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The Passing Gas

Tooting his way through yoga class, Neal Pollack applies the yogic lesson of non-judgment.

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Before my 7:45 pm yoga class a few weeks ago, I sat down for dinner with my family. Normally, I wait until after class, even a late one, to eat, but my son looked at me with plaintive eyes, said, “Please sit with me, Daddy,” and I was sunk. Of course, he only wanted this so he could beg me, for the 10,000th time, to buy him his own laptop. But even life’s annoying moments are precious and should be experienced fully.

Brussels sprouts, deliciously roasted with sea salt and garlic, appeared on the plate.

“Uh oh,” I said to my wife.

“What?” she asked.

“Do we have any Beano?”

We didn’t. But I was hungry, so I ate the sprouts anyway.

Thirty minutes later, I was on my mat. The tooting began almost from the first pose. It was an evening class, long, slow, relaxed, and not particularly well-attended. Everyone got to listen to my woodwind symphony. Fortunately, it had been a vegetarian dinner. But I farted in every pose, sitting, standing, on my back, and on my stomach. It was pretty gross, and more than a bit uncomfortable for me. Then it was over, and I went and farted in the car.

Before you all rush to judgment, I’d like to see a show of hands. Who hasn’t passed gas in a yoga class? OK, some of you. But who’s never farted, period? If you responded yes to that one, you’re either lying or need to be examined immediately by scientists. As my son’s babyhood book, The Gas We Pass: The Story Of Farts says, all living beings, without exception, fart. It’s healthy, normal, and, of course, quite funny.

As such, farting is a perfect topic for yogic study. Yoga teaches us to observe everything that occurs around us, without judgment. Some of those things may be unpleasant. They may smell bad or sound like the horn on a clown car. They may be caused by the musical fruit by or an intestinal parasite. But these things, too, are part of reality. We’ve all been in classes where people had terrible coughing or sneezing fits. More than once, I’ve seen people’s noses explode during class into a shower of blood. There’s a guy in one of my classes who yawns like a sick, elderly walrus every time he pushes back into Downward-Facing Dog. All these things are totally disgusting, and all are reality.

That said, it freaks people out when you fart in class, so try to keep the incidences to a minimum. Don’t eat excessively before hitting the mat. Don’t go to class if you have a stomach bug, no matter how much you think you might need the exercise. And, for god’s sake, if you do let one slip and rip, don’t giggle nervously or say “My bad!” Just try not to be too embarrassed, try to focus on the task and hand, and remember that when it comes to farting, this, too, shall pass.