Tales From the Yoga Studio

by Rain Mitchell

Published by Plume

288 pages, 2011


A new series introduces five unforgettable women who flock to yoga at turning points in their lives and find the gift of lasting friendship.

The yoga studio is where daily cares are set aside, mats are unfurled, and physical exertion leads to well-being, renewal, and friendship.

Tales from the Yoga Studio is an insider's look at the current obsession with yoga, told with enough humor, wit, and warmth to charm and delight readers, whether or not they've ever done a Downward Dog.

Chapter 1

It's at moments like this -- when she's put the class through their paces and has them settled back onto their mats in a state of collective peace, contentment, and deep relaxation, when their bodies are glistening with a light sheen of sweat, when the afternoon sun is glinting off the end of the Silver Lake Reservoir, which she can see through the wall of windows she and Alan had installed on the southern side of the studio, when all seems temporarily right with the world -- that Lee starts craving a cigarette. 

"Inhale through your nose into whatever traces of tension you're still holding on to, and sigh it all out through your mouth," she says. "Let it go." 

The craving is just a ghost from the past that visits her from time to time, drops in from the years of misguided study and too much stress at Columbia University Medical Center, when, like a quarter of the students, she would rush out to 165th Street from a lecture on emphysema, abnormal cell growth, or heart disease, light up, and huddle against the buildings in the gray dampness of those New York afternoons. 

"One more long, luxurious inhalation, one more compete exhalation." 

And that wasn't even the worst of her behavior. Thankfully, those days of rote memorization, trying to prove something to her impossible mother, always feeling as if she'd stepped onto the wrong flight and was hurtling toward an unknown destination, are long past and gone for good. No regrets, no second-guessing. 

The fact that on the night Alan moved his stuff into a friend's spare room, unannounced, explaining only that he needed some space to get his "head together," she stopped at the convenience store on her way home from the studio and bought a pack of Marlboro Lights was a blip on the radar screen. She'd rather give herself some slack and say she wasn't in her right mind that night. "Om shanti, Yoga Lady," the Indian store clerk had said ironically, rubbing in the contradiction. 

"They're for a friend," she'd lied, which made it even worse somehow. 

She smoked only two and was about to throw the pack out before she considered how expensive cigarettes have become in the past ten years (who knew?) and told herself it was a horrible waste of money to dump them. She locked them in the glove compartment. Maybe she'd pass them out to a few homeless people. Except wasn't that like handing out lung disease? Talk about bad karma. So now she didn't know what to do with them except leave them safely out of reach until she figured out the best course of action. 

How long has she had the class in savasana? 

She watches fifteen rib cages rise and fall in unison in the beautiful golden afternoon light, ignores one awkwardly timed erection courtesy of Brian - - "Boner," as Katherine and a few students refer to him, he of the white spandex yoga pants -- and closes her own eyes. If she thinks herself into it, she can get a contact high from the class. A deep breath in, a long breath out, a reminder that even if life has suddenly gotten way more complicated in the past few weeks, even if for the moment might as well face it-it kind of sucks, it's still better than it was back in those dark New York, failing-med-student days in her twenties-before Alan, before the twins, before Los Angeles. Before yoga. 

She opens her eyes and sees that she's run seven minutes over. 

Fourth time this week. Or is it the fifth? 

She brings the class back, has them sit up cross-legged, and then, with the sudden feeling of warmth and tenderness for all of them that inevitably comes over her at this point in class, she says, "Take this feeling with you, wherever you're headed. This calm is there for you when you need it. If something totally unexpected comes up, don't let it knock the wind out of you. You can't control the other people in your life. But you can control your reactions to them. You can't predict what the hell they're going to do all of a sudden, out of nowhere, with no advance warning, just when you think everything is running so smoothly and perfectly, and then . . . " Uh-oh. "Have a really great afternoon, folks. Don't get bent out of shape. Namaste." | March 2011

Rain Mitchell, author of Tales From the Yoga Studio, began practicing yoga as a teenager and is currently at work on the second novel in the series.  Rain's favorite pose is corpse.

Copyright © 2011 Rain Mitchell