The Songs We Sing in Yoga

Disruption breeds in the soul. Then the mind chickens out.

I am a quiet person. This is what you become when you’re raised by soft-spoken parents in suburban Ohio, where no one likes a ruckus. I live in Los Angeles now, but I’m still disinclined to make anything resembling a ruckus. I don’t even like honking my car horn. I once held a DEFCON-5 pee for an entire transcontinental flight so as not to disturb my aisle-seated neighbor.

I worry about how quiet I am because it’s held me back. In the modern world, success seems to be reserved for loud, brassy personalities. Elbow-throwers. Firebrands. #Disruptors.

But maybe, by dint of effort, I could become one? So I decided to perform the rap from TLC’s “Waterfalls” during final savasana at my local yoga studio.

The logic (as warped as it might seem) was this: If I could bust out a nostalgic rap in a room full of unsuspecting L.A. yogis, maybe I could progress toward bigger, louder disruptions, until I’d finally cured myself of my pathological quietness.

In general I like yoga. Well, there are a few aspects I can’t get behind. I do hate final savasana—the last posture of every session, where you lie flat like a cadaver in total silence, allowing your body to “absorb the information” it was given during class. They say it’s the most important posture of all, but c’mon. I feel trapped in final savasana. I fidget. I think about the parking meter. I scream inside my head like Johnny Got His Gun.

I’d considered other song selections: Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” which is mellow and in my range; “Seasons of Love” because I suck and have bad taste. Ultimately, I settled on TLC’s “Waterfalls” rap because of how incongruous it would be within the context of a yoga class. Nobody expects to hear the words “tootin’ ‘caine” rapped out loud while lying in savasana.

So on a recent Friday evening, I arrived at a Bikram studio on the east side of L.A., intent on making my benign ruckus. I thought about getting high beforehand, but I worried that I’d forget the rap.

I watched the usual characters trickle in. Taut young women. Duplassian men. Two tiny 50-something ladies who looked like they might be named Vivian. Also there was a bearded man wearing Lycra shorty-shorts covered in the PokerStars logo. (PokerStars is a poker website where players can redeem their winnings for swag. I know this only because I dated a PokerStars player who once redeemed his points for a PokerStars lanyard.) Anyway. I spent the first hour of class wondering how much poker one had to play to get Lycra shorty-shorts.

“No singing!” snapped a voice from the other side of the room. (One of the Vivians, I’m sure of it.)

As the class ended, doubts crept in. Really, Sarah? Rapping during yoga? That’s not transformative disruption, that’s just pointless performance art. The lights went down, the namastes were said. I thought I might lose my nerve entirely, but sure enough, the oppressive silence of final savasana started getting to me.

I tried to expel the first rap lyric, but it caught in my throat. I tried again…

“I’ve been afraid of changing…”

Oh for crissakes. I was singing “Landslide.” Why had I welched on TLC? I guess the incongruity of yoga and ’90s rap cowed me at the last minute. “Tootin’ ‘caine” had felt like a bridge too far. Disappointed, I forged ahead.

“Time makes you bolder, children get older…”

And then the Christmas miracle occurred: someone nearby—one of the taut young women—actually began humming along. Soon enough, one of the Duplassian men joined in. I sang louder, my verve restored. They’d wanted this too. They’d been waiting for someone to flip the final savasana script!

“Take my love, take it down…”

“No singing!” snapped a voice from the other side of the room. (One of the Vivians, I’m sure of it.) I stopped immediately, embarrassed, wishing that the antimicrobial flooring would swallow me whole.

And then the second Christmas miracle occurred. A male voice arose from the dark, offering this modest rebuttal: “I thought it was beautiful.”

(PokerStars? I have to believe it was PokerStars.)

As I skulked out of the studio, I didn’t quite feel like a proud #disruptor. I felt like an asshole who’d ruined final savasana for Vivian. But someone had deemed it beautiful. And I suppose that’s the nature of disruption—some will welcome it, others will not.

And it had been kind of nice, doing something to the world and eliciting a response. So I’m not abandoning this project just yet. And the good news is, I’ve still got TLC in my back pocket. I’m flying Southwest soon—do you think they’ll welcome a surprise guest rapper over the in-flight intercom? I guess we’ll find out. #Disrupt #Namaste #SelfActualizationIsReallyReallyHard

Repurposed from Kindland with thanks and respect.

Sarah Streicher is a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles.
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