I'm gonna be completely honest: I hate yoga in the States. Everyone's always more concerned about what clothing they wear than what we're actually doing, and they're all crowing, "I can't wait to lose a few inches off my waist!" And then this super skinny twit - often named Kimberly or Jada, depending on their hippie factor - walks into the mirrored, stuffy room where everyone's congregated and says in a floaty voice, "Hi, I'm Kimberly, and welcome to yoga. First we're going to start by sitting on the floor and centering ourselves." Her hand invariably presses the play button on the CD player, starting the New Age CD that will carry you through Child Pose and Dog Pose and Kissing Your Own Ass Pose. I frequently build up such a resentment for everything around me that instead of feeling peaceful, I feel like I want to shank a bitch and cut out early.
Yoga in India, friends, is not Kimberly's watered-down do-what-feels-good crap. I started going last week with a couple of people from my abroad program. I haven't been able to touch my toes since I started playing soccer, and I figured now would be a great time to start. First, the harrowing bike ride on a bike literally falling apart through harrowing Indian traffic (which I will describe at a later point). Nothing gets your heart rate up like being cut off by a bus tipping over with the amount of people hanging out of its doors. We finally arrived at the ashram (where yoga is studied and perfected by disciples of a guru; I feel like ours is named Je, because we're always chanting Je, but it could also mean, "Jesus help me to walk again because I have bent myself in unnatural ways today"). We paid our 700 rupees for a month of classes, which for those of you counting at home is equal to $14. A steal! Score! Then we climbed into the grass-roofed hut standing on stilts and waited for our teacher.
This dude is a human pretzel. He is also a drill sergeant. There's none of Kimberly's "Center yourself" here. Instead of gently incurring us to bend and twist, he yells, "Put your elbows up! Why are your elbows not up! DO IT!" On the second day he made us do a headstand. I actually thought my neck was going to snap. Goodbye world, I thought grimly. After I dropped my legs, he nodded satisfactorily and said, "Tomorrow, you do it on your own."
Bring it on, yogi.