“Yeeaahh!” the yoga instructor roared, a deep guttural sound emerging from her throat. She sounded like she was celebrating a bowling strike after downing an entire pitcher of Bud Light all by herself. I was disturbed.
At the start of class, this instructor’s volume combined with the harshness of our already prickly and fricative English made me wince. I pitied those in the front whose earlobes I pictured isometrically reaching away from their heads, trying to sweep the sound further away from their eardrums.
This was not the yoga that I have become accustomed to over the last 15 years. Whether in Eugene or Portland, I expected a soothing, deep yoga voice that lilted over harsh consonants. I count on this breathy, calm, balanced, tone that communicates: “Yes, you are going to stretch and work your muscles in ways that will create sensation, but you are here to listen to the waves of your breath and your movement”… (not army commands). I count on this because yoga is my church. My “om”, my hymn. Rumi wisdom and yogi postures, my holy book.
Guttural-primal-yell instructor taught the second class I’d attended at a yoga campus in southeast Portland where I’d signed up for a two week trial. The first class I went to was markedly similar — an abrupt instructor speaking at decibels unnecessary for such a small space.
I couldn’t help but think: Is Oregon being invaded by transplant yogis and instructors who will create loud spaces where I go to be quiet? Is it overrun with more than just boxy apartment complexes and thousands more cars on the highway? Will the northwest new age hippy instructor of my younger years elude me as I search for a new yoga home?
Oh god, I hope not, I thought. And that was a damn prayer.
Weeks later and I’ve found my yoga sanctuary. Yoga Refuge, with its second story, sky facing windows and giant lush plants lining the side of the room where light pours in welcomes me with all I expect from a studio. The vibe is devoid of pretentiousness and the instructors’ bright eyes and cheerful, calming levity help my body twist more deeply and reach further through breath and a smile.
This is a place where my Vinyasa class is also a myofascial release class, and I walk away feeling like I had a full body massage. It is a place where I am reminded that yoga is about mind, spirit and body, not just body. It is a place where I can rock a confident Warrior 3 at age 33. It is a place where I’m anointed with essential oils on pressure points along my jaw, temples, and forehead before I dive into savasana. It is not a place where my yoga instructor will yell at me.