For years I’ve been anti-yoga. Not that I know much about it or have ever tried it. I wanted to. But before I got around to it, Yoga became fashionable. And like mostly when things become fashionable, that’s precisely the moment when I am no longer interested. Just keep me as far away from anything that everybody says I need to have, need to do, or need to swallow.
But it was impossible to hide from Yoga. Yogi masters sprouted like weeds, with their followers blatantly identifiable by carrying around rolled up mats. Anybody wearing sports wear without the Omega looking symbol (which by the way is meant to be an “A”) almost overnight seemed to loose all their credibility. Yet I found myself seeing nothing but branded Yoga cattle, herding in and out of those stores (by the way, Chip Wilson is a true master – he really gets retail business). And as if we don’t have enough stuff, the shelves filled up with such essentials as Yoga Bricks, Yoga Socks, Yoga Pillows, Yoga Straps, Yoga water bottles, Yoga mat cleaners, Yoga books, DVDs, and music, Yoga Christmas tree ornaments (really??? yes, really!!) and get this: traditional Mexican Yoga blankets.
No matter how clear I seemed to be on my opinion about Yoga, there was one catch; Sting does Yoga. I like Sting. He isn’t fashionable, he is (or at least markets it well) naturally unique, beautiful and talented. Therefore when I decided a few months back to join a gym (my Swiss Chocolate fat doesn’t hide as well anymore), I couldn’t ignore the fact that Yoga classes were included.
So I went. Not before mentally preparing myself to remain as open as possible, to ignore the fear of all the downward facing dogs, warriors, cobras, and flying things like crows and pigeons whose haunting myths had smoothly integrated into our societal language, and to resist the temptation of buying new (you guessed it: lulu-) yoga pants.
Enter scene: David.
David, the yoga teacher, instantly reminded me of a lesson learnt 20 year ago. At that time my mother had enrolled me in ballet classes and the instructor turned out to be a middle aged, broad shouldered Irish guy with a sizable Guinness belly. Seeing him on the street, ballet instructor would have been the last thing I would have guessed him to (successfully) be. So David did not fit my (TV or Training DVD-) image of a yoga instructor. But as soon as he greeted the class, a blanket of calm and peacefulness folded over the entire studio. With a simple “Hello, I am thankful to be here” he magically shushed all our 21st century western culture stresses out of the room. From that moment on, I know I was going to find out why Sting does Yoga.
Anybody who has been in my shoes – I mean on my bare feet-, knows that you may start Yoga capable of doing the poses, but being able to do them is a longer journey. I think the only two things I managed to do without shaking or collapsing were downward facing dog and the resting embryo pose at the very end. But I hadn’t come for perfection, I had come in search of awareness of me and body and the universe. I had came looking for some peace and quiet in my head.
Mostly it wasn’t quiet: Pain, I am going to fall, how on earth does he (and the rest of the class) do this, stead, steady, steady, ouch, I can’t,…… mixed in with the odd moment of being able to focus on David’s guiding voice and my own gentleness towards myself. Halfway through the class, I found myself with my forehead on my ocean blue yoga mat, hearing his voice saying: “Let all your worries, all your negative thoughts, all that weight that you’ve been carrying around flow out of your head into the Earth”.
So I did. It felt great. For a split second or two. At which time that brain of mine, that one I came here to quiet down, announced: “Wait a minute. I’m on the second floor! So my worries can’t flow into the Earth. Instead they are going to rain down on everybody who is lifting weights on the first floor!”
Needless to say, I have a long way to go. But go I will. One Namaste at a time.