The Art of Yoga...And Faking It

Serious can be funny, too.

I had a unique opportunity this weekend to participate in The Art of Yoga, which is bringing yoga to modern art museums all over the country.

The San Francisco stop of the tour was at the SF Museum of Modern Art.

It was a free event, taught by Les Leventhal (of Yoga Tree...one of my new fave teachers) and Giselle Mari (my first class with her - and my first taste of Jivamukti yoga!). There were probably 150-200 yogis in the room, all having what - for most of us - was a rather early 8.30 am start time for Saturday yoga.

First question: Who's caffeinated? (not nearly enough of us)

No time to dwell on that, because they needed to let in actual paying museum guests at 10!

SF Yogis getting ready for early practice in the SF MOMA Hall
What cracks me up is that all while we are in this very serious, pristine setting, my biggest take-aways were about laughing, and remembering to keep it light.

It was a great practice, opened with chanting and setting of intention with Les, warm up and a large chunk of the class by Giselle, and then arm balances, and some other pinnacle poses with Les, followed by savasana.

In the short, 40-minute introduction that I had to Jivamukti with Giselle, I have two words: hard core. It is obvious that these yogis are no joke. Their reputation precedes them, and in my observation, seemed fairly consistent with what I had heard. The practice seems nicely structured, built on strength, and unique in the sequencing. I really liked it.

After the sun saluations, the end of the next standing sequence found us grabbing our foot with our hands and raising said appendage in front of us. It is a tough pose for balance and flexibility. Not at all a favorite of mine. I was actually impressed that I felt much more comfortable than I usually am as a result of the cue-ing that Giselle was providing (coming into the pose with the stabilization and thought that you would give yourself prior to easy-bird).

As we are lifting our foot, the woman next to me mutters "Oh, Jesus" under her breath, but a little louder than intended. It was a completely honest moment. And a few of us giggled because it was so funny - and well played.

And then Les came on the mike - his voice booming from the back of the room - "Well, Oh Jesus is right. Oh Allah, Oh Buddha. Somebody help me." Our section collapsed into laughter. My mat-mate had been so busted - but we all had - because we were all thinking the SAME EXACT THING.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the seriousness, the pushing into a pose, the difficulty of it all.

Sometimes, you have to just let it go. And laugh. Because, you know what? Holding your foot with your leg out in front of your body is awesome - and hard.

Amazing to practice in the middle of a museum. SFMOMA 10.8.11
 Jivamukti has a unique sun salutation pattern - variations on the main theme. So many of us were learning as we went.

When the crowd got serious and wrapped up in "getting" the sequence, Giselle advised our little big room of yogis to "fake it till you make it."

I really liked that thought.

If yoga was easy, and if we could pick it up in an instant, there would be no point in the journey. Like all other things in life, there is an element of taking a risk that you might put your right foot at the top of your mat when it should really be your left.

Who cares?

And as I smiled to myself, I realized that I was already faking it...and by the end of our sun salutations, I had gotten the sequence down. Not bad for a tap-dance and ballet drop-out at age 4.

As long as your heart is in it, a little faking will never hurt your practice. And it may actually make you more confident.

And laughter never hurts either. Especially at 8.30, when you aren't caffeinated yet.

Predictably, my first stop after class was Peet's coffee. And sipping my large brew, as I made the short walk home, I pondered the irony of practicing yoga surrounded by "real" art, all while coming to terms with faking it.

Yoga is all about the marriage of contradictions.