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Saturday, 18 December 2010

Day 236: Yoga for the curious and uncoordinated

I'd been talking about this since Day 1, actually probably before Day 1, but after 8 months of hauling my body around Asia fuelled largely on noodles and cheap beer it was about time to show it that I still cared.

After some research and much deliberation, Rob packed his bag and departed to Lombok, and I committed to a 3-class package with The Yoga Barn. My first lesson was not called an Early Bird session for nothing, leaving my room at a sleepy 6am I made my way across town and down a small path to the beautiful grounds. The Yoga Barn is so-called because the room in which all the stretching happens was once a barn. Today the barn has 2 floors and only 2 walls, leaving a panoramic view of green rice paddies and allowing in all the sounds of nature. So far, so blissful.

Now as a total Yoga-virgin I had brought with me a series of concerns, these were;

  1. What if everyone else in the class were proper yoga-pros, you know the type, tiny shorts, impossibly stretchy limbs and that infuriatingly calm look of someone whose found 'inner peace' and wants to convey this through dead-eyes and slow nods

  2. I really hope the teacher doesn't speak in slooooow and reelaaaaaaxing huuuuussky tones about reeeeaaaallly feeeeling yoooouur iiiinner chiiiild aaaalllign with the myyyyyystical pooooowers of the moooooon

  3. What the hell do I do if I fart?

I needn't have worried. The class had about 20 very normal people in, spaciously spread over the wooden floor facing a stone statue of Ganesh and Uma, a pettite and beautiful Indian woman who was taking the class and spoke with an endearing rolling Indian accent and often made jokes. I did – you'll be happy to read - maintain bowel-silence throughout.

The 90-minute session was great. We began with breathing exercises and moved onto sun salutations which, I think I'm right in saying, is a series of stretches and postures that should be repeated each morning to awaken the body and the soul. Then we attempted some more strenuous stretches that included moves called Warrior 1, 2 & 3 and a head-stand. I cannot do a head-stand, but I do a mean Warrior 2. (for reasons mostly centred around my own dignity, there are no photos of me doing Yoga but here's someone else doing the Warrior 2 properly)

There was some “release all your pain and anxiety to mother earth” talk in a move that involved stretching upwards and then dropping your hands and head towards the ground with an impassioned “heurgh” sound . But it came with the explanation that we all have pain, we're human, and if we have pain we shouldn't give it to someone else by moaning at them because they already have their own pain. If we take our pain and give it to the earth through Yoga we'll all feel less pain/anxiety/anger – which kind of makes sense when you think about it.

I wasn't here on a spiritual mission so when the session was over I checked the time table and, since all the sessions are drop-in, decided to go for Restorative Yoga which promised to “bring about gentle release focusing particularly on shoulders hips and spine.” After 8 months of lugging 13kg of my worldly possessions around on my back I thought this was not only necessary but could help in the months to come.

Feeling suitably invigorated and awake I made it back to the room in time for breakfast, I'll confess the Gurus probably didn't have a banana pancake in mind as the most complimentary meal to a Yoga sesh but I am a big believer in the golden hour that exists after exercise in which a moment on the lips does not mean a lifetime on the hips.

Safe in the knowledge that my newly-enlivened metabolism was working overtime and my soul was at least a little bit cleaner, I put on some relaxing music and lay down.

I awoke to a clap of thunder at almost half 2 in the afternoon. Had I mistake 'invigorated' for 'knackered'? Maybe. But it felt good.


Right! Here I am writing from the other side of the Restorative Yoga class. It's about half past 8 and I figured I'd better write this now before I grab some dinner because if it's anything like last time, I'll be asleep in 10 minutes.

Again I really enjoyed the class though it was very different from this morning. It was much more about stretching particular parts of the body and relaxing the whole body in general. The session was run by a different teacher this time (but still no sloooow yoga-voice thankfully), an English lady called Bex, who stressed the importance of listening to your own body. In that sense she asked if anyone was carrying any injuries at the beginning of the class and tailored the postures to these. She also demonstrated each posture with a slight adjustment that made it easier and a slight adjustment “for the more flexible” that made it more strenuous. I was pretty pleased that despite this being only session 2 of my Yoga career I was able to do the standard position each time (here's another pic of someone else doing a posture we did in class)

I wish I could remember all of the moves and techniques that I've done (I'd like to say 'learnt' here but that's not really true) today so that I can continue to practice them on this trip. I feel like I can really see the physical benefits to this kind of exercise. To be fair, I haven't done any sort of exercise at all in the last 8 months (does messing around in the sea count?) and it feels really good to feel physically tired from actually doing something not just from being lazy or being on a bus for a day.

My limbs do feel looser right now, though whether this will turn into aches in the morning we'll have to wait and see...

Part II now here

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