Getting Bent: A Personal Manifesto and Call for Community

Historically speaking, I’m not really that good at commitment. From pre-K to grad school, I went to something like 19 schools. I’ve lived in seven cities that I can think of and I’m pretty sure there’s at least one I’m forgetting. I got married in 2009 and divorced in 2010. You get the point.

There’s always been something kind of icky to me about staying in one place. Words like fetid and stagnant come to mind. Doing one thing for too long feels that way, too. I’ve had a different job every year since I left grad school. The only real constants in my life have been cigarettes, OCD, and yoga.

(This is not an actual photo of the author.)
(This is not an actual photo of the author.)

Now I’m changing. Getting older, settling down…however you phrase it, it sounds fucking terrible.

But it’s not.

I’m (re)married. I have a great house with dope neighbors and a menagerie of assorted pets. And I dig it like you wouldn’t believe. I come home to my twinkling christmas lights in my 7th ward manse (read: half of a double) and I get giddy.

My gay wedding at Swan River Mandir.
My big gay wedding at Swan River Mandir.

The other day I realized that I have lived in the state of Louisiana for almost 9 years. NINE YEARS IN ONE STATE. How the fuck did that happen?

It happened because my life here is not stagnant. Staying in this one place has made me grow in deep, complex ways. New Orleans nurtures me and nudges me along at a pace I can handle. It’s a slow roll (insert played out river metaphor here).

So I’m staying.

I’m going to stay in this place and make it my home and stop looking around for the next place to go.

Why?

Because I have been to and lived in so many places and been part of so many “scenes” and this is the only place I’ve ever been (in America) that the culture doesn’t seem piped in. And that goes for its yoga culture, too.

Did y’all know that in other cities famous yogis ride around in glass boxes to promote their boutique yoga studios? For fucking serious. The only thing I think is marginally fun about that is that by the end of the day it was probably covered in bird shit.

Tara-Stiles-Practices-Yoga-in-a-Glass-Box

I was in Orange County last year visiting family and, despite the fact that there were over thirty yoga studios nearby, there wasn’t a not hot yoga studio within twenty miles, and they all had names like “Beach Booty Yoga/FroYO.”

Gross.

No, wait, that was so judgmental.

What I meant to say was GROSS.

Sure, there’s great yoga in NYC. If you can afford a nine dollar raw vegan coconut water latte to wash down your thirty dollar class. There’s great yoga in lots of big cities that have lots of fancy studios and big name teachers. But, for the most part, yoga in other places is either expensive or sanitized. Worst of all, it’s usually both.

Here it’s mostly neither. We have a glut of excellent yoga teachers and a bunch of interesting studios and non-studio yoga joints and a hundred classes a week under ten bucks. Here one of my favorite teachers is a high priestess who looks like Madonna and another is a fucking superhero for restorative justice. Here, I can think of three studios that are mostly sliding scale or donation based. Here, I can only think of a couple studios that weren’t built on a solid spiritual foundation and/or a totally DIY ethos (and they’re all either uptown or in the suburbs).

Yogis aren’t “yogier than thou” here. We all hang out at bars sometimes, we all second line, we all party when the Saints win. Sure, I know wealthy yogis who are lawyers and doctors, but I know more who are bartenders, burlesque dancers, and barkers. New Orleans yogis have offered to clear my chakras and they’ve offered me cocaine. We live in a place where people are comfortable walking the line between the sacred and the profane.

As far as I’m concerned, New Orleans is the center of the radical progressive yogaverse.

We all do bakasana on trash cans here. Duh.
We all do bakasana on trash cans here. Duh.

So, basically, I can’t leave. I don’t make sense anywhere else. Yoga doesn’t make sense to me anywhere else. This gritty city has birthed a bathed-in-the-bayou yoga revolution. It’s scrappy and loud and there’s glitter in the afterbirth.

It’s our baby, and I am no kinda deadbeat mom. I’m going to stick around and suckle it at my tattooed lesbi-queer teats.*

So then, this space is my attempt at beginning to cultivate community. I want to build a nexus for all the beautiful yoga queers and weirdos in this city. The shiny upmarket studios don’t need this. They have paid advertising. Consider this a legal telephone pole to staple your fliers to. If you want to write about something or someone, let me know. If there’s someone or something or someone you want me to write about, educate me. If you have an event or class that you want added to the calendar, tell me about it (it must be both low cost/donation-based/sliding scale and explicitly welcoming to queers and weirdos of all kinds).

New Orleans is a crescent that will not be squared and its yoga culture is equally bent.

Now, let’s see how far we can take it.

*Not the author’s actual breasts.

tracey

Tracey lives in Holy Cross with her wife and seven pets. Her OCD keeps the floors clean. Her attention to detail and ability to cat herd make her a funny but sometimes kinda serious leader. She is straight up obsessed with revolutionary/evolutionary potential of yoga. If you want to know more about her or take a class with her, email her at getbentnola@gmail.com or check out her personal blog at http://www.moreyogalessbullshit.com

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