Morro Bay yoga for knuckleheads: No looking around

March 11, 2023

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Franklin’s memoir, “Life On The Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.


The crowded room where I show up for my first lesson is infused with soothing sounds and scents one might assume are typical of an ashram in New Delhi, and I am surrounded by 18 bodies—I counted them before taking my position in the back.

Beside me is a woman around 40 with eyes closed as she lays double-blanketed on her mat in preparation for our yoga instructor. The class consists mostly of women between 30 and 75 and three men of various ages, none of whom I fear would ever venture to share a beer and exchange local gossip with me at the Schooner’s Wharf, my local watering hole in Cayucos.

I am sneaking looks at my new yoga associates as they go through their rituals preceding class. They roll out their mats and collect blankets, rubber blocks, belts, etc. They stretch out in various positions, some with legs hiked against walls. Most bring their own mats, but I have selected one from the rack in back.

Many of these people appear to already be losing themselves in trances. My long-time good friend and tennis partner and experienced yoga maven, Ethan, has warned me not to go about my usual practice of observing and eaves-dropping on everybody. Yoga practitioners do not like being “spied on,” he said. “They want to be at ease, content and secure in their own worlds, so don’t stare.”

I’m not staring, but since I don’t know what I am doing at this new endeavor, I observe to copy fellow yogis who squat, legs folded beneath, Indian style, backs erect, hands rested upward on knees, eyes closed while following introductory breathing exercises from Samantha, our comely and sweet yoga instructor, who has great legs, and catches me red-handed committing this yoga no-no; but she shows no reaction.

Secretly, I feel exposed like an open sore and intimidated as being on the very bottom of the yoga pecking order and no doubt a misfit sluggard and spiritual bankrupt.

My first real crisis comes with “downward dog.” My left shoulder needs replacement according to my knee surgeon, and I lean too heavily on my right hand to compensate, so that I am not a perfectly symmetrical down dog; but instead list horribly to the side as Samantha looks on, and, tilting, tilting, collapse on my side in an embarrassing heap and a painful yelp.

Samantha slowly unwinds from an amazing position of one leg up and extended (like all others), stands and comes over and starts to correct me when I inform her that my left shoulder is worthless from football, so she sweetly has me lay on my side and sort of curl up like a sleeping dog, and I am so relieved to become a sleeping dog pulling his knees close to his chest in the fetal position.

I am also relieved everybody keeps their eyes closed and do not have to witness what a spectacle I have become, while Samantha’s voice flows on in a comforting resonance, urging us to feel our hearts, urging us to open our hearts and attempt to attain “love.”

Christ, all I want to do is alleviate the pain in my hip and loosen my lower back, not seek some deeper, religious appreciation of loving, yet at the same time I do not want Samantha, who so far seems to like me, to find out I am a cynical atheist ousted from my gym for scandalous behavior and a past of mocking and deriding her love and life passion, yoga, in my literary journal and blog.

Mercifully, the time passes quickly and we are told to spend these last few minutes in any comfortable pose we choose, so as to attain maximum results and feel “vibrations” from our yoga session. I spot two women shove their butts close to a wall and extend their legs up on the wall and I follow suit, like a guy with a clue, and feel much better about myself as Samantha squats Indian-chief-like and closes her eyes.

Minutes later, still soothed by the India music, Samantha rings a gong three times and we resume our legs-folded-beneath position (lotus) and she has us take deep breaths and om…and everybody ommmmms.

I do not dare ommmmm. I feel like oms represent some deep mystical religious ritual, like Buddhists and Hare Krishnas, and I am squeamishly resistant to such sacred rites.

Yet, as Samantha leads the chorus of ommmmms, which go on and on and reverberate in the now claustrophobic room, I hope she does not notice my non participation, because, as I look around, everybody is ommmming but me, most with eyes closed, as if this movement is adding to their already filled-to-the-brim spirituality, a sort of melodic elixir I am so far immune from as I fidget and hope this damn ommmming ends soon because my lower back and inner hip joints are killing me from this lotus position!

Mercifully, the ommmmms slowly peter out, as Samantha outlasts everybody and opens her eyes and thanks us for coming and wishes us a wonderful day and issues our final sign-off: Nam-es-te. Gazing around, it seems I’m the only one not to resoundingly utter Nam-es-te.

I try to feel like a regular yogi as I fold my mat. A lady passes me with her mat and offers a  smile, and I nod, now recognized as a welcome member of the group and not the cynical troublemaker and prick hated by every woman at the gym. A number of the women consult with always-helpful Samantha, and after quickly stashing my gear and slipping into my flip flops, I sneak out the back way, avoiding the office where the crew, including the men, exchange pleasantries, like old friends.

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Yoga is wonderful. Only do what your body accepts without pain. There is nothing to keep up with. It cleans ones mind, de-stresses, loosens joints, improves circulation and body function. And look at the mirror, your a grandpa, act like one.