Before I moved back to the inner city, one of the best things I enjoyed in my previous location was the weekly yoga class. Classes were held in a garden studio. Our insightful teacher knew what to do with women of a certain age and how to work with the pull of gravity, body and soul. There was comfort and even pleasure in being stretched and refreshed. Minds were taken elsewhere especially with the aid of comfy blankets, lavender eye pillows and some gentle omming. It was so relaxing that inevitably one or other of us would slip into a bit of a snore, snuffle slumber. Some quiet smothered giggles ensued and relief that it wasn’t me. Well not always.
So with the move, the search for a replacement yoga class began.
First I ventured into a studio on the main road. This was my first foray into yoga (Iyengar) where props featured. My understanding is that yoga is good for destressing and not meant to be distressing. My sighting of the various blocks, ropes and bindings made me a little nervous. The first task of striking a supposedly relaxing pose tied together in what felt like a body seatbelt contraption just made me feel and look like a sweaty macrame knot. But I persevered and moved through stretches but when the yoga teacher asked us to fetch the folding chairs my stress levels started to rise when I realised the chairs were not for sitting on but we were to weave our way, semi acrobatically through them! I eyed off the narrow space thinking how was my computer spread derrière going to gracefully and lithely move through what seemed to be a not very sturdy prop. Was this a test? Something to do with mind over matter? By this stage as I wrangled and shoved my body through the space praying that I wouldn’t get stuck all thoughts of achieving a relaxed state of being, had totally disappeared. I didn’t return to that class but opted to try another at the studio presented as being for deep relaxation. Props featured again. After being coaxed into a position that made me feel like an inverted frog the instructor indicated that we would reach greater depths of relaxation if we were to put a block strategically between our shoulders, breathe deeply and hold the pose. It was a long hold.
After the bruises had subsided from that session I went in search of a good physiotherapist.
So I headed off to another studio in a different direction. The class and ambience looked promising enough. A sylph like teacher sat next to an Asiatic drum and gonged us into the session. It was obviously a very popular class judging by the numbers in the class. It also meant having to be very aware of not flinging out an arm or a leg too far, as body space was at a premium. Space was so crucial that being packed into that room I quickly developed an awareness of what you would call the ‘great unwashed’ possibly comprised of many students who had obviously cycled in many cases at speed or hopefully had plans to shower at the end of the day. I couldn’t keep up with the moves especially in such a confined stuffy space. But the mainly young things, who I came to think of being as Gumby people, green and bendy like the cartoon character, moved as a flexible mass. I was glad to be gonged out.
In search of a smaller venue and an aesthetically calming setting, I stumbled upon a class not far away and held in a room where light filtered through stained glass windows. The setting was promising and the class was small…intimate. So intimate that after the first session where there was at least one other person it just became the teacher, “Hannah” and myself every week. I had signed up for a term and I was hopeful that there would be others attending, even on a casual basis. If some other people had attended it would have given substance and greater meaning to Hannah’s one and only script of yoga moves which by the third session I also knew off by heart. Hannah’s references to ‘and now everyone’ and we will all… made me feel constantly disconcerted and left me scanning the room while downward dogging to check on the crowd that Hannah seemed to think she was leading. I felt very obligated to attend Hannah’s classes, being the one and only, so when I needed to head overseas for a spot of work I asked my son if he could fill in for me. I was worried about the crowd.
My son attended one session and contacted me soon after to check on that physiotherapist ‘s details.
Hannah had actually gone off script while he attended her class, but she quickly reverted to type or to the script, may be due to a drop in confidence, which resulted in my son dropping too or left hanging in a half descent from the diversionary handstand unable to disentangle easily without a disc issue, while Hannah continued with “and now we will all…”. Neither of us returned to Hannah’s classes.
Then there was the brief attendance at another class. Again, a beautiful serene setting. An important criteria in my search. But it was not to be. The class was good but a bit hard on the knees. However when the teacher brought out her musical instrument, an Indian shruti box which looks like a type of musical bellows ( and sounds like flattened bagpipes) and then handed out the printed words for us to sing our praises to Lord Shiva ( I haven’t even mouthed the words to the Lord’s Prayer for a long time) that I decided that the search was still on.
Finding ‘yoga nirvana’ was becoming even more challenging, but it is all about the journey, is it not? We go to yoga for many reasons but one reason at least is to try with gentle stretches and movement to reach a state of relaxation and even other worldliness. Other worldliness does not mean using a yoga class as a form of group therapy. That’s therapy for a yoga teacher, for her, not us. It is one thing to practice compassion and empathy but reaching a state of relaxation when being regaled with stories fuelled by anger resulting from her divorce is a bit challenging. I only lasted two sessions in that class.
So for my final attempt at finding a class I responded to a flyer at the cafe which featured a woman in a ‘tree’ pose with a paper bag over head advertising as ‘Sad’ yoga. By this stage paper bag over head yoga resonated with me. And it did. Moves were designed to uplift our sense of well being (no bag on head). These were great classes and I attended regularly and I was even the proud recipient of a medal for my constant and regular attendance. Then as it is the way of the world these days and in so many areas of our lives, our teacher informed us that she was going ‘virtual’ and our face to face classes had come to an end. Sad.
The search goes on. Ommmm.