Good morning, starshine!

I’ll be the first to admit that staying up until midnight eating salted peanuts and watching R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet: Chapters 1-12 wasn’t the best preparation for a 4 a.m. yoga class. At least I had the foresight to sleep in my workout clothes. After dragging myself out of bed and walking seven near-freezing blocks to Deep yoga studio, I felt like a winner for simply showing up.

That is, until I noticed the building was as dark as the circles under my eyes. A friend told me about Deep’s Sadhana Morning Sunrise Meditation, the daily two-and-a-half-hour class that is free for anyone who can stand to wake up that early. Sunrise meditation seemed an auspicious beginning for a new column about the overlooked elements of Sacramento culture, but the deserted studio suggested otherwise. I pressed my nose to the darkened window and considered wrapping myself in my yoga mat for warmth.

A car door slammed behind me, and I turned to see a man with a long beard and a white turban smiling at me. He unlocked the door and bustled about, lighting candles. A few others trickled in, young men and one woman bundled in sweats and looking as sleepy as I felt, and staked out spots on the floor with blankets or fur rugs. I was curious about what sort of people happened to be free (and awake) every morning at 4 a.m., but everyone kept to themselves. No one, except me, had a yoga mat.

I stood shyly by the door, with my mat, strap and sporty sweatsuit, like a refugee from 24 Hour Fitness. Eventually, the turbaned gentleman took pity on me and kindly showed me where I could find blankets in the studio’s cupboards. He didn’t mention my mat, which I slyly stashed under a bench.

I found a place on the floor and attempted to follow along as the instructor led us through a series of chants and the sort of traditional practice one might find on a mountaintop ashram in India. At first, the rapid breathing techniques and core-strengthening exercises were so energizing that my body forgot it would rather be sleeping. Alas, the frequent meditation periods, during which we lay flat on the floor and covered ourselves with blankets, quickly reminded it.

The man next to me actually slept for about half the class, and I began to resent him enormously. Every time we lay down, I’d think, “That’s it. I’m not getting up again. I’m just going to sleep like that guy.” Then the instructor would introduce another exercise, and I’d lurch into a standing position. I compulsively checked the windows for any sign of sunrise, which would mean I was closer to the end of class and thus to my bed.

Eventually, sleep deprivation combined with the extreme oxygen intake of alternate-nostril breathing and the surreal quality of doing leg lifts in the middle of the night to generate a sort of relaxation. As we lay for our final meditation, my mind finally paused the R. Kelly audio loop it had been playing since I woke up. (Instructor: “Imagine energy curling up your spine.” My mind/R. Kelly: “The midget is the baby’s daddy!") I lay listening to the sounds of Midtown waking up: garbage trucks rumbling; Weatherstone employees unlocking the coffeehouse; a woman calling her dog; the rhythmic breathing of the yogis next to me; and cars rushing by, carrying people to another day in the city where nothing ever happens.