Mark Hayes loses the plot after a free yoga class in LA

Mark Hayes finally caved and went to a free yoga class in Los Angeles, where he’s currently living. Despite his misgivings, he had a really transcendantal time — for a short while.

SO I’M IN Malibu, at a yoga studio, standing at the back of a crisp, clean, pure white room. White ceiling, white walls, white drapes and polished wooden floorboards. It feels like a dream sequence. 

I’m surrounded by beautiful, tanned, toned, limber people — the really annoying kind you see on TV. About 20 women and one other guy. They all look so at ease and comfortable in their own skin. Alas, not I.

My head is red, a porky kind of pink, and I’m pulling and tugging at my clammy black t-shirt and black UCC soccer shorts while sweating buckets from every angle. 

My mouth has ran out of saliva so it feels like I just ate a bowl of dust. My demeanour is of a beaten man, seeing as the hot, sticky, heavy air feels like a rug around my shoulders. 

Not sure what I’m actually doing either, besides trying and failing to keep up with whatever move the beautiful people are in the middle of doing. Time to just make up my own.

Right hand in the air. Left hand wherever. Kick a leg out behind me. Twiddle my right ankle around. Now lick my elbow. And yeah, that looks about right. I call it the Demented Donkey pose.

Until I lose my balance. Fall to my left hand side. Through the white drapes, out a swinging window. And now I’m doing what I like to call the half inside, half outside Demented Donkey. I’m unreal at this hot yoga malarkey. Yoga on!

Like most Irish people (I like to make broad, general, sweeping statements but then again, don’t we all) I never thought yoga would be something I’d get into. Always seemed a bit quare — something like juggling or badminton. How foolish I was.

Like most lost souls in Los Angeles, my first venture into yoga was the free yoga they give at Runyon Canyon, a hill where beautiful people go to hike and almost sweat, all in the hope of being discovered and cast in the leading role of the next big blockbuster movie. A hill of hope really.

Anyway, at the foot of the hill there is an area of grass with a few trees and butterflies and free yoga most days of the week. 

My friend Kai who is a big yoga fan and also a celebrity yoga instructor, coerced me into joining her there (her clients include Al Pacino and me, can’t get much bigger than that).

Things didn’t start well. Seeing as I didn’t have a yoga mat, I used a towel I grabbed before running out the door. Thought it was a large towel but nay, a nice hand towel of mine. It’ll have to do. 

Laid it down on the grass and went to kneel on it. It was then I realised I had picked the only muddy part of the field. It was the only part slightly in shade and I was already dying in the afternoon heat so obviously chose it. Surprised no one else had. Now I knew why.

Moved my towel over closer to Kai who was basking in the sun. Sat down and observed the crowd around me. About 20 girls and one other guy. Hmm. Why did I never consider these odds before. 

Most men are dumb clowns like me, they probably think they’re too cool for yoga — those fools, if only they were as enlightened as me they would see it’s a great place to meet women. Maybe yoga isn’t so bad after all.

Teacher arrives. Actually, there are three of them. A girl with dreadlocks, few clothes and a ridiculously fit body, a guy with a man bun, beard and slender yet ripped body, and a rather tubby guy who looks like he’s wearing pyjamas and a dressing gown, carrying what I would later find out is a sitar. 

They all smile and bow their heads, effortlessly descending into sitting cross legged, a position I still struggle to pull off.

(On a side note, never trust a guy who sits cross-legged on a couch. They’re always suspicious and have ulterior motives. Just an observation. Again, sweeping statements.)

The teachers and the students appear to be on the same page. As I’m shooing butterflies out of my face the rest of them start into the session. 

Stand up, no sit, lie on your back, now swivel, flip over and face down. Feels like I’m at Mass during the bit after the sermon and before the ‘Our Father’ when I always forget what to do: Stand, sit, kneel, pray, eat, love, leave?

Forty-five minutes later I’m a ball of frustration. My legs are sore, my hips are stupid, my back is aching, my skin is dumb and my head is pink from the stupid sunlight shining down on us. 

This yoga malarkey is awful. Except. Until. And then. We do one last final headstand, shoulder stand, do-the-best-you-can-and-don’t-hurt-yourself-stand. Legs in the air. Head and shoulders on the towel. Hands holding my back up. Blood rushing downwards. Getting light headed. But it’s nice. Calming. I’m feeling it.

Roll our bodies to the ground. Told to just lie there on our backs. Simmer. Close the eyes. Say nothing. Just be still. At first I’m fidgeting. 

Keep thinking butterflies are landing on me. Swatting at my face. Slapping my arms. Kicking my legs. Teacher again tells us to rest. Calm down. Just be. So I be.

Breathing through the nose. Out the mouth. Eyes shut tight. Thoughts racing. Like a big ball of wool all messed up in my brain. Keep breathing. Being. Nothing. Noticed the guy with the sitar was softly playing a song. Plucking and strumming. 

Distracting my dumbness. Breath slowing. Legs not kicking. Imaginary butterflies no longer buzzing. Thoughts calming. Body chilling. Shoulders down. Mind relaxing. And then: Pffff. Just like that. The ball of wool became a straight line. And I was clear again. Yoga had cured my mental mind.

It’s nuts when you stop being a narcissist and actually listen to what else is going on in the world besides your own pointless thoughts. 

Trees swaying. Birds chirping. Angry LA folk shouting at each other. All so peaceful, all in touch with Mother Nature. It was lovely.

After about 10 minutes of this bliss the teachers bring us out of the meditation. Everyone sits up, visibly more happy. Now I’m smiling and nodding at all the people around me who I had considered yoga hippies. Hey, how are you, yes, it is a lovely day, thank God we are alive. Peace out. 

All face the teachers, nod and give the customary, Namaswahey boss. Class has ended. Go in peace. Feel free to donate if you like. Sugar, forgot to bring cash. I’ll catch you next time boss, I swear.

This feeling of bliss lasted about all of five hours until some pointless traffic related activity made my thoughts get cluttered again. 

Still though, what a five hours. Went to lunch with Kai, actually listened to what she was talking about instead of just rambling on with my own gibberish non-stop. It’s nuts how well you can get to know someone if you actually listen to what they’re telling you. Who knew? 

After that I returned home observing all the time, really living in the moment, being, as we say in yoga land.

Until I decided to walk to the shop and some clown almost reversed his car into me, then the string became a ball again. 

Almost ended up in a fight with this oaf of an ignorant man. He mocked my hair, I mocked his tight t-shirt that looked like it would barely fit a baby, he couldn’t think of anything else to say so I mocked his large man boobs and won.

So yeah, clearly that man needed yoga in his life. It might’ve given him the clarity to think of something else to mock me about, the fool. Yo. Ga. On!



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