Why We Judge.

I try really hard not to be judgemental– it’s not something that comes easy to me, you see. I’m a Virgo by will and a Virgo by nature. I often feel as though other people are weak-willed. Particularly when they walk out of a Bikram yoga class.

I try not to judge, as I said– but I do– a lot.

Two people walked out of the 5:30pm class this afternoon at the Bikram yoga studio I co-manage in Darlinghurst.

Immediately I was unimpressed, before catching myself– Lex, come on mate, show compassion, we can’t all be on the same page at the same time– Who knows what’s going on for them.

Bikram Choudhury clearly states in his Beginner Yoga Dialogue that no one is to leave the room throughout the duration of the 90 minute class. He doesn’t stipulate this to be dictatorial or dogmatic, he says this because it’s the most important thing about yoga, which is life really, once you start to untangle it… A flat mate, whom I began practising Bikram yoga with, initially, in Melbourne, would often say that who you are in that hot room is who you are on the planet. I liked that he’d say this. Because I agreed entirely. If it’s too hot in here, it’s certainly going to be too hot out there. If it’s too hard in here, of course it will be too hard out there. If it’s too crowded or you don’t like the accent of your instructor or you didn’t wear the right outfit or you ran out of water or any other number of excuses you might care to justify to yourself– I guarantee they’ll all continue to exist and grow as they manifest outside in the big, bad world.

Yoga is loaded with metaphors for me, and the more I practice the more I realise I am only just beginning to chip away at the surface of this glorious beast. It’s limitless. And so very, very important for everyone to be doing every day in some way. I really believe that.

The first casualty this afternoon was a woman who said she’d not dressed appropriately for the class. I was in a mood, so I didn’t really give her everything I could’ve. It’s tricky. Because in part, it’s a waste. Like counselling a drunkard or enlightening a maniac. They’re not entirely present. What’s the point? Not that this woman was absent in an intoxicated sense, but in a yogi sense– She left her will power at the door. I find that hard to respect.

I suppose it’s also worth a note, for those not familiar with the practice, or yoga at all– that by staying in the room you’re completing the task you set out for yourself. Staying in the room doesn’t mean you have to bust your balls or look strong or graceful or disciplined. You can actually just lie down, calm yourself, enjoy the heaters– You don’t have achieve much more– and to be fair and entirely honest– sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I start from the very beginning, like a new born, I can’t do jack. I can’t get on top of my breathing or my thoughts. I can’t concentrate. I’m unfocused. I’m angry. I’m agitated. It’s really fucking hot. I hate this teacher, she’s an idiot. I actually hate this city. I hate myself. I’ve run out of fucking water. What the fuck am I doing here?

My experiences are hardly unique. Everyone feels like this sometimes– that’s why they come back. Because that feeling, that thing that comes up, well, it has to come out– because if it doesn’t, well… we all know what happens when energy stagnates.

So, like I was saying, while trying to show this woman some sort of compassion I was also judging her. A lot.

I looked at her outfit. She had tracksuit pants on, a singlet top, a long sleeve top and she was petite as they come–

“What have you got on under that?” I asked her, gently.

“Oh this? Umm… Look, I’ll just come back when I’ve dressed more appropriately.”

“You wearing underwear?” I asked her in my best Australian drawl.

“Cause, to be fair, I just wear a leotard hey, who cares what you fucking look like. You have to face yourself. In that mirror. That’s yoga.”

I continued on with my work because I knew exactly what was going on here and I didn’t have the time or the energy to engage in that particular conversation with this woman, properly.

I didn’t want to do it half-arsed.

I didn’t want to hurt her by being blunt or insensitive.

But I did want her to know that I could see that she’d given up on herself. And that the only way to really turn that around would be to pick up her mat and her towel and toddle back in…

I recall vividly a class I had my second week in to my very first Bikram Yoga 10 Day Pass.

My endometriosis had gotten so bad it was virtually impossible to complete any of the spine strengthening exercises during the floor series as I could hardly bare the sensation of my entire body weight on my pelvis or abdomen. I was crying quite furiously after ustrasana (interestingly, the release of all the chakras and one emotional past)– and this frustrated me. A lot. It made me hate myself. And hate my body for not being capable of working efficiently. I has been crying a bit in this particular class– which is no big deal really, in a Bikram yoga class as you’re hot and sweaty and red-eyed already, plus you can always bury your head in your towel. I wasn’t feeling embarrassed I was just feeling terribly, terribly sad. Too sad. And it was too fucking hot. So I got up to leave.

The instructor on this particular day was an Irish woman who didn’t strike me much as looking like a Bikram yoga instructor at all.

She wasn’t particularly toned, she was inarticulate– which always gets my hackles up– first and foremost and she had really sensitive Irish skin, the kind that welted and flared with red if she’d scratch her back or arm or leg. And here’s the thing– the funny thing– It doesn’t matter whose conducting the class, or where they’re from or what they look or sound like, if you’re confronted, if you’re being challenged you’re going to hang your hook on any old thing– Quite literally– and on this particular occasion it was her skin that I’d decided was the clincher– I need to get out of here. I can’t be here too much longer. I need a drink. I need some air. I need a cold shower. A swim in the sea. Someone who gets me. Loves me. Knows me. I need to blow my nose. I need to pee. I need to have my reproductive organs removed.

Who you are in the room is who you are in the world…

I knew I was giving up, I didn’t give a fuck.

I’d had enough of facing myself for one day– and this is what makes people leave the room. They blame it on the heat or their outfit or they’re hangover but I remain convinced it’s mans will, not his way that grants him permission to leave or stay.

So I picked up my mat and I picked up my towel, my water bottle and my sad sack of shit that had failed me in so many ways and began to leave the room.

“Alexandra Coffey you’re not leaving the room… Not today…”

My fair skinned Irish instructor said this gently but firmly.

“Not today,” she repeated herself. “Today you will you stay in the room. It’s really important Alexandra, you not leave the room…”

I’d gotten to know this instructor a little bit in my two weeks practicing yoga at the studio in Fitzroy. She was privy to my health scenario and we shared an Irish surname, so she was on to me–

“Not today…”

“It’s really important that you stay…”

I glared at her, my limp, wet mat and towel in one hand, my water bottle in the other.

My eyes red and puffy. She knew exactly what was going on and all of a sudden I ceased to see her skin, or her posture, which I’d always thought was quite average– and I saw her. Entirely.

Who you are in the room is who you are in the world…

I could see she was trying to give me something. And I was well aware that I needed something. So I stayed. I put down my mat, my wet, sweaty towel, I stood up straight and tall and began again, from the beginning, like a frigid baby with a queazy tummy–

And we were fast friends from there on in–

She had my back, I could tell.

We had a good chat after class.

I want you to start practising without water….” She suggested. “I can see this is really hard for you… but this can heal you…”

So I returned to class the next day without my water bottle.

I quickly realised I was taking a sip from that damn thing every time I didn’t like what I was feeling or thinking. Any time I felt thirsty during that 90 minute class in 40 degree heat I realised I was just drinking to suppress the feeling. We talk, we eat, we drink, we inject, we fuck, we lie, we steal to fill the very same space– it’s not a void– that’s why we do it. There’s something there. And we don’t like it. So we quash it. We press mute. We want to leave the room.

The second candidate this evening was another woman who walked out some 30 minutes prior to the class concluding, saying repeatedly, “I just feel ill. Really ill.”

I suggested she not be so hard on herself. That’s it’s Christmas and everyone’s got a belly full of booze.

I reminded her that she can always just lie down. Close her eyes, though that makes nausea worse– i have found.

Keep your eyes open, lie in savasana, breath through your nose– Got me through my chemo– you know? It works. savasana really, really works–

It’s difficult for me, right now, because the thing I care about most, really, is yoga– The thing I think matters most is yoga– And it’s difficult for me because I never found myself in a Bikram yoga class wanting a hot arse and perky tits. I didn’t seek it out for reasons or vanity or self importance. I was desperate. Really, really, really desperate and I peddled past this studio one day in Melbourne and instinctively I knew I could find some kind of peace inside that building. And I did. And I have. And I continue to.

You know, that was nearly five years ago– and here I am– now on either side of the desk. I practice. And I work. I’d love to say that I teach, but that’ll come, my time will come, for now though, I’m not only engaged in that discipline as a student, Im a yogi– I run a yoga studio with two other very capable humans. We all work hard. We all care about this thing that we do.

My old man has always espoused to me the importance of remembering what it’s like to learn how to drive.

To be a beginner–

To begin again, from the beginning– and to never forget.

This is important to him. And because of that, it’s become important to me.

So when someone walks out of the room, during a class, I think all number of things– Immediately, I’m genuinely concerned– Are they ill, are they diabetic, are they having a panic attack, are they grieving, are they being dramatic, are they petite and pathetic, are they ok? Are they?

I can pretty well much tell right away what’s going on.

It’s a gift I have, in any given situation– I get it from my mum.

We’re perceptive little fecks, sometimes to our own detriment– It’s easy to get caught up in things early when you can read a book right away, cover to cover–

For now for my grand ending, which I impart upon you as I’m ready for a shower and have company soon arriving so, you know…

I saw a homeless junkie have a seizure today on Oxford Street. He bit his tongue and bled like a mother-fucker while his fellow junkie retinue just stood by, waiting for the moment to pass. A friend of mine, a paramedic, stood in my view so as to obscure what I might see. I stood on my tippy-toes, I don’t close my eyes much anymore. I don’t see the point. I watched this man as he gagged and turned blue, his blood thick and a deep red, not so healthy this particular junkie. I walked back to the studio feeling blue as blue as blue. Which was news to me, as I’d just had my very first private class with a newly recruited instructor whom I have come to know and trust–

My point being, it still makes me sad, sometimes yoga can really, really make me sad.

And I’m a woman, with a dicey endocrine system and I work hard to maintain my health– I often do all the right things but still– I find myself– years in to the sweat, walking out that fucking class feeling like a gimp. A pup. A mere babe in any wood.

Who you are in the room is who you are in the world…

I feel better now though, as I write this. And as I continue to show compassion and grace to the people I think could all be trying a little harder– Because I’m one of them, right? Even though I know what’s best for me I still want to leave the room. I still want to burst in to tears. I still want to run and hide. I still wish the instructor were funnier or more enlightened, wiser, older, braver–

Who you are in the room is who you are in the world…

And so I return.

To my blog that people read but seldom respond to directly.

To my life that often feels like it’s mainly uphill.

To my flat, which is neater now, since I boycotted Christmas.

And to my yoga, which I will continue to practice for the rest of my life– because Who you are in the room is who you are in the world…

and mans soul purpose in life, I reckon, is to arrange whatever pieces come your way– Each and every fucking day.

Who you are in the room is who you are in the world…



One Response to “Why We Judge.”
  1. RL says:

    Its nice to have a longer post to read again. You are a thought provoking writer, which is problematic only because i want to read more…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: