Do you know what at acolyte is? It’s a beginner. Someone who wants to be like someone. Follow in their footsteps. By definition, it’s an amateur. – Acolyte
It’s true that I spent months loathing Soul Cycle and plotting its demise. I made it my business to tell everyone in a five-mile radius that dancing whilst on a spin bike was SIMPLY NOT RIGHT. In fact, it was downright criminal. Who can remember to shimmy and shake when one is panting just to keep up with the frenetic pace? When it comes to working out I’m not a multi-tasker, so the instructor’s frequent requests to “tap it back” and “bump it” made me seethe, and I left class feeling like the time in college when I was kicked out of step class because I couldn’t keep up with the beat — small. Thus the world would know that Soul Cycle was the center of my discontent. I abhorred its cult-speak (party ride! ride with SOUL!), exorbitant prices and the fact that I have to pay to rent spin shoes as if I’m in some subterranean bowling alley in Times Square.
And then I realized that I was recoiling from Soul Cycle because being in another studio setting, albeit a different one, reminded me of a yoga studio in which I used to practice. For years I followed this one teacher as she studied vinyasa at Movement Salon to setting up her own studio as a practitioner of anusara (when it was less shameful to speak of John Friend and the principles of alignment). I purchased all the eponymous t-shirts and expensive be present pants, I recruited hoards of people to patron the studio and I forked over hundreds of dollars to attend yoga retreats where I was guaranteed a week of idyll. And after five years I started to see cracks in the proverbial pavement. The constant “come here, be here, as you are” was mostly about getting people into class packs. Handstand demos were now done by famous models who were friends of the owner or the new acolytes who fawned over this charismatic studio teacher’s practice.
Suddenly I could see clearly and I wanted out. A nearly advanced yoga practitioner with seven years under my belt, I left the practice because I didn’t like the kula I was keeping. People who wished one another goodwill gossiped behind one another’s back. And everything was about money. Always the money. Who had more of it. Who could keep up. What it could buy you.
Perhaps I brought all of this baggage to Soul Cycle. I didn’t want to be a part of something; I just wanted my own practice. A space of time with myself working through it, under it, above it, around it, beyond it. But I loved spinning — there’s no denying that.
So I went back. Quietly. With a work colleague I trusted. I sat in the back and found my own private rhythm, enjoying the fact that the room was steamy (reminding me of the tapas in yoga) and it felt good to use weights while spinning. In other classes I used overhead bands as resistance training while I cycled uphill, and believe me when I say that my arms and back felt it FOR DAYS. I found a few teachers (Marvin, Jenny, Christine) whose energy is infectious; their classes are less about the wild dance party and more about cultivating a deeper relationship with oneself by riding through the tough terrain and breathing through it. After a while I found a sense of quiet in the dark room, amidst the noise, music and click-click of the bike, and I knew I’d latched on to something.
See, the thing is this. The thing that annoys you, gnaws at you, annoys you as much as you let it. Picking at a wound never allows it to heal, only makes it fester and hurt. Separating yourself from the the noise allows trespass to clarity. So if I ignore the tap backs and focus on the fact that I’ve found a few teachers that help me bring me closer to myself, well, this is worth celebrating. You alone determine the kind of energy which inhabits your life, so if I walk into class skeptical and negative I’ve only ruined the experience. However, if I walk in and forget all those yoga studio years and yellow Soul gear, there’s just me, on my bike, by myself, on the road. And while I’m not a Soul Cycle zealot, I’m now a proud fan and I’ll keep going back. The classes, and what they give me, are worth it.
Time with yourself working through the ugly bits? That’s worth getting out of bed for.