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I was on a mission. Thirty days to solve a mystery that already endured for five thousand years. Given the odds against me, I wasn’t particularly confident about my chances for success. The secret I sought to reveal? Yoga. I wanted to discover exactly what it was about yoga that made people slightly uncomfortable at the thought of its practice. Study after study affirmed its positive benefits to both mind and body. A person at any level of fitness could benefit from its practice. So where did the ambiguity come from? Was it simply yoga’s ancient roots in the unfamiliar culture of the east and the fact that many of the terms used in its practice were still known by their original Sanskrit names? Or was its cult-like reputation more a result of its gurus, chanting, new-age music, candlelit studios and sex scandals? Not to mention the group-nap everyone took at the end of a session and all the bowing to each other with hands in prayer position, repeating ‘the light in me sees and honors the light in you’. Of course the repetition takes too long in English, so yogis use the Sanskrit version, “Namaste.”

I’d been a casual yogi for a few years. I attended classes at a local studio two to three times a week and patted myself on the back for doing something good for my body, and also for being willing to try something outside my comfort zone. The practice of yoga was trendy. It brought a little new-age hip into my otherwise bland and generally conservative lifestyle. There was no denying the practice of yoga came with a certain connotation attached to it though it was sometimes hard to tell if this particular nuance was good or bad. Even today when there was a yoga studio at almost every strip mall across the country, there were still people who gave you that look when you admitted to being a practitioner, as if to say, “Oh, you’re one of them.”

I wasn’t certain what exactly the look meant, but there was no denying there was some undertone connected to yoga, an inference that somehow wasn’t attached to other popular exercise movements like kick-boxing or Zumba. The strange thing about yoga, whatever the it was, wasn’t only perceived from the outside looking in. Even the casual practitioner sensed its presence. I suspected it was the awareness of something more, something inexplicable occurring inside of them that sent the casual practitioners scurrying back to the relative safety of Pilates.

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