My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Beth Lapides   

The Generation Trap

I’m a third-generation American, a second-generation control freak, and I now realize, a first-generation yogi. The other day, I was reading a teacher’s bio. Her first teacher? Her mom. She’s been practicing since she was two. “I’ll never catch up,” I thought, which just put me farther behind. If I’d been practicing since I was two, I’d never think an unenlightened thought like that.

Then, in the kind of synchronicity I’ve come to expect from life lately, every yoga book I picked up was written by someone who had learned yoga from their mom or dad. Yesterday I started reading The Science of Breath where I learned that Swami Rama was raised in a Himalayan cave and “trained in the closely guarded secrets of yoga from boyhood.”

How I long to have been trained in the closely guarded secrets of yoga since 'boyhood'.’’I thought I was jealous of the wardrobes of the Sex and the City actresses until I read that. Actually, I was raised in a kind of cave too. We called it the suburbs. And I also learned some closely guarded secrets. We called them hondeling and kvetching.

My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat
My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat


I had a flash of bitterness, wishing I’d learned triangle in sixth grade instead of playing triangle in an orchestra. But what about the rebellious teen years I loved so much? Did yoga eliminate the need to rebel? Or was one of the closely guarded secrets of yoga that when you are 13 you have to redefine yourself? In a way, wasn’t the Buddha’s whole life an act of adolescent rebellion? But in some ways I did start practicing yoga because of my parents.

Wasn’t the Buddha’s whole life an act of adolescent rebellion?

A dozen years ago, I was in the bathroom of a West Hollywood nightclub, prepping to go on stage. I’d spent a long weekend back East, packing up my ancestral family tract home. I was sleep-deprived, and lost in the memories of a weekend spent going through memories. I tried to bring myself into the here and now so I could go on stage and host the Un-Cabaret, my comedy show that was actually about being in the moment. But then I remembered I’d thrown away all my Monkees albums. Had that been a mistake? Plus I was freaked out about my family all leaving my hometown. Just because I didn’t want to live in my past, that didn’t mean I didn’t want somebody to live there.

I noticed something felt different while I was peeing but I didn’t pay attention. I was thinking about my grandmother’s samovar, and my mom’s purses and my teenage diaries. Then, when I went to wipe I realized that I’d been peeing with my underpants still on. How not in the moment do you have to be to pee with your underpants still on?

I tossed them. Sad too. They were the cutest Tweety Bird g-string. And I decided in that now, I would start yoga the next day. Sometimes you have to plan ahead to be in the present.

The next morning I bought my first monthly pass at the neighborhood studio. I may have been starting a new leg of my spiritual path, but that didn’t mean I had to leave the bargain gene at home. I loved yoga immediately, and felt I’d found a new home, at this studio, in the practice. Then one day, as I was coming up from my uttanasana (standing forward fold), I noticed that from the inside, the giant YOGA painted on the plate glass window, spelt backwards, read ‘A GOY’. Oy to the vey. Was it a warning? A label? A challenge? A sign of some sort? Did I not belong here?

I was definitively not a goy. Though not so much a Jew either, more Jew-ish. It’s like being a Jew, but a lot more vague. You feel vaguely oppressed. Vaguely guilty. Vaguely like having a nosh. Which isn’t an actual meal or even a snack, a definite portion on a small plate; it’s an open bag of chips, or a cracker from your purse in synagogue. Which is like church, except that there’s usually a moveable wall that can make the room bigger or smaller. Depending. A vaguely sized room.

The only thing that wasn’t vague about growing up Jewish was the directive to ‘Never Forget.’ Now, in yoga I was being told to ‘Be Here Now.’ It was what I had come for. How to reconcile the two? I decided to never forget to be here now.

The only thing that wasn’t vague about growing up Jewish was the directive to ‘Never Forget.’ Now, in yoga I was being told to ‘Be Here Now.’ It was what I had come for. How to reconcile the two? I decided to never forget to be here now.

I realized this was something my Mom had tried her best to teach me. One day, in my pre-teen years, I’d made the perfect tuna sandwich. I ran upstairs, giddy. Mom was excited for me.

“I’m going to make another one,” I said.

“It won’t be as good,” she warned wisely.

Of course it wasn’t. My mother was trying to teach me what Pantanjali is trying to teach me, that the desire to repeat a pleasant experience is one of the causes of the dark unhappy tightness The Yoga Sutra calls duhkha (suffering) and Mom calls shpilkes.

So in some ways, I guess I am a second generation yogi. But in other ways I share the first-generation sensibility. I send something of value back to the old country: Mom’s now using Jill Miller’s yoga balls. Dad is meditating.

I’ve learned a new language and speak it reverently but badly.

And if I could pledge my allegiance to my adopted home with a room full of other immigrants I would do it in a heartbeat. Oh wait. I do, in every class, with every Om.

Beth Lapides is the author of Did I Wake You? Haikus for Modern Living and the creator of Un-Cabaret. Find out more about her shows, workshops and seminars at or email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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