Five weeks ago I signed myself up for yoga classes at a respectable yoga school close to my office. I had walked past that place everyday for almost 2 years thinking that one day I would like to see what is behind its blacked-out windows, but it took the fear of offering my services as a rope bunny in a three-day shibari workshop to finally push me over the edge. Late one Sunday night, I clicked ‘Pay now with credit card’ on a six-week beginner’s course and then there was no going back.
For a reasonably fit person, I’m horrendously inflexible. I’m one of those people that you sometimes see hunched over, trying desperately to touch their toes (or at least their shins) like everyone else in a fitness class at the gym, but really not getting anywhere close to that. Usually I’m sitting up, making awkward eye contact with the instructor while everyone else around me is draped on the floor in various states of flexible bliss. I can barely touch my knees let alone my feet when I bend over. This makes for interesting times in my yoga class.
I thought yoga might help me with my flexibility. I probably would if I did it 4 or 5 times a week and after a few months (or years!) of practise. But I don’t have a few months before the workshop and I have one yoga class a week.
I was super nervous the first time I went to class. The class started at 7pm and when I arrived, the place was in darkness, silent and the front door was locked. I wandered around a bit maybe thinking I had the entrance wrong, but then I bumped into another girl who was also there for the class. We exchanged nervous greetings and then loudly talked about what was going on and why everything was locked up. A few moments later, there was an audible click of the lock on the front door and people started pouring out from the class before. I later realised that the class had been silently meditating and the windows that were open at the top near the roof had allowed the 20 or so people inside to hear everything the noobs had been saying – that was mortification point number one.
Mortification point two followed very quickly. I had purposely chosen the 7pm Ashtanga class because it had a limit of 20 attendees instead of the much more convenient 5:30pm Mysore class which had a limit of 8 attendees. I didn’t want too much attention focussed on me so I thought safety in numbers. I quickly found out that only 5 people had signed up for the class (and one dropped out after the second class) so the instructor is very focussed on all of us. The numbers give me no safety at all…
Mortification point three happened last week when none of the other people in the class decided to turn up and I was Forever Alone girl a.k.a one-on-one awkward AF. Fortunately the gods must have been looking down on me with favour because another girl had signed up for what she thought was a Yin Yang class, but the website was glitching and she ended up rocking up to the beginner’s class and they let her stay so it made things much less awkward.
We ended up walking home together (it turned out she lives quite close to me) and had a very interesting conversation about her yoga experiences at other places which involved a lot of farting. Apparently it can be the norm to just let it rip in the silence of a yoga class and I find that hilarious. Granted, the fear of needing to fart is a near and present danger with me regularly, so I felt comforted to know that if I ever lost mastery over my wind tunnel, I wouldn’t be setting a new precedent.
Basically each class sees us learning some parts of the primary series and at the end we have about 10 minutes of meditation time. The class goes for 1 ¼ hrs and by the end of it, I’m glad for the chance to lay down and close my eyes. I’m glad I had had some exposure to yoga before in the few body balance classes I had attended because we pretty much plunged into it and were soon working up a sweat doing a million sun salutes and poses that my body can’t even think about getting in to.
And just for the record, I can’t even really do a proper sun salute because I have to have my knees super bent in order to get my hands down on the floor. I’m sure it looks very ungainly and not at all flowing and yoga-ish.I find just about all the poses very challenging. The instructor shows us modifications for noobs, which is helpful but even then I’m huffing and puffing my way through the class.
I started going to some yoga classes at the gym to supplement the beginner’s class and it is really interesting to see the difference in styles and instructors. Yesterday I went to a new class and it takes the cake for weirdest yoga class I’ve ever been to.
Usually I need to see the poses modelled by the instructor because if someone says to me:
“Bend up your right leg and put your toes on the ground then reach out with your left hand towards your toes and then reach out with your right hand and turn it palm up and wrap it around the right leg and bend the left arm and reach it around to grab the right hand in a finger lock and then lean forward and BREATHE!”
I’ve got no fucking idea what they are talking about. But that is exactly what this instructor did. He prowled up and down the class with his hands clasped behind his back like a prison warden, spouting instructions for an hour and a half without modelling a single pose and I spent most of my time trying to remember which was my right leg and which was my left (I got it wrong on three separate occasions…)
The class culminated in inversions, which luckily I’d had a couple of attempts doing at the beginner’s class – just shoulder stands- but in that class they were walking up the walls and doing handstands and all sorts of stuff not suitable for an inflexible noob like me. It was funny because there was one point when several of the other people in the class were doing their handstands and I made eye contact with the girl next to me and we just sort of shook our heads at each other in a ‘Yeah, yeah, nah’ moment. Funnily enough, the class was packed and everyone seemed au fait with it all.
Anyway, it’s all been an eye-opening experience – from the actual physical toughness of it to the mantra that begins and ends each class of Ashtanga. When my instructor begins with “Oohm Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde” (Om I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Guru) it reverberates throughout the room and is pretty magical.The first time I heard it, I felt the hairs on my arms rise. I’ve been doing 2-3 classes a week of yoga for over a month now (as well as my other cardio and core classes) and while I can’t report any amazing changes in my flexibility, I feel like I can hold some of the poses a little deeper than I could before. I’ve got one beginner’s class left and then I’m wondering what to do. Should I continue the adventures of a yoga noob, or should I move on to something else?