Yoga Asylum #4: Adult Yoga

One day, on the way to yoga, I was stopped by a woman walking her dog.

She says, “You’re the yoga teacher at Runyon Canyon,” and I say, “Well yes, but there are 5 of us that teach there.”

She says, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you.” She continues, “The other day in class, you said, if we were facing the building during the beginning of class, that the class was going to be a motherfucker.”

I said, “Well, yes. But you can face any direction you want. It’s just that, if you’re facing the building in the beginning of class, it’s gonna be really hard to do the sun salutations because you’re facing downhill. But you can face any direction you like.”

She says, “Yeah, but ‘motherfucker’ is a negative word.”

I said, “Oh, I’m sorry. That’s just the way I talk. It’s really important for me to be myself during class. I think people are more comfortable when I’m not pretending to be someone I’m not. And I use bad words sometimes.”

She says. “Well, I’m a mother.”

I say, “Well, I try to look around and if I see children, I try not to curse as best I can.” I go on to say, “There are lots of teachers in this town that don’t use the F word. In fact, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Kamala teaches and I don’t think she swears too much.”

She then says, “When you say ‘motherfucker’ it makes me think of rape.”

I hear it in my head like a bell as I finally realize, she is saying that she doesn’t like me saying motherfucker because she is a mother and somehow I’m saying (this is a big jump) that mothers should be—I’m using her words—raped. So I say, “My mother was just at class on Friday. That’s not what I’m saying.”

Then I go on to say, “Frank Zappa’s first band was called The Mothers, which for them was short for motherfuckers, which in the 60s was a term used to say that someone was a great musician. Mostly jazz players, but I think it could work in all styles of music. Certainly I’m not saying anyone should be raped.”

Sarcastically, she says, “Oh great. The next time I meditate, I’ll think of Frank Zappa.” Then she walks away.

One of the other yoga teachers walked up to me just about then. I was a little disturbed and I told him the story and he said, “Did you tell her to fuck off?”

The next day, the “motherfucker” lady is at class and I’m teaching. I see her and she sees me, eyes on eyes like Sam Fuller would do in a film.

My first thought is, “motherfucker,” and she brings her hands together like she’s praying. You know, I don’t think praying to get people to do what you want is really what the gods had in mind… except, maybe, the guy with the horns.

I’m making an ASSumption she’s praying to get me not to say “motherfucker” in class. I’ll tell you this, if praying was meant to be a way to control people, bars would be full of guys dropping to their knees and praying at the sound of the last call bell.

So I’m not really sure what to do. The rebel in me wants to blurt out “motherfucker” and be done with it. But I don’t want to be “The Motherfucker Guy,” like that’s all I do. Did you ever see the Simpsons episode where Bart says, “I didn’t do it,” and becomes famous and goes on TV and everyone’s always waiting for him to say it until they’re finally sick of it? I don’t want to be that. I want to say “motherfucker” only when it is appropriate in my yoga class.

But I really wanted to say it that day.

But then I remember, I told her to come to class Tuesday or Thursday if she wanted to take a class where the teacher would be less likely to say that phrase. And it’s Tuesday (I’m substitute teaching). So I didn’t say it. But we did focus on the face of Frank Zappa in final meditation. Frank-Zappa-deviation-from-the-norm-297x300

It was a very good class, but I couldn’t help but notice, at the end of class, the motherfucker lady did not leave me a motherfucking donation. I did announce that I would be subbing for Kamala the rest of the week. So as they say, fair warning, motherfucker. What’s next? People telling me reverse triangle makes them uncomfortable? Yeah, me too. But we’re still going to do it.

I spoke about this on the social network and the next class, somebody was wearing a Frank Zappa t-shirt. It was awesome and really blew me away and made me laugh.

Also, the MF lady was at class… and I did say it. And she did leave me a donation.

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This happened several years ago. Since then, I have taught thousands of yoga classes, some of them in businesses (corporate wellness), schools and retirement homes. When I teach these classes, I do avoid that phrase… mostly. I don’t have fucking Tourette’s, you know.

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Yoga Asylum #3: The Naked Ape

I parked my car and walked towards Runyon Canyon where I was holding my yoga class. I was a little tired and hoping for an easy day. But when you start thinking like that, it is almost inevitable that you’re going to get a wake-up. I call it reverse manifesting.

As I got close to the entrance of the park, I noticed a man sitting on the short wall just before the (honor) snack stand at the entrance. The man sitting on the wall had a pair of pants on his head like a hat and the legs of the pants were hanging down over his face. One of his eyes was peering out between the pant legs and he stared directly into my eyes.

I immediately felt uncomfortable and sensed this was someone very high and largely unstable. I looked away quickly and kept moving.

I started class and everything was moving along as it should. Near the end of the sun salutations, I notice the man with the pants as a hat walking on the other side of the fence behind the class. The pant legs hung down the sides of his head like some kind of insane Disney-type Goofy knock-off.

I continued class and lost sight of him. Just as I was about to forget the entire thing, I hear a rustling in the vines covering the fence to my right. I think someones dog is digging around and then suddenly a naked man is walking through my class. He is walking very slowly and his movements remind me of the old Sasquatch films. He is 100% naked… not even shoes. bigfoot

He is very pale and built like a fucking Marine. As he slowly walks across my field of vision, he looks over his left shoulder at me for a moment and keeps moving. But very slowly. A couple students say, “Oh my God.”

As he gets halfway through the class, I decide I should do something. What that is, I do not know, but it is my class and I feel somehow responsible for the people attending who now have a naked man strolling amongst them.

I walk towards him slowly. I guess he is probably going to kill me with his bare hands, so I stay back but try to direct him towards the exit.

Thankfully, he moves in that direction. I’m about 4 feet behind him as he walks through the gate. He turns around and looks at me, puts his hand on the gate and says, “Do you want me to close the gate?” And he walks away without closing the gate.

I am relieved. I watch him walk out the entrance of the park. I thought of a book I saw on my parents’ shelves as a child: The Naked Ape. I go back to teaching but am told the next part by a friend.

My friend sees him walk out of the park. The naked, very in shape, very pale man stops at the honor snack bar. People are moving away in all directions. He picks up a banana from the snack bar and begins walking south on Fuller Avenue. My friend grabs a towel from his car and runs up to the naked man now holding a banana and extends the towel to him.

The naked man takes the towel, hands my friend his banana and continues to walk down the street holding the towel, but not using it to cover himself.

After class I walked over to the other side of the fence that he had jumped as his entrance. All of his clothes were on the ground, meticulously laid out in a pattern around the tree… it reminded me of the back of an old Pink Floyd album. pinkfloyd

He had pinned a note to the tree. It was chicken scratch and I could only make out a girl’s name: Debbie.

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Written by Daniel Overberger

Edited by Nancy Winebarger

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Yoga Asylum #2 – Tree Huggers and Tree Haters

As most of you know, I teach a yoga class in a park in Los Angeles. These classes started over 15 years ago. We were the first to have regularly scheduled classes in a park. Now everybody does and it’s no big deal.

I walked into the class area one morning and two young men were standing by a palm tree. One of them was punching and kicking the tree. His hands were bleeding and the other guy was egging him on. Some of my students had already shown up and they were watching, with horrified looks on their faces.

I’m going to admit I was a little pissed that this guy was beating on this tree. I definitely wanted him to stop and go away.

I walked up and put my mat down a few feet from the tree (where I always set up) and the guy with bloody hands says, “WHAT? Am I in your way?”

I say, “No. You’re fine. But what did that tree ever do to you?” Which, now that I think about it, was just about the worst possible thing I could have said.

Some of the students laughed out loud and someone yelled, “Stop kicking that tree! You look like an idiot!”

The guy turned to me and said that age-old phrase, “You got a problem?”

I was standing there holding my kombucha bottle. I refill it every day because I hate plastic and it makes less trash. But I’m thinking, “Oh shit, this guy kicking and punching the tree with his bloody hands is going to try and fight me.” My second thought was, “When he attacks, smash him in the head with your kombucha bottle.” I instantly saw a headline: “Local Yoga Teacher Breaks Kombucha Bottle Over Head of Potential Student”.

This seemed like a bad thing to me and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to resolve the situation so I could teach my class. I thought, “This yoga teaching job is getting dangerous.”

I stepped back a little and realized the guy with the bloody hands was not only a little messed up, he was now trapped and possibly embarrassed… all these yoga people looking at him wanting him to leave and stop beating up a tree.

I remembered reading “The Art of War” and it said to always give your enemy an escape. In that moment, I began to understand why. If someone has their back against the wall—even if it’s just an emotional/ego thing—they will fight to the death. I did not want that. Even with my deadly kombucha bottle.

I asked his name and surprisingly he told me. I said, “Oscar, I’m sorry this got out of hand and that I may have seemed confrontational,” then extended my hand and, again to my surprise, he shook it and began to walk out of the class.

As he walked out he continued to look back over his shoulder. I kept thinking he was going to change his mind and run back and tackle me.

But he didn’t. So I taught my class. I felt lucky.

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Written by Daniel Overberger

Edited by Nancy Winebarger

Yoga Asylum

It was a perfect morning for yoga in the park. Warm enough, but not yet the stifling heat of the summer. It was a Goldilocks day.

Class had been moving along nicely and we were about at the halfway point. A young guy walked into class, right to the middle of class. He was a half hour late, which is lame, but I normally don’t say anything because traffic in this town can be bad, worse and most of all unpredictable.

But if you’re a half hour late you don’t walk to the middle of the class and throw your mat down. You stay at the back entrance so you don’t bother people.

He walked to the center of class, brought his hands to pray and bowed to me. I knew I was in for a rough ride.

He starts taking his clothes off. I immediately remember the time the guy walked through class naked and didn’t really want a repeat.

But our new guy, in the middle of class, takes everything off except his tighty whiteys—which were actually green—and I say, “Please tell me you’re stopping there.” He smiles, keeps his underwear on and starts doing yoga. Everything except what I am telling the class to do.

We’re doing a simple forward bend and he’s doing breath of fire and moaning. It’s a public space and I can only be so territorial so I let it go, knowing class will end soon. I stay focused and move ahead. I thought, “Maybe I should say something,” but I was almost certain he would have told me he was a yoga teacher, too. And by the look of the junk in his tighties, I was pretty sure he was on something that included amphetamines. Yeah, I looked. It was right there. He was in the middle of class. I would like to have looked away, but it was not an option.

Class finally ends and everyone is in savasana (laying down). He actually does this, but starts shaking and whacking his arms on the ground and then yells something I don’t understand, like some kind of chant or incantation. At this point, I say in a loud voice, “I am going to need you to be quiet and not move for the next two minutes,” and he listens.

After class, he approaches me. It’s like that person allergic to cats whose lap the cat just can’t stop from sitting on. He wants to introduce himself. First thing he tells me is his shakti is super strong and he has mastered manifestation. He says he is a recent multi-millionaire and doesn’t know what to do with all his money.

I tell him forty thousand men, women and children are homeless in LA and maybe he could start there.

He says, “Oh yeah, okay,” and then tells me how he died at Burning Man and the aliens picked him up and told him he was an archetype. I was kind of sure he didn’t know what archetype meant but didn’t say anything because I was trying to end the conversation.

He then says, “If I give you $500, will you let me do whatever I want in class?”

I say, “Absolutely fucking not.”

By this time, I have my stuff gathered and all the students have left their donations, looking at me and rolling their eyes as they left.

He said, “I guess I need someone to tell me to shut up once in a while.”

I said, “Happy to be of service,” and made my escape.

At least this dog was very well behaved in class. But he looked a little nervous.

At least this dog was very well behaved in class. But he looked a little nervous.

The origins of Black Market Yoga

I was in Chinatown eating Thai food. Yes, I’ll say it again: I was in Chinatown eating Thai food. I had been bouncing around with a few  spaces that I was teaching yoga in. At this point, none of the studios were interested in having me on staff. Even back in the day it was a little crowded. I knew I was going to have to do it on my own, or as Frank would say, “My Way”. I looked up at the skyline in Chinatown and there was a tall abandoned building someone had broken into and spray painted large art on the windows of the top floor. I immediately thought I should break into this building too, but instead of doing graffiti, I could teach a yoga class. I instantly had a vision of me with a crow bar breaking windows and teaching classes in every abandoned building in Los Angeles. I then had a vision of me getting arrested and I was OK with that. Then I had a vision of you getting arrested. Then I had a vision of me being the only one to show up to these B & E yoga classes. I eventually decided to rent a space instead.

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