On Sunday morning, instead of sleeping in, like any sane person would, I decided to go to yoga. I’d missed my usual Wednesday night class because I’d prioritised dinner with a friend, over exercise; like any sane person would.
I was the last to arrive. The instructor, who looked like an Olympic Gymnast who’d fallen on hard times and was now forced to teach at a community gym, beckoned me to the only space left. I reluctantly made my way to the very front of the room and rolled out my mat right next to him. All the yogis would now get to watch two versions of the class. One for seasoned practitioners with triple joints, and elastic instead of muscle in their limbs; demonstrated by the teacher. And the other for people with no joints, and marshmallow instead of muscle in their limbs; demonstrated by me.
Suddenly we were off and working our way through a series of basic poses. Perhaps I’d been too quick in my judgement. Perhaps this class was going to be the nice Sunday morning stretch I’d envisaged in bed after all. We began with a simple Cat Cow to lengthen the lower back, followed by Plank which flowed into Cobra, and then back up and into Downward Facing Dog. So far so good. Then came a High Lunge followed by Warrior 1. Even though I hate standing poses, particularly the ones with frightening names like Fierce Warrior and Reverse Warrior, I managed to keep up. And then thankfully after an Extended Side Angle pose we came into a seated position on our mats. I’m a great fan of any pose that involves sitting or lying down.
With my legs stretched out on the mat in front of me I focused on keeping my back straight. The instructor told us to hug the right knee to the chest. Apanasana. Simple. I’ve done this many times before. Then he told us to take our right foot in both hands and rock our right hip back and forth. Good old Baby Cradle pose. A simple hip opener. Easy. After all I’ve been doing yoga for about twenty years. The image below however is not of me doing yoga; now or twenty years ago.
Then the instructor said, “Place your right foot on the ground. Put your right hand next to your foot. Now put your shoulder under your knee.” That’s when I became slightly alarmed. The top of my body does not usually fit beneath any part of the bottom of my body. Suddenly the instructions were coming thick and fast, mainly thick, me that is, as I was still trying to manoeuvre my torso closer to my foot. I looked up to see what I was supposed to be doing and for a moment I thought I’d swallowed a whole batch of hash cookies for breakfast instead of a slice of toast. Before me, the instructor floated above the ground, supported it seemed by an invisible thread. His legs extended at a sharp right angle from his torso, demurely crossed at the ankles, his head balanced serenely at the front. He looked like a complicated bow on a very well wrapped present.
The image above is not of my yoga instructor, but it is the pose which he was demonstrating at the time. And the image below is not of me, but it is the pose I was demonstrating at the time.
With a snort of disbelief, which did nothing to disbalance the instructor, I looked around the room. I was expecting to see my class mates rolling around on the floor, holding their bellies, tears streaming from their eyes, laughing themselves stupid at the ludicrous expectations emanating from this god of equilibrium. Instead I was greeted by twenty pairs of eyes hovering above wrists, magically attached to pliant, supple limbs gracefully balanced two foot above, and parallel to, their mats. Who were these people? How can I hope to make friends in my local community if these are my neighbours? What could we possibly have in common? I turned slowly around and slunk into a simple child’s pose.
Finally they all came back down to earth and we moved through several twists and then into the final corpse position. It’s a relaxation pose that involves lying flat on your back, breathing deeply and trying to imagine yourself anywhere but here. It’s called corpse pose because if you haven’t died of extreme humiliation during the class you’ll probably collapse from extreme exertion on the way home.
But luckily I think I’ll live to see another day. The image below is not of me just what I looked like after the class. As the old saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Or in my case, stiffer.
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Shape, Mental Floss, and HYA blog