Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thanks for asking, but I don't feel like talking about my yoga practice with you right now

I never ever thought I'd get to this point, where I don't want to discuss yoga with people (specifically non-yoga practitioners. To my yogi friends: you guys don't apply to this category).

From the amount of yoga videos and yoga articles that I compulsively post on Facebook, most of my friends whom I haven't seen for a long time get the hint that I am slightly obsessed about yoga. When I first started yoga, I couldn't stop talking about it, whether people wanted to hear about yoga or not. Like a zealous religious fanatic, I would shove complementary yoga passes into people's hands and try to get them to come to a yoga class with me. Over time, I learned that most people have strong mental resistance against trying something new. Some people didn't enjoy physical education in high school and concluded that all physical activities suck, period. Others seemed to think that I would be so inconsiderate that I would take them to an advanced yoga class when they are not that active in their day-to-day lives (or maybe they think all yoga movements are too advanced for them). So I stopped mentioning yoga in social situations. However, whenever I meet up with friends, especially the ones who are on Facebook but whom I haven't seen for awhile, they would always casually ask me about my yoga progress. I get questions like "How's it going with you? Are you still doing yoga? (It's only been 2 years) Wow, you must be a yoga master by now"; "So which new poses are you learning lately?";  "Are you going to become a yoga teacher soon? That's not a bad profession, eh? Probably make a good side income."

For awhile I got so tongue-tied that I couldn't even answer them. I blame too many years of grad school for worsening my social skills (which were not so good to begin with). As a total nerd I'm pretty clueless about what people want to hear, since they obviously don't care for yoga. I do admit also I got a little offended by the implications of these questions (which I can't blame them because they honestly don't know much about yoga besides what mainstream media portrays it to be, but it still affected my ability to think straight), so I usually just answered, "Yep, still do it sometimes", and left it at that. I would get a somewhat stunned look and an awkward pause, before people clumsily find another topic to talk about. There's a good chance I have offended them for shutting down an innocently casual conversation-starter like that.

Upon some serious pondering (the only thing that a nerd like me knows to do), I believe that people want me to casually talk about my yoga progress, with a sense of humor, and maybe some gossip, as if I were reporting about my progress in, say, salsa dancing or figure skating: "Oh it's going great! I fell on my butt soooooo many times but I just mastered pirouetting on one foot last week!" "I'm so much more flexible now that before I started yoga. I used to not be able to touch my toes, and now I can almost do a split!" "OMG, there's this one yoga teacher who is super hot! Men who practice yoga have such nice bodies! I go to his class all the time, and he's the only teacher who can get me into a handstand! You should come try his class with me sometime! He has the most sexy voice ever and you'll feel so relaxed in this class!" "My butt is so much perkier now after all the yoga I've been doing. It's super awesome. The yoga inversions help reverse the aging effects that gravity has on a woman's skin and boobs! I feel younger than ever before!"

The above examples have nothing to do with my personal practice, by the way (or maybe some of them do, but I don't really talk like that in real life), but I think these are the type of things people who don't do yoga expect to hear. I'm not sure if they want me to sell yoga to them as a miracle panacea, make self-deprecating jokes about yoga, brag about how many poses I've mastered, demo some fancy asana on the spot, make claims about how close I am in becoming a teacher, or what. Fellow yogis and yoginis, please share your experience with me on this matter.

I guess I personally take (Ashtanga) yoga sort of seriously, even though I haven't been practicing it regularly. I'm not saying it has to be so serious; I'm just in a weird mental state at this moment and just don't feel like going along with what people want by feeding them superficial comments about yoga (I'm 99.5% certain they prefer to hear something short, funny and snazzy rather than how I'm trying to burn through my samskaras with metaphoric/energetic fire generated by breath and postures). Don't get me wrong; I'm not going through post-graduation depression. I'm feeling a sense of peace that I haven't felt for years, as I used to always have my thesis project in the back of my mind at all times. I don't really feel like defending myself or pretend agree with people when they make uncreative assumptions about my vacation plans, career plans, or my yoga practice. I'm aware my social behaviour makes me seem like a total snob, and I'm pissing off some of my friends. Let me be clear: I don't think I'm above other people. I just feel like I need to step off the hamster's wheel of social expectations (how to talk; how to behave; how to proceed through life in a conventional way) for a bit and just be. I'm pretty sure it's only a temporary phase, some sort of cognitive fatigue (societal expectation fatigue?) maybe. Once the phase passes I'll happily get back on the hamster treadmill and conform to social norms again.


  1. Nice post. I was going to write a long comment on this, but I decided that I should write a post on this topic instead of hijacking your comment thread. Stay tuned. :-)

  2. Amazing analysis Nobel. Thanks so much! I need to work on my non-geeky replies to friends still though.

  3. Speaking of which, I'm actually sick of people asking how I'm feeling or how my weekend was. If something amazing happened I'm sure I'd blurt it out or hear someone else gush about their day (which is awesome). On the yoga side I only mention my practice when it's relevant to a conversation on training or overall health. I do like joking about yoga what with all the warped postures and gender stereotyping and whatnot.

    Also, I may actually be a bit of a snob if only due the fact I was forced to mentally mature extremely quickly when I was around 8. This is a revealing read and I, like Nobel, might analyze further as well.

  4. Hi Jethro, thanks for your reply. It's easier to joke about yoga as a guy I think. I don't think my friends expect me to make sexualized jokes (knowing my personality), but they are also not interested in hearing longwinded geek speak. It's a crafty skill to be able to provide sound bites that will please people in social settings. Looking forward to reading your analysis!

  5. I like reading your blog because of your honesty. These are difficult things to describe (people having superficial expectations, difficulty dealing with well-meaning family, etc.). Nice to read about someone else having these thoughts.

    1. Thank you for the encouragement Hyena. Some people are able to put these kind of issues behind them easily. Others suppress it and it turns into some other problems. I wish I were the first type of person I mentioned, but I'm not. My hope is to be honest in my blogs but also find a way to let go and deal with my problems better in real life.