Namaste. For many this is a familiar form of yoga, but we do have some new faces tonight—have you taken a class with us before? First timers? Delightful! Well, let me introduce myself. Barbara. Classically trained Bikram yoga instructor with my PhD in Russian Lit. Like this class, I exist where these two realms overlap and founded this studio in their honor.
Understand that this form of yoga is a sequence of 26 Crime and Punishment-inspired Yoga postures and two breathing exercises practiced in a heated studio to facilitate the depression and degradation of every muscle, ligament, organ, gland, bone, and emotional-existential fiber in the body. The studio is kept at 110 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that you achieve a physical exhaustion on par with your philosophical despair. It allows you to experience the nausea, tremors, and soul-ache requisite to your downward spiral as every spare ounce of vodka is expelled from your system, detoxifying while simultaneously dehydrating you into a pure state of Nirvanastyeski.
Now lie flat on your stomach, slumping into Raskolnikisavasana. Let the will to live leach out of each of your sweaty pores and let guilt flood over your soul and run down your brow. Turn your head to the left, and give into any feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and hypertension. Let every concern you have bubble up and churn in the forefront of your mind. Clench your jaw. Close your eyes tight. Tight. Tighter. Then open them. Stare now. Stare at the wallpaper. Notice every detail. The yellow print. The peeling. Absorb it. Compare it to your own fetid self.
Next roll up into Marmeladovamana-Janushirasana, grabbing your left foot first, and lifting the leg up, extending it fully in front of you. Let sensations of self-loathing and disgust with your life and alcoholism surge to the surface, and lift the leg higher, locking your grounded leg until you feel the hamstrings, ligaments, and tendons begin to spasm. Fall forward. Crash to the mat. Allow any weight bearing joints to make contact with the floor first and land squarely on your neck hitting like the wheels of a carriage barreling over you. Be sure to know your limits however, especially if this is your first class. Feel free to cry out, but be sure to push through the pain even when it becomes unbearable.
Now, back up into Alyona-Ivanovamana Louse-Bibhaktapada Rodya-Paschimotthanasana. Spread your legs wide for this pose that is designed to tap into your sciatica and lower back pain. Twist yourself forward like you are swinging an axe. Extend your neck and present your skull. Feel the pate exposed and vulnerable. Stretch further. Stretch till you feel your head crack open and blood pouring forth. Grab under your heels. Dig your fingers under them as if you are hiding stolen goods beneath a rock and let your principles fall away as you realize you have only made decisions based on your own selfish reasons. As we switch to our next pose frantically run your hands over your clothing looking for evidence of your past crimes.
Next, drop to your knees and lean back grabbing your heels in Svidrigailov-Ustransana. Throw your neck back violently. This pose is designed to stimulate the nervous system and conjure up fever dreams of lurid, seductive waifs and floods in St. Petersburg. Feel yourself overcome with despair, yes, again, and turn to the person on your left and tell them to tell anyone who asks that you are going to America. Raise your right hand to your head and shoot yourself over into Sonya-Sasangasana, rolling forward to present your hindquarters. Press yourself firmly into the mat and look over your left shoulder seductively to support yourself and your family.
Oh my. It looks like one of our beginners has dropped onto his back and launched prematurely into Dostoevskapalbhati—a great way to expel toxins, tone the waist, trigger diarrhea, and feel the euphoric precursor of an epileptic fit.
Oh and another student coughing up blood! A rather advanced Katerina-Ivanovna-Supta-Vajrasana! Someone has been practicing. I have to say, you might not notice your own improvement from class-to-class, but it is at moments like these that I see how much you have developed in your suffering.
Let’s take a break. You’ve all done great. I’ll be around with cold towels in a moment.
Zane Shetler lives and teaches in Durham, NC. His articles can be found here.