The YogaJunkie Blog :: Just Like Julia Roberts (but call me “Xerxes”)

Just Like Julia Roberts (but call me Xerxes)

Remember that moment in NOTTING HILL where Julia Roberts says:

“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

Oh, how movie star Julia Roberts yearns for simplicity in such a heart-breaking way.

I feel similarly every time I try to take a yoga class:

“I’m just a boy.  Showing up here.  Wanting to stretch a little and feel a little less sad…”  (sigh)

When I first started taking yoga classes in my adult life, I was really thriving on the anonymity of the experience.   I was in a transitional (read “crisis”) period, and showing up and sliding into the back row and not needing to speak to anyone was so HELPFUL.

And of course, that began to shift, almost immediately.

Teachers began to recognize the guy who was coming every day.

They started asking my name.

One of my first major teacher Dana‘s amazing gifts is her ability to take in the entire room — like some kind of cosmic DJ — and call out suggestions and acknowledgments to everyone.  “Lift the leg higher, Marla – That’s it!  Keep lifting the chest — Amazing, Alfredo!”   I was, more or less, publicly outed by name in every class.

Before I knew it, I was in with the Straight A yoga students, those in the front row, hanging on every word.  [Half pure-hearted disciple, half teacher’s pet.]

Anonymity gone — sort of — but a small sacrifice for all I was learning.

When I started teaching at the Lotus, classes were super-small. Eight people on a Saturday night was a bonanza.

I remember taking teacher’s photographs for the first website and I usually got the best photo by getting my just graduated teachers to laugh after I said, “OK, now imagine that Dana or Jasmine is coming to take your class.”  The new teacher would grimace in mock horror and make a funny, terrified face — and then the laughter afterwards would be the “winning” photo.

For almost everyone, having the teachers that trained you attend your class did feel like you were more or less on trial.

At the Lotus, time rapidly evolved where I was the senior teacher, and I remember showing up and having folks say, “Uh … You’re taking my class?” as though I were an IRS auditor knocking on their door unprepared.

As a student, I ALWAYS follow the class exactly — no improv, no showing off — and truthfully I often feel more connected with the simpler offering than the complex variation.   But it was funny to be greeted as though I were the Grim Reaper rather than just a guy wanting to take class in the back row.

Now that I’m in San Francisco, I had planned on taking every Lotus teacher’s class for fun, for social reasons, because we’re “supposed to” — there’s a loose rule about showing up once a week — and mostly because for entirely selfish motivations, I want what everyone else wants from a yoga class.:   I want someone to guide me and tell me what to do and in 90 minutes or so, have lengthened me out and taken my mind off of my “real life” concerns.  [And, in fact, I’ve had three amazing classes in a row, Jasmine, Jeremi and Steven.]

There was once a time in NYC where I felt like I needed to try out some other studios for comparison.  Somehow I felt like I was cheating on the Lotus — especially when I took an advanced class at OM.  The teacher offered a Kamikaze idea — from forearm-stand, as you descend, mid-air, flip both hands into chatturanga — and unthinkingly I did it.  She asked my name and asked me to demo it because she couldn’t do it (which was fine given that it was INSANE.)  Suddenly, although trying to be on the DL, I was demo-ing at other yoga centers.

And there was also a time where my AMAZING loft in NYC was just too damn cold in the dead of winter –– do you remember those AWESOME skylights ? ––

where I felt I had to go to the Bikram class around the corner JUST to get warm.

In fact, I remember saying to the teacher who dutifully introduced himself, “Listen, I’ll be totally fine.  You don’t need to pay any attention to me.   I’m happy just to pay $20 to be warm for 2 hours.”

When the teacher asked my name, I spontaneously replied, “Xerxes,” mostly because I felt that was weird enough to prevent being called out.  (And it worked;  he left me alone to sweat in silence.)  All I wanted were two simple things:  HEAT and ANONYMITY.

So as I’ve launched into this plan of taking everyone’s class, I’ve let go of all of it.

Do teachers care at all that I’m taking their class?

Do other students even know I’m a teacher here yet?

Does anyone recognize me from REGIS & KELLY? ….

Just like Julia Roberts — but please call me “Xerxes” — I’m just a boy.

Looking to stretch.

And maybe, just maybe, in the next 90 minutes, while still remaining an enigmatic beauty, feel a little less tragically vulnerable.


By Edward Vilga - Writer, spiritual teacher, and — according to Bloomingdale’s 1/2 page ad in the New York Times for his most recent event — a “legendary yogamaster”. His last yoga DVD hit #1 on after he was on Regis & KellyCBS Early Show, and featured People Magazine. Edward has had six books published which have been translated into a dozen languages. His most recent book is UPWARD DOG: Seven Secrets from My Chocolate Lab for Having an Awesome Life (available now; national release 11/1/11). Edward is a Yale graduate. © 2012