I live along the Russian River in a mellow little hiccup of a town named Rio Nido. In the summer I get a nice workout three or four times a week biking to the nearby enclave of Guerneville and practicing Ashtanga Yoga at a tiny 10-person studio called River Bed Yoga.

Summers on the river are markedly different from the rest of the year not just because of the change of weather, but because vacation rentals in the area are second in the state only to Lake Tahoe. 

For the most part I welcome the tourists; they liven up our quiet little communities and bring in much-needed commerce. In terms of yoga though, it can be a different story. Tourists, or "drop-ins" as they are called, reinforce why I choose to live serenely on the outskirts of Sonoma County.

Just yesterday I was trying with very little success to follow along with our teacher’s instructions. She wasn’t the problem. It was a female "drop-in" who had planted herself front and center and appeared to be leading the class. 

She was undeniably beautiful. Her fluorescent orange top crossed seductively in the back drew much attention — this was not her fault, but did she really need to perform her version of yoga?

I know Ashtanga is about meeting one’s self where they are, and focusing on what’s happening on one’s own mat, but I’m a writer of many years, so observing is also what I do.

How could I not notice that if we were all in the inverted V of "downward facing dog," Miss Fluorescence was laying down so we couldn’t miss how bendy she was.

When she did make the effort to join the class and stand with the rest of us, the teacher would try and engage her by saying something like “that’s a nice variation,” but she couldn’t even be bothered to answer.

It wasn’t until after class that I found out what her problem was. She wasn’t mentally ill, well not exactly. She had something far worse going on: she was a yoga snob, and she was from L.A.

With a Perspective, I'm Shannon Willitts Falk.

  • The only one who would appear to be mentally ill here is the author.

  • Nate Molino

    L.A. stands for Look At (me). Right on.

  • James

    Right On John!

    Who’s the real snob in this commentary? Shannon is. If one were to judge from this episode, it is clear that Perspectives is in dire need of real content.

  • Ray

    Given the numerous things that merit having a “perspective” about, it is highly disappointing that KQED decided to devote a segment to this rant about “first-world” problems. There is nothing thought-provoking or constructive about this piece; localism, broad generalizations about people based on where they come from, and gripes about yoga class are fit for gossip at a coffeehouse, not public radio.

  • Gena

    This is, by far, the worst segment of perspectives I’ve heard. The author used this forum to complain about a single person. The listener is led to believe, by the introduction to the piece, that the topic is about the influx of tourists to the Russian River area during the summer months. Instead, we learn about one person who annoyed the author in a yoga class, whom the author nearly equated to be mentally ill. Why KQED chose to provide a large audience to this piece of Facebook-level garbage is disappointing.

  • Becky

    Who cares?! Seriously.

  • Living in Marin

    Stop the LA bashing! Wasn’t the issue the the person’s behavior not where they live? There are plenty of people living in Northern CA that behave similarly! I’ve been in class with them, but certainly don’t claim they are mentally ill or blame it on their home address!

    • Art


  • Mr. Mirth

    I may not know “downward facing dog” from “pinched flowering
    bud”, but I do know this is one of the funniest Perspectives I’ve heard – thank
    you for a good laugh and somehow providing a happy memory of William Saroyan.

  • Casey

    Worst Perspective Ever this morning. I’m embarrrassed for Shannon Willitts Falk and I’m embarrassed for all the women she represents with her petty and obnoxious cattiness. It is this type of unattractive sentiment shared by Ms. Falk shares that prompts one to inadvertently respond with the equally unattractive, “she’s just jealous” reply.
    Sitting across from my boyfriend eating breakfast at the kitchen table, we both stopped, mouths agape mid-bite, to shake our heads in disbelief and disgust at this perspective. I frequently witness, with sadness and distaste, the culture pitting women against women – so pervasive and embarrassing. Hearing it on NPR this morning felt like a total intrusion.
    Ms.Falk’s judgmental attitude makes HER the one unfit for yoga class.

  • Moker

    How do we know the yoga snob wasn’t born in the bay area? Maybe she was coming back to the place where she grew up. How would you

  • Henry

    Shannon may welcome the money that tourists bring to “her” community but her perspective reflects intolerance, pettiness, and ingroup/outgroup thinking. Being from LA is far worse than being mentally ill? This is ignorant and insensitive at so many levels.

  • Alicia

    I am so disappointed that KQED chose to air this piece. It wasn’t interesting to anyone outside of Shannon Willitts Falk’s simple-minded, snobby, intolerant, and conformist head. If anyone needs “perspective” it’s Shannon.

  • theaetetus

    Most of the comments are right on. I was not impressed with this piece. The drop in was scorned for doing yoga? It was never established that the person did anything to be deserve being deemed “mentally ill” Then to claim that the person came from LA was an adequate explanation was juvenile. By trying to degrade a ‘yoga snob’ the author of this perspective did little to create a positive image of herself. Maybe revisiting her many years of writing might help.

  • Leigh

    Shannon appears to have missed the meaning of yoga. It is about many things – including non-judgment. This perspective’s focus on externals and unkindness towards another class member is the antithesis of what yoga embodies.

  • Ivy

    I agree with Gena, I was VERY offended. She wasn’t Mentally Ill she was from L.A. come on that was a terrible thing to say.

  • Zelda

    As a yoga teacher for 30 years, I got a good laugh at this piece. It does seem that in the last couple years, there has been an upsurge in rudeness by “yoga snobs” who ignore the teacher and do their own thing. I don’t understand why they come, unless it’s to show how “advanced” they are. This not only shows disrespect for the teacher but distracts the other students, who sometimes get confused into doing poses they are not remotely ready for. For me, this is a safety issue.

    I can’t imagine any of my teachers putting up with this, and I wouldn’t treat them that way. I hope the yogis and yoginis reading this get a better idea of what not to do. If your mind is closed to what I have to offer, then just leave quietly. If you stay, please don’t be a nuisance.

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