Toni Mar’s yoga classes seem to create a subculture of the Cal student body. A culture perhaps stemming from the irritating label of “tonistas” (given by Toni herself), but mostly the unbelievably consistent return rate of her students. I’ve taken her class four times, some of my friends have made it a priority for every semester – making 7 returns. The class itself is challenging, more challenging than any other yoga practice offered in reasonable foot or wheel vicinity. Even with progression, Toni keeps the class difficult and keeps us waiting. Waiting in strenuous poses, keeps us watching her every move, dependent on her every word and breath. Her control is dictated by this control and her knowledge. We keep coming back for more because we feel the difference in our practice, mindset, strength, and other things that I should be more aware of (as yoga is all about awareness).
More recently I’ve recognized the undercurrent of competition within the 30 person, 50 minute class. Toni points out the best students, those with the most experience or strength, asking them to serve as examples for particular sequences or poses. There is no doubt that these students are more skilled, but it highlights a side of yoga that other classes – those that are perhaps less challenging surrounding Berkeley’s campus – intentionally dismiss. Competition in any activity is an obvious and major component, but yoga aims to be a solitary practice that expires comparison and/or rivalry. Ironically, the subculture of tonistas are yet to thoroughly adopt this mindset. I feel eyes shooting around the room, if I step or fall out of a pose for a moment I can rest assured it’s been noted by 5 pairs of eyes. We have evolved to assess the intensity of our neighbors pose from our peripherals. It keeps us pushing as it keeps us stressed.