Ah, the stress of relocation. Bank accounts, furniture, health insurance… and finding the right yoga class.
I am not a natural exerciser. Also, I do not believe that the universe runs on chi. (Whatever chi is.) But in the right conditions I love yoga. What I like is the way you have to concentrate so hard to get your body aligned correctly in the pose, and then you can feel things stretching that you never normally notice. You feel yourself bending a little further… your legs, or your arms, or your shoulders supporting you… your balance just holding… and then at the end of the class you float out on a cloud of bliss, standing a good three or four inches taller than when you walked in. And all that talk about working just hard enough but no harder, using your breath to help you, letting go of frustrations and tensions – it’s all very helpful for someone as stressy as I often am.
Anyway, so I join Evanston Athletic Club, partly because it has an enormous variety of classes. And I like it very much. But now here’s the thing. It calls a high proportion of its yoga classes ‘multi-level yoga’, with the helpful note: ‘varies depending on instructor.’ And this has sent me off on an odyssey round the different yoga instructors of EAC, trying to find a class that can accommodate someone of my limited abilities, dodgy wrist, and preference for holding poses long enough to get them more or less right.
I have encountered the following.
Maria the Slav, who says the word ‘shoulders’ as ‘shoolllldurz’ and the word ‘knees’ with two syllables. (I am tempted to do an IPA transcription, but I don’t think many of you would appreciate it.) Maria is all about spinal alignment and likes to demonstrate this by bending a lamp with a metal stem around.
Sandy, who says ‘yah’ after most sentences and addresses the class as ‘yogis’. She believes that the half-dog, a (to me pointless) variation on downward dog where you keep your forearms flat on the floor, was the best invention of the twentieth century.
Shaina, who plays Incas-and-dolphins music throughout and is keen on you sticking your feet in the air.
Carole, who says ‘breath breathes’ and similar syntactic innovations, has a special practice for the New Moon, and chings her miniature cymbals together when she wants your attention.
And Steve, who has a cult-like following and harangues you about the importance of unity and other yoga values non-stop at the top of his voice for an hour and a half. He was into stroking my back. But he meant it kindly.
At the moment the only one I can tolerate is Maria. Actually I really like Maria. But how I miss my favourite classes in Bristol and York, where the teachers had a sense of humour, people giggled when they couldn’t do the poses, and at the end of the class in York, one week in four, we had to arrange the chairs for an ornithologists’ meeting afterwards.