This morning I woke up aching – that satisfactory stiffness that comes from knowing you have done something positive for your body; in my case, yoga.
One of the many things I promised myself that I would do during my month away is to spend some time every day exercising. Over the weekend, I set about finding places that offer Pilates. I was delighted when I read reviews of a studio nearby offering both Pilates and Yoga as I thought I could also benefit from some quieting of my mind through the latter (shocker that I might need it, I know).
Yesterday morning I jumped into my training gear and ran out the door with the aim of procuring my breakfast of champions – coffee and a bagel (a swiftly formed habit that I am not confident will be broken quite as easily) – and swinging by the aforementioned studio to confirm details on their beginners’ Yoga which would be taking place later that morning.
On arrival into the basic, street-level studio, the most beautifully delicate Asian lady, dressed in flowing coloured clothes and topped off with silky dreads knotted on her crown was lighting incense and just being generally wonderful. She sort of reminded me of Rainbow Bright, but happier. She welcomed me and asked if I was new. I explained apologetically that I wasn’t actually joining her class (it was Intermediate / Advanced) but was looking for information on what to bring to the later one, aimed at my level of inexperience. She looked slightly wounded and assured me that if I had done yoga in the past then she could teach me this morning. Well, of course, she could teach me – one look at that face said she could teach me all there was to learn about the world… but I wasn’t prepared to join right now, I was only passing.
In under a minute, I was on the wooden floor unrolling my mat, surrendering to the situation. At this stage, there was only one other girl in the studio so I felt confident that all would be well and I would receive all the guidance I needed. Actually, I was suddenly feeling quite great about how things had developed. Get me, jumping from my bed straight to yoga. So New York already! Then another girl arrived; all mild-mannered and Madonna-armed. My resolve waivered. She and girl number 1 adopted beautifully gracefully sitting positions on the end of their mats, exhibiting the posture of angels. I needed a rolled blanket under my bum to emulate and, although I looked more crushed Coke can than ballerina, I gave myself over to the session and let positivity prevail. ‘I’ve practised Yoga in an Ashram in Rishikesh’ (badly); ‘I’ve done Bikram in Harold”s Cross’ (breathlessly); ‘I’ve got this’. Zen, here I come.
And so it began: we breathed, swayed, listened, relaxed, rooted our tailbones to the ground like trees (or something) – we were yoga-ing and I liked it. As my classmate’s breaths became slightly deeper, more passionate, earnest, heartfelt, I brushed away by immediate cynicism and found myself encouraged by their mindfulness. That’s when it started: ‘HHHHHHMMMMMMMMMMMMM’. I peeked through one eye and shifted my head to the right to catch a look at all three others. Yes, this was coming from them, all of them, at once. It was a thing. ‘HHHHHHMMMMMMMMMMMMM’. Should I join in? This was not the place to be self-conscious. So I began, squeaky at first ‘hh…hh….hhh…mm…mm’. I peeked again. No one was laughing. No one else was peeking. Everyone was chanting; breathing in and chanting out. I went again. ‘Hhh…hhh…hhh…Mmm…mm’. Now I was getting in to, finding my voice, getting my Zen on. ‘HHHHHHMMMMMMMMMMMMM’. Only for this one, that I projected so loudly, I was alone. They were finished. It echoed.
I knew things weren’t going great when, about 15 minutes into the class proper, Rainbow Bright suggested I pull my mat way back to the mirror so I could keep an eye on the others movements. Guessing the meaning of the poses and free-styling enthusiastically based on how they sounded was apparently not working. So I kept both eyes on the girls and I started getting into it again, particularly when I saw them roll themselves backwards and reaching their legs to the ceiling. I did gymnastics when I was 7. YES! This is my moment because I can do this for sure. My legs flew up and I enthusiastically stretched myself, delighted to be part of the sisterhood of yoga.
For those that know me, they know that I am nothing without my regular feeds. Like a machine on a timer, my hunger appears morning, noon and evening, and it affects everything that I attempt to do. Concentration fades and distraction ensues. Along with this my stomach growls in an utterly offensive manner. It’s surround sound and similar to that of a bellow reverberating in a cave or, should your legs be stretched in the air and your bum sticking out with gusto, a fart. So yes, as far as everyone in my class was concerned, I kicked my legs behind my head, stretched my toes to the sky and let rip. I mean I didn’t, clearly, but there was no explaining myself. We were in yoga. I couldn’t defend myself verbally and break the equilibrium (although perhaps their perception of my breaking wind had much the same effect). In a blind panic that saw my eyes nearly burst out of their sockets and my face turn an unhealthy shade of purple, I swung my legs back to earth, clenched every muscle in my stomach for fear of repeat and lay with knotted brow, staring at the ornate ceiling as the others remained perfect ‘greater-than’ signs, free of distasteful noises. Within seconds the instructor approached me. Was I being thrown out? Or worse, reassured that it’s normal (Geri Halliwell never stopped going on about how common it is to have a botty-cough during the poses in her video … but I didn’t do it Geri! It was my abnormal stomach noises! I should have had my bagel and latte and to hell with the health!). Rainbow Bright did not say a word but rather stretched a blanket out in front of her and proceeded to lay it over me. Oh God, I was being put down.
As I lay there, covered head to toe in blanket and shame, desperate to explain myself, something very interesting happened. My nose twitched at the welcome aroma of lavender lingering very close by. I peeked my tiniest peek, only to see two delicate little hands waving over my face. Unsure of what exactly was going to ensue, but in fear of it stopping anytime soon, I closed my eyes again and played dead. And then a wonderful thing happened; my head and back felt began to receive a massage like no other. I was gently tugged, stretched and pushed – it was utterly magical. I even managed to quiet the giggly thoughts of how my friend might react with a punch between the eyes of a stranger that took such physical liberties with her (in the name of wellbeing or not). As there was only one Rainbow Bright in the room, this, it was clear, was just for me. I don’t know if it was pity, encouragement or newcomer treats, but there, in the final minutes of my 60-minute class that had felt like 260 minutes, I finally found my Zen.
(Yes I did run out the door afterwards, no I didn’t sign up for the month and yes, weirdly I do want to go back but will consider a wig and will insist on beginners).
In Other News…
During my time in New York, I am compiling a playlist made up of suggestions from the great people I meet.
Being too embarrassed to mention it to my Yogi pals, this song comes courtesy of the wonderful burst of energy that is Allison (technically my landlady – I’m renting her room while she visits South America but was lucky enough to hangout with her before she left). Lord Huron are now on repeat these parts and I recommend them highly. Enjoy!
Lord Huron: ‘Time To Run’