Last winter my gym membership expired just as I was moving from Williamsburg to Manhattan. Unfortunately my East Village shoebox apartment wasn’t big enough for workouts and with all the moving stress, I needed an hour of yoga more than ever. After some hesitation I tried a community yoga class my friend Charmie recommended. She was a free spirit and I never knew what to expect with her. One time she took me to a “Lesbian-Prom” at an underground club. I was miles out of my comfort zone. But still, she always had good ideas.
Charmie’s directions led to an old building on St. Marks. Irritated by the smell of Chinese food and hookah smoke, I jumped up the stairs and met a friendly man with long red hair and a beard, like a character out of Game of Thrones greeted me. I was early and there was lots of space. I choose a corner in the back because I don’t like to be crowded. I know that is asking for a lot in New York, but I’m the kind of person who wakes up thirty minutes early rather than take a full train and breathe someone’s sweaty armpit.
The room filled quickly. One guy wore his Star Trek pajama pants, which looked too vintage to wear in public. A girl with pink hair was in her undies. Luckily there was still a decent space between me and my neighbor. Five minutes into the class, I’d stretched into down dog and a woman stomped in and squeezed her mat next to mine.
“So rude!” I thought, rolling my eyes at her.
The women obviously didn’t take the hint because she got comfortable, took off her fake hairpiece and laid it in front of her mat. “Just breathe,” I told myself. Meanwhile the woman fluttered her lips. It sounded more like she was feeding a baby, pretending the spoon was a plane. “HAAAAAAAAAAA….PHHHHHHHHHHH.” Annoyed I tried to make eye contact again. I wanted to make her stop and have respect for her fellow yogis. Isn’t that what yoga was all about? Respect and quiet? And Lululemon?
Thirty minutes went by and her groaning and moaning got louder. Worse, the teacher complimented Miss fake-hair for her strong, deep breaths. I was back in upward dog, but in my head, I was thinking about another gym I recently tried. I was so caught up in being annoyed, holding my breath, and planning my gym move, I lost my balance, collapsed to the side, right onto the women. I was so embarrassed and apologized profusely. She couldn’t have known I already knocked her out ten times in the last twenty minutes, right? Still, I expected her to be annoyed. Instead, she just smiled and helped me up.
During savasana, I thought about what an idiot I had been. I’d spent most of the hour imagining what this woman was like off her mat. I then realized, I was the judgmental girl in pink Lululemon yoga pants. I felt ashamed of myself.
I’ve come back, almost every day ever since then. I still hear loud moaning, but I made the conscious decision to train my body and my mind. I want to be nicer to others. This class has helped. I still avoid full subways and lesbian prom parties. But I now knew the guy’s name in the Star Trek pajama pants, its Josh. We had coffee after class.