Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Distractions from the mat

Anyone who's taken a yoga class knows that in addition to the Sanskrit and the esoteric concepts, you have to be willing to accept a good deal of jargon. For the most part, the jargon resides in the preliminary patter and has to do with instructions like "Set your intention for the practice," and it has remained fairly consistent over time.

Lately, however, I've noticed a couple of new verbal tics that have crept into the vocabulary of more than one teacher, making me suspect that they're all drinking from the same chai.

A couple of my teachers have begun adding the intensifier "a lot," as in "Firm your outer arms in—a lot." And another trope that keeps popping up is "brighten," as in "Brighten your back leg" or "Brighten your stretch."

I certainly don't want the language of yoga to be dry and dead, and I enjoy a lively turn of phrase. But though there's nothing wrong with these self-conscious flourishes,  I find their iteration across classes somewhat distracting. They take my mind off the pose and set it to wondering about the interconnections in the yoga community. How do these little verbal fads develop and spread? Who's taking whose classes? Why is she using that precise figure of speech? Is there a special meaning I should be deriving from that instruction?

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