Picture this: five women standing with their right side up against a wall, right arm stretched up high, singing "Lean on Me." How does this compare to the image that comes to your mind when you read the words "yoga class?"

This was not a spontaneous sing-a-long; the teacher started it.Does your yoga teacher sing pop songs to you? And encourage you to join in? Does your yoga teacher have a "Torture Chamber" sign hanging on the wall? Mine does. He also makes terrible puns.

I take Buddha Body Yoga with Michael Hayes one night a week. I use chairs, bolsters, blocks, blankets and straps for support when I need it. I also use a yoga wall. Michael asks lots of questions. At the start of class he wants to know if anyone has any problems he needs to be aware of. Knees? Back? During class he'll ask, "How's everybody doing?" as well as the really big question, "Are you breathing?" which is actually more of a reminder than a question.

If something hurts, I say so. Michael might make an adjustment that stops the pain, or he might croon a satisfied "yes" which tells me that the stretch is going what it's supposed to do, even if I don't like what it's doing.

I'm never self-conscious about my body in Michael's class. I feel like I can be myself there, make faces and "sound effects"--noises like R2D2 made when it was scared.I may get a little out of hand occasionally, but Michael will just ask--as he did the other night--"Would you like a little cheese with your whine?"

The other day I went to a "real:" yoga studio because I'd registered for a JourneyDance class that was being held there. It was modern, with the "right" decorations, like a wall of bells. It was beautiful, and the majority of the clients and staff would probably be considered beautiful too--young, slender, clad in attractive gear. If I tell you that the studio's web site has a review from Elle magazine, maybe that will give you an idea of the kind of place it is. It felt sterile to me. It felt oppressive. I missed Michael's "Torture Chamber" sign.