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Zen Maintenance

McYoga for the masses.

I will admit what I did not admit before: that I am working at a corporate yoga studio.  It’s fun to mock, to sneer at the notion of turning a practice begun to find oneness with God into a big business machine.  All the little things you’d roll your eyes at in places like Gap and 24 Hour Fitness have found their way into this studio. And that’s what happens when things become Westernized and Americanized. McYoga. McYoga for the masses, in small, medium, venti and extra super value packages.


I shouldn’t be surprised and I should be more tolerant, for this is our country’s MO and honestly, scoff if you like, it could be worse.


What I’m not going to do is turn this into a rant, because that would be easy, and I don’t want this article to be easy. I don’t like anything in my life to be easy. So I will not talk about the perpetual pushing, like a greedy dealer to big eyed kindergartners, the new student discount we offer which pulls around 200 new students into our studio every month, will not go on at length about the classrooms which are already filled to capacity, nor will I touch upon the company’s insistence that we push this--and other reel-’em-in offers--to such an extent that we often have to turn students away from these capacity-reached classes, regardless of the fact that they may be paying expensive memberships, just so we can bulk up our bottom line.


And I’m not going to mention, however briefly, the little stunts corporate pulls in an effort to generate interest, such as displaying people doing yoga in the middle of a busy business district during the business day, or chalking yoga characters on the sidewalks with our web address beside them. That there is an emphasis on selling, that none of the employees make a livable wage, that the cost for classes has gone up with the New Year but the rate we pay our substitute teachers has gone down.


No, I will not talk about these things. Because it’s not worth it, to bitch. It is what it is: just another disappointing drop in the bucket that is my employment history.


I do want to mention the strange selfishness that permeates the students at our studio. The rush, push, grab of too many students in our shoebox lobby to get into class. I mean, truly, if there were ever a time for zen, people, wouldn’t it be here? At your yoga class? Eh?  It is the same sort of hypocrisy that is often signaled out in correlation with church . The very shame--same, I mean. Same.


Today, for example, one student stole another student’s mat and proceeded to blatantly unroll it and use it for the duration of class.


Recently, another student had her Vitamin Water snatched from her grasp by another “yogi,” who proceeded to sneer at the amount of sugar it contains.


 Yesterday, an old woman trapped me and let loose a barrage of indignation because her class was full.


The students complain that we don’t have enough props. That the studios are too cold and they can’t get warm. That they are too hot and will pass out. That classes are too expensive. Go too long. That they can’t wear shoes inside. Or use cell phones. Or that we are out of Hard Tail Forever pants--that we don’t know when the next shipment will arrive--that they have to move over to accommodate more students into a class--that they have to pay to reactivate their dead account or that they have to warn us a month in advance if they are canceling their account or that we mop the floor between classes, which takes extra time.


These students, who wear their $80 cotton sweatpants, sweat on $70 mats, and bitch about companies needing to go green. It’s like the new generation of yuppie hippies. Yippies. 


PEOPLE. It’s just YOGA.


And we mop to clean up the sweat of those before you so you don’t potentially get a staph infection.


Could we get a little peace? Could we get a little calm? Remember the very first rule of yoga: breathe. Well, for the love of Krishna, please breathe before we both have a conniption.


Sometimes, after working at the studio, I come home. . .put in my Bryan Kest Power Yoga DVD (because I don’t feel like taking class at the studio) and make it about 20 minutes before deciding that I’ve really just had enough with the barefoot yogi hippie feel good “get on your mat” philosophy and crack open a bottle of wine. Turn on some Enya. Because Enya is magical. And wine is magical. And if I ever get certified to teach yoga, like I want to, I will have both Enya and wine in my class.


I may start out with a little bit of rage, you know, get all that indecent pushing and shoving and grabbing and waiting for the damn mop out of our systems with some good sun salutations accompanied by Flogging Molly. The Sex Pistols. Or Marilyn Manson. (In descending order of cheerfulness.)


Then we can morph into the peaceful spirits we are all supposed to be aspiring to be with Sarah McLachlan and Dead Can Dance. Unless we’re doing a vinyasa flow and I’ll put on  Siouxsie and the Banshees and OutKast. Maybe I’ll even get a DJ to come in sometime. That’d be cool. Then we can wind down with Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet. And we’ll Enya into Savasana.


And perhaps, if you are feeling argumentative, you might say “But isn’t that all part of the Americanization of yoga that you were complaining about earlier?”


No, and I’ll tell you why: because the heart and the intent will be intact. Regardless of the music I might play, in my fictional yoga teacher life, I will provide affordable classes, stress lightness, laughter and peacefulness, and strive to teach my students about balance and love. Americanization of yoga occurs when the studio or teacher providing you with your practice ceases being an instrument of learning and meditation and sacrifices those elements to coerce you to open your pocketbook, wallet or man-purse.


I guess the title of my column should perhaps be redesignated “When I Am Queen of the World,” but so it goes.


This is just another example of money killing something sacred, and our willingness to let it. At what point do we stop buying into the system for convenience of the product and keep the product intact? At what point will I find a job I like?


Who knows the answers?


It’s a shame. This time I thought I was close. I imagine every snide student who treads our floor thinks he or she is close, too. And, in turn, that Corporate thinks it’s close. . .er. . .closer to their dollar goals.


But as my dad likes to say, “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

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