Thursday, January 05, 2006

Andy's Yoga Adventure...

I will confess to just a little bit of apprehension about going to the yoga class. Well, actually it was more apprehension about going to the leisure centre for a leisure centre class. You see, leisure centres tend to be filled with sporty people and I’ve never really been particularly sporty. It started at school when they started to turn “play” into sports, and sports meant teams, and teams meant competition and competition meant getting shouted at repeatedly by both the teachers and the bastard kids who had the audacity to actually enjoy competitive sports.


Couldn’t they have just left me and the other geeks to read comic books in the library?

Naturally in P.E., during the selection of teams, I was invariably picked last. I was also always put in goal or defence (or "in reserve") and was invariably the last one struggling to complete the laps around the field. Owing to the “hand-me-downs” from my older brother I never once owned a single piece of fashionable sports clothing and was the last kid wearing flared trousers at school - a full 2 years after all the other boys were smartly kitted out in their white socks and stay-press Chinos. So after an exhausting and de-moralising hour of abuse by teachers, sport-cocky kids and the weather it would be back to the changing rooms for a nice bit of unsupervised bullying and intimidation. If the teacher was in a fruity mood we’d also be forced into the showers for the jolly jape of naked public humiliation to make sure a thoroughly decent sense of inadequacy was rammed home to all the boys who were regretfully still waiting for the additional pain of puberty to arrive.

But it is ok. I am not bitter.

I arrived at the leisure centre suitably early to fill in the membership form I’d collected the previous day prior to my blurry swimming adventure. On the approach through the car park I saw thin sporty people everywhere, many performing strange limbering moves as they move and all wearing those strange tracksuit trousers. You know the ones, they are almost skin tight and are pulled taught lengthways by the strap that goes under the foot. The people all seemed to ooze that nasty sporty confidence and I began to ooze a sense of being somewhat out-of-place in my Tesco Savers Tracksuit, mum-knitted woolly hat and heavy overcoat.

In the foyer were about a million runners (not joggers but runners) also performing those weird limbering moves, and again, they all seemed to be wearing that same type of tracksuit bottom. I navigated through them quickly, secretly worried that they might be Hash House Harriers and one might realise that I’m the guy that has recently started “jogging” on their patch. I'm scared of the HHH only slightly less than I am scared of the early morning Pensioner Mafia.

I filled in my form and paid my money. This means that I am now officially a member of the leisure centre and so get a reduction on the fees. It might also mean that I need to buy some stupid jogging bottoms with foot straps, but I’ll wait and see what happens.

Waiting patiently outside the yoga room I met the lovely Jane, beauty therapist (hello!) who offered reassurance by telling me how popular yoga is at the centre. She also told me that Tony, the yoga instructor, is very good and I’ll be in for a good evening. Seeing yoga type people arriving and going straight into the room, I said the pleasantries, took a deep breathe and went in.

I did a yoga class twice before in Southampton. The teacher was great – the group was horrible. I’m sure that group were the same Pensioner Mafia that go to the early morning swimming sessions – possessive, highly territorial and act as though rudeness to anyone without zimmer frame or tartan trolley is the secret Elixir of a long and revengeful life.

I remember the time after a 60-hour week working in neurosurgery. It was at the peak of the understaffing crisis in the NHS and basically unless the fantastic staff on that department put the hours in then people would die. I was in Waitrose with a trolley full of groceries. As I was unloading, I became aware of an elderly gentleman behind me who was tutting, gruffing and generally making noises of serious dissatisfaction. I ignored him and carried on unloading my shopping (the eventual bill came to £65). It was only after I had finished unloading and generously put the “next customer” plastic thing onto the conveyer belt behind my groceries that this “gentleman” whacked me in the back, turned to the resentful woman behind him and said, “I don’t know why we have to put up with ignorant people like him.” I asked, “Excuse me?” And it was only then, because I had finished unloading, that he chose to point out that I was erroneously in the “5 items or less” checkout.


So, walking into a room full of chat, smiles and occasional laughter I immediately knew I was in a good group. Good age mix, 80/20 female/male ratio. I’ve been into various groups before and some form a “click” and tend to ignore the new guy – this lot seemed lovely. Yoga attracts the nice people.

It was fairly obvious when Tony arrived. He kind of floated magnificently in with oceans of calmness flowing freely from every pore. With quick introductions over he moved quickly into a relaxation and breathing exercise. At least, I think there was a breathing exercise. Owing to Tony’s calm voice and rhythmic tones, the last conscious thought I had was, “Wow, this guy would make a great hypnotist…I mean a really great…” And that was the last thought I knew before I heard the instructions to start moving our bodies, taking deeper breathes and coming back. I came back feeling quite floaty.

I must confess I found yoga a lot harder work that I had imagined. Holding the postures and stretches requires a lot of strength, co-ordination, concentration and balance. I wobbled clumsily watching many of the others perform the moves with such apparent ease and grace that I realise that I have my work cut out for me.

Quite a few times I broke out in a serious sweat and by the end of the session I felt that I had had a combination of a thorough workout and a lengthy chiropractic manipulation. This is good and I’ll be back next week.

I am a yoga student.

I bend.


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