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June 5, 2009

Singles Yoga Classes: Match.Om

The twisted new way to meet men? Speed dating, yogi style. Alexa Stanard signs up for a downward-facing date.

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yoga on the beach

Photo Credit: L. White/Getty Images

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I am airborne, held aloft about 4 feet from the ground by a very strong and handsome man whose hands are in mine and whose feet are pressed against my pelvis. We've just met.

This is singles yoga, where about 40 men and women get really sweaty and intimate on a Friday night at the Jonny Kest Center for Yoga, a popular studio in Birmingham, MI. The class is the brainchild of Raina Nemeth, a teacher who wanted to give her love-seeking yogi pals a space to flirt. "All my single friends were speed dating or on Match.com," says Nemeth. "So I thought, Well, five minutes on your mat with someone will tell you if there's a connection."

Having recently ended a serious relationship, I'm not ready to start dating again, but I want to test the waters and see who else is paddling around. Still, I approach this class with some trepidation. For one thing, I've never participated in a singles event, and doing so makes me feel like I've got "Lookin' for Love" emblazoned on my chest. Then there's the vanity factor: I prefer to look my best (or, at the very least, not gross) when meeting eligible men. But when I practice yoga, I'm usually drenched with sweat—and not the sexy, dewy variety. I'm talking about perspiration that soaks through my clothes in unfortunate places and takes my makeup with it in streaks. I decide to keep the makeup light and don my favorite cotton leggings and a flattering tank, ignoring the parade of cleavage and butt-hugging pants that walks through the door.

Once in class, Nemeth orders everyone into a large rectangle, arranged boy-girl. I drop my mat and run to the bathroom, returning to find myself situated between two rather short men. At 5'10", I just can't get past my junior-high memories of being a gangly beanpole. So as the guy on my right talks my ear off, I scope out the other, taller prospects in the room. The men range from mid-20s to late 40s, and nearly all upend my stereotypes about yoga guys: that they're either 50ish professionals whose doctors told them yoga would alleviate their back pain, or New Age-y types with questionable hygiene. This group is overwhelmingly good-looking, clean-cut, and lacking in overtly off-putting idiosyncrasies.

Nemeth brings the class to order. She's dimmed the lights, lit candles, and cranked the heat so that it feels like there's a cozy fire warming the studio. We begin with a brisk, solo practice of A and B sun salutations to get the blood pumping. Soon, my minimalist makeup choice is vindicated, as we're all dripping with sweat.

As Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" wafts from the sound system, Nemeth tells the men to step onto the mat of the woman to their right. We stand facing each other, close enough to touch, and, at her instruction (she demos each pose with her boyfriend, Martin), get down to business, placing our right leg on each other's left hip and cradling the other's raised leg in our left hand. The pose is simple but intimate, and requires us to focus intensely on each other to stay balanced. I try to maintain a friendly expression, but my partner avoids eye contact, his features scrunched into a look of grim determination. I'm relieved when, after about a minute, it's time to switch.

With each new pose, a different guy shows up on my mat. Nemeth discourages talking, so some quietly introduce themselves while others just smile silently. Shortly after the first uncomfortable encounter, I drape myself in a backbend over a man in downward-facing dog, which feels luxurious. After that, I'm on my back with my legs wrapped around the waist of an impossibly muscular man who's on his knees, facing me. Before I've had time to fully recover from the experience, I'm getting a massage from a kind man with glasses who tells me that he likes my aura.

By now, I'm completely relaxed and enjoying each new interaction. Despite the potential for major awkwardness, Nemeth keeps the atmosphere easy and comfortable, making jokes to cut the tension as she introduces the most potentially erotic poses.

The class feels a lot like what I imagine speed dating would feel like, only sweatier, quieter—and with a lot more touching. It quickly becomes clear how I relate to each partner: With some, the pose is a bit stilted; with others, it's sensual and connected. The men I like most exude a relaxed friendliness. And the poses are so absorbing that I'm completely oblivious to the women around me—a nice break from the comparisons that cycled through my mind on my way into the class.

After 90 minutes of climbing all over each other, we end by lying quietly on our backs in savasana, close enough to each other to touch hands and feet. Nemeth invites everyone to a local pub after class, an unexpected turn of events. There's a lot of lingering and happy chatting as we leave the studio. Most head for the bar, but I decide to skip it. Emotionally, I'm not yet ready for a full-on flirtation, the kind that might actually lead somewhere. And some of the men were appealing enough that I could lose my better judgment after a couple of beers. So instead, I head home for a shower. A cold one.

Alexa Stanard is a freelance writer based in Oak Park, MI.


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