Life, yoga and other adventures

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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The road to perfection

I do yoga, so I’m perfect. I only eat organic food, I don’t drink alcohol, I never lose my temper, and I always see the best in everyone and everything. Not!

I was having one of those days when I’d tumbled out of bed and barely had time to wash and dress before settling down at my computer to earn a living. Even so, I knew food stocks were running low, so mid-morning I thought I’d sneak a quick trip to the supermarket. I ran a comb through my hair, put on a slick of lippy, checked that my clothes were at least respectable and set off. 

Any other day I would have been there and back without seeing anyone I knew, but not that day. Served me right for being slovenly, I suppose. I was browsing amongst the yoghurts when I heard a voice behind me: ‘Julia? I thought it was you!’ 

It was one of the women from the edge of my circle: not really a friend, but more than just an acquaintance, and always beautifully turned out. I forced a smile and a cheery reply: ‘It’s just a quick dash out and back for a few basics.’ 

‘Are you OK? You look rather drawn,’ she continued. Her disapproval of my dishevelled appearance was evident.

‘Fine, thanks, but I can’t stop. Probably see you by the pasta,’ I laughed, feebly.
I hadn’t gone much further when I bumped into a former student. My heart sank as I watched her eyes take in the contents of my trolley, which included a big bar of chocolate. I fought the desire to explain that it was a treat and there was plenty of healthy stuff in there, too. Honestly. So much for leading by example.

It’s all very well if you live in an ashram beyond the reach of temptation, but out here in the real world we face the constant challenge of avoiding what we know is bad for us, and making positive, life-enhancing choices. So let’s not beat ourselves up about it. I’m not perfect; I’m a work in progress. Insert serene smile here.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

What's your 'Oh no!' posture?

I'm sure I can't be the only one who groans inwardly when my yoga teacher announces we are going to work with Navasana, the Boat. It's my 'Oh no!' posture. I don't know why, but there's just something about it that I find really hard. My students know this, and yet still I teach it.

I do, of course, advocate that my students practise yoga at home, as well as in my classes; but I wonder how many of them only do the postures they like or that they can do easily. I speak from experience when I say it's really hard to make yourself do something you don't want to without the encouragement of a teacher. For instance, at home I hold plank for a lot less time than I do in a class, not because of my ego telling me I mustn't be the first person to fold, but because I know there is still something to be gained from staying with it.

What, then, is the posture you dread most? And is it because it's too difficult, too easy or just plain dull?

Thursday, 7 May 2015

.. and breathe!

Like most people, I’m involved in several social and professional groups, so wherever I go locally it is likely that I’ll see someone I know. One of my favourite crossovers (crosses-over?) is between my yoga and my music worlds. I used to belong to the massed ranks of the altos in a local choir. I wouldn’t say I was a ‘Singer’ with a capital S, but I can hold a tune and I loved being involved in such an uplifting community group.

At the start of every weekly rehearsal, our Musical Director would take us through some warm-up exercises to wake up our vocal cords. We’d la-la-la some scales and arpeggios, and chew imaginary toffee to get our facial muscles moving. All good stuff. But when the MD discovered that I was a yoga teacher, he said, ‘Marvellous! How about you put us through our breathing paces next week?’ Fine, I thought. I can do that. I ended up doing it for almost a year.

Given that some of our number were past the first flush of youth – not to mention that we stood very close together, and the gents were on a step behind the ladies – it wouldn’t have been appropriate to launch into Downward Dog. Instead, I asked them to have a good old shake and then stand tall (in Tadasana, though I didn’t call it that); we’d do a few stretches to open the ribcage to give our lungs room to expand, move our bodies every which way and generally loosen up. Occasionally, I'd talk them into a sneaky Warrior stretch and often finish with a balance, which usually ended up with everyone laughing – always a good result, don’t you think?

It would be fair to say that this intervention did not meet with universal approval. Some choir members made their distaste clear by harrumphing their way through proceedings, with much tutting and raising of eyebrows. They clearly thought I was some kind of weird hippy. One actually went so far as to refuse to join in, and kept his head resolutely down in faux study of his music. There were also occasional mumblings that the time would be better spent singing not ‘doing physical jerks’. Hey ho. I wasn’t offended.

Others, though, said they really enjoyed it and during our coffee break I was often asked questions about yoga and its benefits. A couple of people even came along to one of my classes! I love it when worlds collide.