If I had a list of the things I’d never want to try then somewhere near the top, right between getting a heart tattoo on my backside and spending two-weeks on holiday in Chernobyl, would be exactly what I did last week – taking a yoga class.
Stretching your body into poses that you would only normally see in the circus whilst humming isn’t really my cup of tea. I am absolutely sure that yoga has benefits, both physically and spiritually, but it just appealing to me. Some people like blondes and some brunettes, as the English would say it’s “horses for courses.”
However, my wife has become addicted to yoga and attends a class near our home. I’m not sure why but one day I said “Why don’t I join you for a class?” The confused look on her face coincided with my own bewilderment of actually asking such a stupid question. And that’s pretty much how I found myself a few days later sprawled on a yoga mat looking like a body in a CSI murder scene.
Now, I know as much about yoga as Mr. Trump does about viruses – absolutely nothing. Apart from a few photos and some second hand information I really didn’t know what to expect. I assumed that I would be bending and stretching and humming Namaste but that was about it. “Try not to fart,” was the only advice my sister gave me before my first class. Now I had a complex that I’d be parping like a steam train after an Indian curry!
“So let’s relax with some breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth,” said my yoga instructor. Ok, this isn’t too hard, I mean everyone can breathe, can’t they.
One of the reasons that yoga appealed to me was my work. Children today are deforming their backs by sitting too long and staring at the computers screens, meaning that the future generations will all resemble Quasimodo – the hunchback of Notre Dame. But children aren’t the only ones hunched over their screens, I spend the vast majority of my day in front of a blinking monitor. Maybe yoga could heal me?
“Now move your left leg in line with your right shoulder and breathe again,” she said, adding just relax. If I could move my left leg there I would already be in the circus. I was now in some kind of pose that looked like I was about to give birth to twins. And all I was thinking was don’t fart. My wife looked over at me and I smiled back as if I was in control of my body. The reality was my body was screaming “for decades you didn’t move an inch and now you want a pose like a crab.”
Clearly one of the key components of yoga was breathing. That is pretty much a component that every living person has. But this was breathing in an unnatural way, at least for me. Now we were getting more adventurous. Legs here, arms there, and all the time I was clenching my bum in fear that I would fart. “This pose is called greeting to the sun,” our instructor said as we bent our backs like a banana.
Clearly apart from breathing, which I have 50 years’ experience of doing, relaxing and clearing your mind was also a vital ingredient. And this was my problem. “Hold that pose and release your thoughts, “said our patient teacher. Whereas my wife had clearly drifted off into her thoughts my mind was running wild. I find it hard to turn off. Always have. I have two modes, on and off. And off is when I’m asleep.
So instead of drifting away looking at the ceiling I was thinking “that’s quite nice floor edging” and “why didn’t they wire their air-conditioning directly into the circuit instead of having a plug” and “I wonder if the bakery still has that small French bread I like.” Switching off is only something I do when I’m asleep. And all the time I’m thinking don’t fart. My last breath on this world will probably be “Oh, did I turn the toilet light off!”
Again don’t get me wrong the problem was with the student and not the teacher. Our teacher was calm, thoughtful and patient. But she had a student that was easily distracted. In fact, that is exactly what my last report card from school said, “Mark Thomas is a good student but easily distracted and spends too much time talking to his classmates.”
A wise man once said that “Yoga is not just repetition of few postures – it is more about the exploration and discovery of the subtle energies of life.” I have a feeling that my energy is found elsewhere.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to