My annual pilgrimage with my mom to a yoga class in my hometown over the holidays wasn't coming together.

"Let's try this place, it'll be convenient, and I've been meaning to check it out," said Mom, choosing a studio based on geography. The timing was right. The name of the studio had "vinyasa" in it. Good enough.

The studio was in a quiet new strip mall. Only a handful of people had showed up for class -- not enough bodies to heat the chilly room. I shivered and waited for movement.

The instructor strode to the front. The young woman wore gypsy-ish yoga pants with big drapes of fabric over her feet. Across her forehead, a cloth headband declared "I (HEART) YOGA." From under this headband (a Christmas present from a loving, but wacky aunt?), she spoke in calmer-than-thou yoga tones as she asked us to meditate.

When we started moving, nothing was familiar. At one point, when she had us crawling without our knees touching the mat (think about that), I caught my mom's eye.

Her look said what I was thinking: "Bu-whaaa?"

I tried to follow the teacher, but her instructions were confusing. "Bend to the floor." Bend at the waist? Knees? I would look up to see what she was doing, and it was never what I expected. OK, she's squatting, um, twisting, no wait, circling...

WTF?

While crawling or something, I created my own irritated narrative for how this "yoga" teacher came to be: A former ballet dancer from the suburbs who read one of the Dalai Lama's books after meeting a Democrat in college.


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Internally, I screamed at her headband: If you love yoga so much, why don't we do some now?

After class, Mom shrugged her shoulders. "It was strip-mall yoga."

I calmed down, asked myself to try to learn something here, and not to be a jerk. Even though I want one of those headbands now.

Upon returning to Boulder, I went to one of my favorite classes. The teacher worked us toward a peak pose I've tried before but never came close to touching. But this time I was determined, inspired to defy the lameness of that strip-mall yoga place. I twisted my right foot onto my right tricep, leaned onto my hands and found balance in this ridiculous contortion.

Thanks, strip-mall lady. I heart yoga, too.

-- Jenn Fields