I am trying to revive my yoga practice, with some success. I’m using the DownDog iPad app for home practice. I recommend it: it has good sequences, helpful instructions, and clear images to model the poses.
But I have a problem: Daily exposure to the instructor’s Yoga Voice is getting to me.
The Yoga Voice is the one that says that the instructor has Let Go Deeply and that they want you to give yourself double helpings of luscious Self-Care. The Yoga Voice is the cousin of the hated Poetry Voice:
After being introduced, a poet steps onstage and engages the audience with some light social speech. Maybe they talk about their forthcoming book, what they plan to read, how wonderfully warm it is for autumn here, how surprisingly cool for summer, how nice the people of this village and how prodigious the public works projects. During this banter the poet uses a slightly performative but mostly natural voice. It’s the voice they’d use to introduce you to their grandmother. Then they read the title of their first poem and launch into the first line. But now their voice is different. It’s as if at some point between the last breath of banter and the first breath of poem a fairy has twinkled by and dumped onto the poet’s tongue a bag of magical dust, which for some reason forces the poet to adopt a precious, lilting cadence, to end every other line on a down-note, and to introduce, pauses, within sentences, where pauses, need not go.
There’s likewise a Philosophy Voice, in which a bit of Oxbridge suddenly appears in the voice of a guy from Brooklyn, and many local dialects of Prayer Voices (tasting menu: try Canterbury, then Dallas, and finish with a bit of Salt Lake City).
To be fair, performative Voices serve real linguistic functions.
“I think [the Poetry Voice] frames [the poet’s performance] as poetry,” says Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and author of You Just Don’t Understand. In linguistics, “framing” signals what you think you’re doing when you say something — your relationship to the words and to the people you’re saying them to.
So, yes, I am trying to be healthy, and it’s good to have a Voice reminding me that the practice is more than just another freaking chore, and maybe four days out of five the Yoga Voice is what I want to listen to.
However, there is a piece of me that just can’t stand being wholesome. I would be much better able to sustain a daily practice if I could occasionally select the same routine, with the same instructions, but delivered in a profoundly inappropriate voice.
On those days, my ideal Yoga Voice would be deadpan but lucidly drunk Christopher Hitchens telling me to push my top thighs back and stretch my heels down toward the floor.
But he’s no longer with us. So maybe seductive Melanie Griffith?
Or Enraged Lucy Liu at the meeting of the Yakuza in Kill Bill 1? Heath Ledger’s Joker is too obvious (but still, it would be awesomely wrong).
Of course, sometimes Yoga instructors provide counsel about the challenges of the ancient practice, the difficulties of converting healthy intentions into beneficial practice, and the moral duties of ahimsa. For these disquisitions, I would appreciate being able to listen to either one of these guys:
As Bertie remarked,
It was one of those cases where you approve the broad, general principle of an idea but can’t help being in a bit of a twitter at the prospect of putting it into practical effect. I explained this to Jeeves, and he said much the same thing had bothered Hamlet.
― P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves in the Morning
The aforementioned voices would allow me to stay with Yoga without shirking my commitments to perversity and noncompliance. Your needs may be different. There may be men who do not bristle at Yoga’s wholesomeness but are uncomfortable entering such a strongly feminine environment. For them, here’s a Voice that is resolutely wholesome, yet ruggedly masculine:
However, this is the Yoga Voice I really want: