Beer yogaThe Alcoholic in the Beer and Now
Where the beer salutation replaces the sun salutation: Jhula offers beer yoga in Berlin, as incredible as that may sound. A true challenge for a recovering alcoholic – in every sense. Read More
I dash under the overhang to escape the sudden cloudburst. Young women with yoga mats tucked under their arms appear, looking like my salvation. Yes, they are here for beer yoga too. According to the homepage, “for centuries, people have turned to both yoga and beer for relaxation, a way to revitalise body and soul.” Together, we agree, we’ll find it.
We search in vain for some sort of sign. The white-painted windows of the pleasant looking Loftus Hall bar provide no clues. I remember the ad copy: “The relaxed enjoyment of drinking beer and the physical awareness of yoga come together for an invigorating experience. In the beer and now. Cheers!”
In the beer and now. Cheers!
I introduce myself to the attractive 30-year-old woman who goes only by Jhula. She invented beer yoga, or is the first to practice it in Germany at any rate. Jhula is blonde, fit, and lacks even the slightest hint of a beer belly. The German association of yoga teachers has come out against combining beer and yoga, arguing that overindulging in alcoholic beverages does not promote the concentration required for proper yoga.
I am a little concerned myself as well. Am I putting my recovery at risk? I’ve been on the wagon since 2010, and obviously overindulgence was what got me there. Hanging around beer or hard liquor drinkers hasn’t bothered me since I stopped drinking, though I find them much less amusing and seldom stay to the bitter end anymore. But there is non-alcoholic beer, my saving grace! I unroll my camping mat. “Welcome to beer yoga!” Jhula calls out. It is her 20th class and completely sold out. She has always enjoyed yoga and drinking beer, and decided this was the best way to combine the two.
“Who has done yoga before?” Apparently everyone. All hands go up as well when she asks who has drunk beer before. Jhula is clearly pleased with our answers, since it can be difficult to teach people who have no experience with either, and you need to know your limits with both. She emphasises that this is not a contest, and that all her classes have been uneventful so far. It’s no problem if a bottle tips over, she adds, as the pervading yeasty smell confirms. No one here cries over or even notices spilt beer.
Jhula takes to a small stage to demonstrate the proper positions or poses or whatever you call them in yoga. Her beer yoga begins with a meditative exercise to raise our beer awareness. She instructs us to take note of how the bottle feels, is warm or still cold? “Now sniff the beer bottle.” She then grants us permission to take a small sip, hold it in our mouths and feel the tingle of the bubbles on our tongues, then focus on the sensation of it sliding down our throats. This elicits a laugh from the attractive men and women.
“Cheers!” Like acolytes to a new religion, we raise our bottles high above our heads. The next pose is the “ale-bench” and we shift our weight onto all fours. “You cannot drink beer in this position. Now open your bodies into the first beer drinker.” She seems to be referring to the next pose. I crouch, legs spread wide, clutching my beer between my upturned hands as Jhula explains: “The Indians can do this all day.” Ah, the Indians. They are, of course, experts at this. After all they sit on beds of nails and fashion rafts of dead bodies to float along the Ganges.
What really killed the Buddha? Yoga?
The “sun salutation” is instead a “beer salutation” and the “eagle pose”, which involves pressing the thighs firmly together, will surely prove invaluable in future for not wetting yourself waiting in line for the loo at a club. “The third useful pose for the Berlin pub scene.” We drink with entwined forearms.
We laugh a lot, which is good. Laughter is solace for the weak, a mad song rising against the sun, a bulwark against the insanity. Business at the bar is brisk, no one wants to run the risk of running out, and the dry air only increases our thirst.
“Place your right leg over your left leg.” I balance my bottle on my knee while I try to touch my hands together behind my back, arms entwined diagonally. Never gonna happen. But I have always been stiff and inflexible, even as a child. Some people seem born with joins of rubber, while some emerge quite the opposite, Prussians cast in brittle iron, like me. Now we need an empty or unopened bottle. Perfect, mine is empty. Lying balanced on our shoulders and feet, she instructs us to place it beneath our tailbones.
Now the serious work begins, the partner poses. Her trim, muscular bum is pressed against mine, not a bad feeling at all. We are linked in a very chaste, nudist kind of way with each other and all the beer in the universe. Everyone seems to sense it too, and the laughter, shrill giggles, and calls grow to apocalyptic levels. Back to back, we bend into a crouch while lifting our partners towards the sky.
Now I sit, the soles of my feet pressed against the feet of my Spanish female partner, as we clink bottles across our enticingly spread legs. The enervating noise level goes up another notch to an intercontinental rocket blasting off.
And now we are supposed to balance our beers on top of our heads. All round the room bottles topple and crash to the floor, serious cases of alcohol abuse. It won’t happen to me though; I don’t have the guts to really let go of the bottle.
Like a fabulous aerobics queen, Jhula occupies her stage, the bottle perched atop her head as steady and immobile as an Archimedean point, shining like polished jade. Now we are supposed to drink like dying swans, using our left hands to stretch our left legs over our backs as we do so. What, I wonder idly as I attempt to bring my bottle of Warsteiner non-alcoholic beer to my mouth, exactly killed the Buddha? Yoga perhaps?
“Quiet now please.” The lights go out. “Enjoy the sense of relaxation and calm. Look inwards and feel what yoga and alcohol have set free. Think about the last time you lay on a club floor.” For me that would have been around 1993 in the Blei Bar, a pretty good story I could easily dedicate a few pages to here.
Certainly no one can honestly claim that beer yoga represents effective treatment for alcoholics. Though if we managed to get an alcoholic down to just two small beers once a week during yoga, that would almost amount to a full recovery.
“Keep you eyes closed and feel the energy return to your bodies.” We chant “ommmm” followed by a rousing “cheers!” to end tonight’s session. I talk briefly to yoga teacher Jhula and learn that there are usually more men in her classes. The only personal information she is willing to make public is that she likes drinking beer and doing yoga. And she recommends dropping by to learn more about this athletic opportunity to increase your enjoyment of beer.
This article first appeared in German on the jádu platform, a project by Goethe-Institut. You can find the original article here.