Confessions of a bad yogi

Last week, in London…

Overheard en route to the OM Yoga Show – on the bus to Ally Pally – one yogi to another, waxing really, really, REALLY enthusiastic about a favourite eatery which, despite really clear signage on the matter, really has trouble persuading people it’s ‘really vegan fish and chips…’

And, in case you – like me – are wondering how a fish can possibly be vegan… ‘vegan fish’, I later learned, is not ‘really’ fish at all (get away!) but slices of tofu ie. condensed soy milk.

But I guess ‘condensed soy milk and chips’ don’t sound quite as appealing do they? Even to vegans.

Ommmmm…

Loved our visit to the show, which also incorporated the Mind, Body, Soul Show. So many ways to drain the bank account. So many ‘schools’ of yoga thought to consider. So many ways to take your practice further, to teacher and beyond. So many paths to enlightenment.

Even got to do a 90-minute class with the inspirational Yamuna Zake (she of the Yamuna Balls, our private collection of which continues to grow).

But, oh my! So many ‘gurus’ too, all shiny eyes, soft voices and beatific smiles.

And so much wanton wackiness, I swear some of these people spend the other fifty-one weekends of the year dreaming up the weirdest, most New Age-y thing they possibly can. Stick a few bells, beads and tassels on it, flavour with saffron, waft through with patchouli, stir it all up with a crystal wand, order the pull-up display stand and Kerching! Next year’s path to your higher self!

And then there’s the ‘yoga guilt’. Or was that just me? Mentally discounting one yoga ‘intensive’ because it required a two-week abstinence from alcohol. Then another, asking for ‘at least’ thirty days without even a single cheeky glass.

Let me explain (before you get the wrong idea).

I’m not for one minute suggesting your mix your vino with your vinyasa – although, in both Manchester and London, thanks to the ‘Funzing community’, you can do pretty much that with Beer Yoga classes, designed to combine ‘the joy of drinking beer and the mindfulness of yoga’. They’ll even throw in a pool table.

It’s a regular theme with yoga bloggers – giving up alcohol, taking to the mat, finding redemption – and it comes from the heart. But so much of the ‘abstinence lighting the path to enlightenment’ stuff I’ve read also comes from what – for me – is a starting point of extreme alcohol (any alcohol!) and regular drug use. Drinking to obliterate. Little mention of simply enjoying a glass of good wine.

And, while I’m at it, this whole ‘clean eating’ thing, the assumption that if you’re eating anything at all these days without guidance from a necessarily ‘more enlightened’ individual, it must be junk – and to excess (because, heaven forbid any of us is capable of eating a balanced diet of our own devising).

The road to bliss is paved with pulses. Cheese isn’t real cheese, it’s mushed up cashews. Fish isn’t fish, it’s sliced up tofu. Bacon isn’t bacon, it’s rice paper marinated in Tamari, olive oil, yeast, garlic powder, ‘liquid smoke’ (whatever that might be), and maple syrup.

No, sounds lovely. Honestly. If that’s your bag, then fine. I respect your choice, but please count me out.

‘Bring protein bars’, advised one yoga intensive, ‘if you’re unused to eating a fully vegan diet.’

Memories of a weekend spent on a meditation retreat, a few years back, eating nothing but lentils and an awful lot of shredded cabbage and carrot (all of which I eat regularly) – but here with added tofu (which I don’t) – followed by a tortuous, two-hour drive home, doubled over the steering wheel, crippled with stomach pain, and that was another one off the list. Haven’t touched condensed soy milk since, incidentally, in any of its forms. Nor am I about to.

And, frankly, I’m not sure what two solid weeks-worth of protein bars would do to the old digestive system either.

I’m a ‘flexivore’, apparently, a ‘bad yogi’ – and not just because I’m still not quite there with my Crow (Bakasana), or one day’s perfectly grounded Tree (Vrksasana) can just as easily be another day’s wind-wobbled sapling.

I eat meat – but not every day. I also eat eggs and cheese and yoghurt, and drink cow’s milk (I know, I know. I’m a terrible human being), but I’m partial to almond milk, too. I eat a lot of fish. (You know, actual fish. Looks like fish. Smells like fish. Tastes like, um, fish). And a heck of a lot of fruit, veg, seeds and, yes, even lentils.

And let’s not forget the chocolate – although it does have to be 90% cocoa these days – and the occasional cake. And then there’s the wine. Sometimes <whisper it > after an evening yoga class.

Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a full blown yogi?

Bakasana
…and for the non-yogis, just so you know, this is Bakasana or Crow Pose – not demonstrated by me, obviously. But maybe one day I too will balance effortlessly on my forearms, on a rock, in front of a camera. I’ll keep you posted.

It’s different up north…

Speaking of which, taking a class or two at Triyoga in Soho, in between the ‘culture vulturing’ and shopping, was an experience. The classes were great but, seriously, does anyone ever crack a smile? Or even speak to anyone else?

At one Yin Yoga class – by definition, in the words of the teacher, ‘not dynamic’ – one very serious-faced lady launched into several rounds of Sun Salutations, complete with every warrior, lunge, twist and chair variation and lots of very noisy jumping back and forth, while the rest of us lay in peaceful wait for the class to start.

This same lady had earlier tutted loudly, with an exasperated shake of her head, at the clearly offensive sight of me lying with my feet at the wrong end of the mat. (God, I’m such a hick!). At the time there were only two of us in the studio, I’d not done a class there before, I’d arrived first and it wasn’t immediately apparent which side the teacher would work from.

Like I said, bad old yogi.

But here’s the thing. Here I am, coining the term ‘bad yogi’, and seems someone got there before me. Erin Motz, a Florida-based yoga teacher kickstarted her Bad Yogi business a handful of years ago with an article in the Huffington Post.

She too eats ‘real’ cheese, drinks red wine and beer, likes her steak cooked medium rare and wears mascara.

There’s hope for me yet.

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