We hear things all the time like, “there are only two kinds of people in the world,” or, “there are only eight personality types.” Blah. blah, blah. There’s usually some truth to it too, that people fit certain archetypes. These categories of people are usually observed when groups get together from all walks of life to do the same activity. How they act, respond, communicate and such reveal them. The best venue for this I’ve discovered…yoga.
In a yoga class, particularly in the southern hippie town of Asheville, that’s become quite the cultural sampling, everyone wears their true selves like a new outfit to flaunt. It cannot be helped…we are doing the same exercises, in the same hundred degree room, fighting something, whether it be the heat, the hard postures, or the honey-baked ham we cannot resist. It’s impossible for so many people to be doing the same thing, at the same time, without showing vastly different personalities. It’s evident in the places struggle occurs for each individual, the facial expressions one makes, or most of all, during the meditation portion.
The teacher instructs us all to close our eyes, not look around, and meditate on whatever we feel we should be…it’s to be a very personal time. Though, I’ve found it’s hard to have a truly personal moment in any group setting because we’re still aware of everyone else’s presence, even in the most legit yoga class.
My writer inside started whispering to me, “Lorna, open your eyes against the rules, and check out what everyone’s doing,” it said in its instigative tone that gets me every time.
“No,” I respond, “I am going to meditate on things that are plaguing me, and not bother with others.”
“But, Lorna, you’re a people watcher. This is the thing plaguing you…what great writing it will make…” the impish presence whispered again.
It had me, and my eyes popped opened. I was now the one that likes to look at and dissect others. I am the curious one. I am the one struggling through my own posture, while hating myself for critiquing others for my own pleasures. I am the girl who put on make-up to attend yoga, who is secretly angry she isn’t the best, looking for an ego boost and writing material at once. I am the one proud of myself for being there, but a bit insecure all the while. I am the one knowing it is impolite to look, but without the will-power to fight the urge. I am hungry and a little too self-serving for my own approval. I am an honest person though, and will not peek slyly. I will just spit at the rules and look, even if it reveals who I am.
First I notice the smug girl across the room from me. She has all the extras: yoga toes, a spray bottle to avoid slippage, and the name-brand yoga pants. However, she wears her hair in the strategically placed new-age fashion. It’s just unkept enough, and she’d die a painful death if anyone new she’d washed it salon-grade shampoo. She fights herself, the one she wants to be and one she is. She is not the best either, there is one woman better than her, and she NEVER looks at her. Instead she looks at the ones who aren’t as practiced as she, and she smirks, before pretending she notices nothing. She is passive-aggressive, and musters confidence by faking snobby behavior. I don’t find her interesting. She’s a dime a dozen, but very good at yoga. If she would stop thinking of the woman she can’t look at, she’d be much happier. I am most displeased by this girl’s presence. She is to me, what’s wrong with society, and I can’t describe to the uttermost why that is. I hate myself for hammering her so hard, for I am not perfect…but, I write what I see.
Then there is the woman the smug girl cannot look at. She is in impressive shape for a woman in her late fifties, and has obviously practiced for many years. She can bend into ways the rest of us can’t fathom while we pretend not to notice…except for me who gawks a bit. She is not smug, and perhaps the most secure of all of us. She does it because it challenges her every time, and I’m guessing helped her through a tough time in life. It is a passion for her, something she is in a decades-long love affair with. She is proud to show us what she’s done, but not conceited. I like her.
One of my favorites to peruse is the younger man who does not fit. His spirit reminds me slightly of my husband. He’s very athletic, but a fish out of water in the yoga world. He tries so hard, and is beginning to succeed. Yoga started for him as a bull to ride, and to conquer. However, he’s realized he’s playing a game to never be won, and he respects it. He is a true yoga practicer now, though he is surprised himself. He is still delightfully awkward, and no threat to anyone.
The young girl who sits beside me is pretty, but does not threaten me by her attractiveness. She is both my ally, and my advisary. We are about the same level…extremely flexible, angry we are not the best, doing this to push ourselves, but challenged by its brutality. We are halfway comfortable, and kind of want to be friends, though we don’t know how to start. She makes me feel more comfortable, and I don’t watch her as much. I get her, and I also don’t want to make her uncomfortable. Why do I not care about gazing at the others?
Lastly, there is the teacher. She is a yoga master, but unlike the other instructors, in that she isn’t in perfect shape. She’s much thicker than the typical yoga guru. I’m convinced she has a sweet tooth, and I’m thinking it’s a chocolate addiction. She is amazingly agile, graceful, and controlled. This is the thing that keeps her sane. However, the way she dresses in layers and darks reveals her acknowledgement to her body. She is only slightly overweight, but she knows it’s taboo among her peers. She offsets this insecurity by being quirky, and playing exciting music in her classes instead of middle-eastern mantras. She covers her thickness in rebellion. I like her fine; mostly indifferent.
I loved writing about this, but I hated it too. Maybe other writers will understand I am not picking these people apart, but picking the human condition in general apart. I have to observe, because that is my nature. I hate that it probably made someone horribly uncomfortable, and now I’m the one in class they can’t stand. However, I have to do it. I don’t know how many kinds of people there are in the world, if it’s two or eight, or seventy-three…I just know they were all in that class. They were who they were based on both their individualities and presence of others. All the secrets and all the science about what makes us who we are was right in front of me, and as a writer, I was obligated to look. At least, that is how my soul says to justify it. At the end of the day, I respect them all, even the smug girl. In some way I don’t know, they make me make sense to myself, and some sense of the world. We really are all standing on one big yoga mat all the time, fighting something like hell, in a world we are sharing. I just chose a scale-model locale to watch it go down.