“Is the sacred space in question above or below the concrete?” I ask. Our yoga instructor has just asked us to put away our electronic umbilical cords, and give her our undivided attention. Except, instead of phrasing it that way, she uses the oddly-worded, “Please respect this sacred space.” Again, I don’t think she enjoys me pointing out that a bed of concrete over the sacred space — while practical and helpful to human endeavors (even yoga) — is not really a “natural” or “environmentally beneficial” thing.

Even though Im going to shred this whole, weird, “Moonlight Ceremony” (which took place during the day)(this is absolutely true), you need to understand that I actually liked it. A lot. However, much like my beyond-weird UFO tour, it’s the weird, “let’s keep hard-selling this thing” new-age attitude thing that’s hard not to point at and giggle. I mean, they had me at “outdoor yoga,” they don’t need to add all this weird BS about crystals and sound baths.

I’ve also realized that there are two different types of yoga class; one which has all these annoying, neo-hippie cultural vestiges (I wish I could have been at that planning meeting where it was decided, “We’re bringing back the hippies, but without the casual sex, weird drugs, and traveling, Bohemian lifestyle.”), and the other, which is run much more like a gym class for adults (“Downward dog! Go now!”). Obviously, there’s one approach I prefer, but, in the spirit of open-mindedness, I do find myself in the occasional New Age-y ones. After which, I privately snicker at and belittle everything, in the spirit of pettiness.

Pro-tip: people with healing crystals do not appreciate it when you ask if you can borrow the crystals for a stoning

I don’t know if it’s an aspect of capitalism, or a weird distortion of neo-hippie-ism that invites people to continue selling their product after money has changed hands, but it leads to some truly bizarre behavior, from “praising UFOs” (that was in Sedona) to a white woman literally reading from a script about how Virgo and the moon… do something. I dunno; it has something to do with astrology, which I have significantly less faith in than the tooth fairy. Also, I was kind of looking around taking in the utter majesty of nature, and awing at the way the afternoon light and cloud cover almost made the mountains behind us move. Our instructor was still reading from her script (another problem with hype post-transaction is that it distracts you from other business opportunities: If our yoga instructor had turned around and said, “And I will let you all wish upon those magic, mystical peaks — photo op included — for $1.” everyone would’ve grabbed their wallets). Leading me to a thought which I am fairly certain has never been experienced in human history, “Can’t we just get to the meditation, already?”

I mean, it’s going to be a strip-mall in 40 minutes, and this is a 3 hour class

While I’m on the subject of yoga instructors who read weird drivel from single-spaced scripts, it’s worth noting that yoga instructors tend to come in two varieties; lithesome, waifish, perfect-orthodontured white women who incessantly smile; and personal trainers of varying types who are clearly doing this as a weekend gig (you can guess which one corresponds with which type of yoga class).

I‘m often asked how much of my writing is fictitious or exaggerated. My usual response is, “Much less than you’d think. Maybe 10–15%.” Honestly, I’m not creative or imaginative enough to top the bizarre antics people get up to on their own. And it’s worth noting that I never go into these things with a snarky, ulterior writer’s motive to make fun of them; I just go, and people do awesomely weird and stupid things when I’m there. Which is why I can honestly tell you, after the weird, rambling, opening monologue (again, it was printed out for reference) covering everything from astrological signs to the origins of yoga to Native American spirit guides (there’s cultural appropriation, and then there’s Grand Theft Auto: Anthropology), we got down to the serious business of meditation. After all of that, and that introduction about flash photography, the instructor starts a wireless speaker playing natural sounds. In case the ludicrous ironies are not apparent, let me depict the scene for you. A group of several-dozen students lying down, in the middle of gorgeous desert mountains, with a light (and audible) breeze going in the background, and someone starts playing nature sounds over the actual nature sounds. In the moment, I’ll admit that I was only somewhat aware of the bizarre aspects of the scene (which actually happened — I’m only focusing my attention on the more-insane aspects of this experience), because of the whole “glory of nature” aspect of the experience, but, in retrospect, somehow, this is a group of white people actually, magically, becoming even whiter.

The rest of the yoga class was great-albeit-grueling. Mostly because, no matter how much icing you put on it (or burbling creek sound effects you play over it), two hours of yoga is still two hours of P.E. And, to be fair to the instructor, I did finally get into some positions I had previously been unable to achieve (Pigeon Pose and Twisted Dragon!)(those might also be fruity cocktails; I don’t know who comes up with these names). So, in the end, even though I was treated to some bizarre shenanigans, I did get a great yoga class.

And maybe inner enlightenment

Written by

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”

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