kick my but and brought my body to a threshold I didn't know possible, and just at the right time it wound down to keep people, mainly my self, from collapsing. I walked out of there feeling great and refreshed.
For a studio that is selling the idea of yoga as exercise rather then a way of enlightening ones self, I wold say they do a pretty good job at it. They have changed my opinion of americans using yoga for there own benefit and not for the benefit to enlighten ones self and become a better person and then a nation all together. The consumer part of yoga in america is definitelyy something that cant be ecnored but I have seen why people enjoy using yoga in this way.
The idea of an eastern influence to be taken and interpreted and integrated into the life of westerners everyday living is a big thing to ask for. I do feel that it is being abuses by some but for many others it may actually be curing a part of them physically or mentally and I should not be one to judge. With all this being said I could definitely see my self going back to Back Bay Yoga. I am glad that they didn't just have a class that was easy and didn't push me to try and experience new and difficult things. The experience became a challenge and I liked it.