All Asanas Create Shadow

In January, yoga classes become overcrowded as every kind of mutant and beast rises from the darkest sofa to shine forth into a new era of hope and ambition. The one next to me is hairy, overweight and proudly displays a pair of Calvins underneath basketball shorts worn gangster style. His breath is simultaneously laboured and shallow. He grunts with every pose.

I try not to judge him.

I try, simply, to maintain my equanimity.

This becomes the most ironic and absurd of struggles when – clearly – he sees no reason to take the beginners modification of “Utthita Hasta Padangustasana.” No, that would make him look clumsy and inept. Instead, he reaches confidently for his big toe with his right hand (somehow managing to grab it), and then swings his foot out – violently – mere inches from my face, parking it there with another grunt.

Disgusted, I cringe and watch the deluge of sweat pelt down from his hairy foot onto my yoga towel. Now I’m just trying not to throw up. I want to punch him in the face. Om.

By the time we are lying on our backs and working our abs I am having a mild panic attack from the cognitive dissonance of being filled with rage and disgust while striving to achieve enlightenment. Here I am, seeking mastery of higher states of consciousness. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but I have this image of myself being extraordinarily present, radiating energy and drawing people into a deeper life simply through the look in my eyes.

It occurs to me that I have a lot of work to do.

Surely one who is a master of these things would have no issue being wedged in next to the hairy grunter. Surely it would roll off of his back like water off a duck. Or sweat.

“What has gotten me so activated here?” I ask myself. “What am I resisting or trying not to see? What is the real fear – yet undisclosed – beneath this disgust and desire to bolt?”

“OH FUCK ME!!!”, he yelps during eagle sit-ups, snapping me out of my stream of consciousness. Did he seriously just say that? In. Yoga.

I realize I am not even doing sit-ups anymore. My body is weak. I am tired.

Wow. I am so full of anger and rage and disgust that I can not find the energy to do sit-ups. (I can barely even move, in fact). Fascinating.

“Where are you, oh Shadow, where are you? What is holding me back? What can’t I see? What is the clue in my anger at the hairy grunter?” I try to follow it.

“What is it about myself that I can’t be with, and have projected on to him? Do I want people to hate me and be disgusted at me? Do I think they already are? Am I angry at myself?” These questions flicker in my mind.

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