There was a point in my life where I was doing a lot of yoga. Taking it, teaching it, eating it up.
Then, I moved to LA. For many people, a move to LA is probably the entry point to yoga, but I just never had the time or patience to connect to a studio there. I found a place kinda close to my apartment, but it was still driving distance, and the classes just weren’t my style. My ability to do endless chaturangas faded by the day.
But, I’m happy to report that coming to Cape Town has led to a rediscovery of the wonders of yoga. There’s a studio here that’s run by the same person who founded the franchise I taught at in the States. Who knew he was a Capetonian? The classes are hot, intense, and packed. After a day of sitting still and transcribing interviews, an hour of power vinyasa at this place feels like heaven. Combined with all the walking, my body just feels better than it’s felt in a long time. I’ve regained a lot of strength and flexibility that LA seems to have zapped.
Sometimes when I think about the three years I spent in Portland, scooting from funny job to funny job (toy company to a farm run by dwarfs, anyone?), I wonder what the hell I was doing there for so long. But I think I forget that a lot of those years were consumed with yoga. Teacher training took months. I’d sometimes teach 3 classes a day in just as many locations and come home feeling exhausted and anti-social. But it was those many trips to and from far-flung studios that I really discovered podcasts and started connecting to radio. And now, being in Africa, working in radio, and feeling fabulously re-inspired by yoga, I see that all those years weren’t just wasted youth. They were laying a foundation. At the time, I just wasn’t sure for what.
But some things still feel weird. First of all, why is yoga here so, well, white? My classes in Portland, one of the “whitest” cities in America were more diverse than the classes I’ve gone to here, in a country where white people make up only 9% of the population. Granted, that percentage is about double in Cape Town, but still, I don’t pass 10 white people on my busy walk to work in the morning, but within a half hour after work, just down the road, 40 white people are crammed in a room together exhaling in child’s pose.
I’ve been to two studios where this is the case, and they also happen to be the first two studios that come up when you do a Google search for “Cape Town yoga.” So maybe all yoga here isn’t white, just the ones with the best SEO.
Another thing that strikes me are the yoga truisms that get thrown around studios all the time and never really bothered me in the States but are somehow harder to swallow here. The one that really gets me is “May all beings everywhere be happy, peaceful, and free.” Yes, apartheid is officially over, and on paper, everyone here has the opportunity to be happy, peaceful, and free. But you only have to go a couple miles outside of city center to realize that this is not the case. The ramifications of apartheid are brutal and long lasting, and when upper class whites are sitting in a climate controlled studio wishing each other peace and happiness, part of me thinks, “Yeah, OK, let’s send those good vibes out into the world,” but a bigger part of me wants to scream, “Are you kidding me!?”