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Despite misgivings, I took a Yoga class this afternoon, leaving work a little early to do so. I felt that I needed some stretching and strengthening and decided I could brave the alien tribal customs (would I have to sacrifice a chicken? Eat…TOFU?) in the cause. The studio seemed straight forward enough–no incense, no tinkling bells–and displayed a sensible arrangement of entry room and dressing room.
I will own that I have taken Yoga classes before, and have been put off by all this Feeling the Life Energy and Sacred Alliance with the Earth and all. But, as I said, I needed the stretching.
The instructor introduced himself, a lean man in tiny shorts and t-shirt, who sported a tattoo encircling one meager thigh. He had an odd piping voice, and a tendency to end phrases with a humming sound–“open your chest, Hmmm, breathe deeply, Hmmmm.” However, whatever his sartorial shortcomings (ha ha) he put us through a variety of challenging exercises, and I left feeling I had undergone quite a workout.
So THAT’s good. And on the way back to the Metro for the ride home there was a man playing Stomping at the Savoy on the saxophone, and that was even better.
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While I cannot deny that I am a combative person, I generally manage to withstand the urge to confrontation, subsiding into a gentle murmur of conciliation. The milk of human kindness may be curdling in my veins, but I put a good face on it, and try to see the sunny side of whatever the tendentious drivel I am being subjected to.

All right, perhaps I should say, opinions which I do not share that I am being subjected to.

However, yesterday I found myself unaccountably drawn into an idiotic discussion, perilously close to confrontational. It happened that after a rather challenging ballet class, one of the women in the changing room mentioned something about how tiring it had been, and how she should, she really should, try to come more than once a week. She is a lovely and gentle person, whom I have known for years. Instantly another woman piped up, about how EVERYONE should do this, EVERYONE should do that, at least 20 minutes a day, heart rate, blah blah blah. She is one of those meager little persons, not an ounce of fat on her gristly little body, face heavily made up, a mane of bright yellow hair–a fitness instructor, she said. She irked me, I admit it, but it is only now upon thinking it over that I see why I bothered to launch into some anti-exercise regime polemic (quite contrary, of course, to my normal view on exercise) –I was offended for my friend, who was being lectured by the meager person. But anyway, as I blathered on, it occurred to me that despite the fact that I was only arguing to be contrary, it is quite true that our culture, with its constant insistence on the sacrament of exercise, neglects what should be its complement: developing our thinking and feeling powers: our souls, in fact.

And the vision of all those thousands and thousands of excruciatingly bored men and women, treading and treading endless treadmills in the countless gyms of the land is a chilling one. Once it was a punishment for criminals; now it is a self inflicted activity for the well-to-do. O tempora o mores!

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