Monday, November 28, 2011

Not so much Eat Pray Love, more Sing Pray Blub!

I'm not really what you would call a God type person!

What I mean is, it is fairly hard for me to believe in a beardy bloke relaxing on his cloud, surveying all that he created with a slightly smug look on his face. Similarly, I could never buy into Jesus being the son of said beardy bloke having to be tortured and killed to save us.

Now it may interest you to know that I married a staunch Roman Catholic who is totally OK with the creation, loves the stories of the virgin birth, digs the whole Noah's ark thing. He goes to church every Sunday and prays and lights candles for his family and finds total peace during this precious hour every week.

For me that kind of peace is found on my yoga mat. I zone out of the stresses of life, I focus on my actions and my breath and weirdly love. The yoga studio is my church, my mat is my prayer book and I light my candles inside my body.

If I followed an organised religion I think it would have to be Buddhism. Very simply, you are worshipping the god within which to me makes complete sense.

However, this Sunday just gone I found myself in church!

I had been invited to see my oldest friend sing in a concert with her Rock Choir at the Holy Trinity Church in Guildford. Although churches freak me out a little, I do love a good sing song and so I got dolled up in my Sunday best (no hat!) and made the journey.

Thank Goodness the church wasn't a spooky one! It was a new building with high ceilings, glass doors, polished wooden floors and chairs...not a pew or a whiff of musty prayer books to behold!
I perched gingerly on the end of a row with 15 minutes or so to kill before the concert was to start.

What to do?

I whipped out my phone and texted my sister "Sunday morning and I am in church. What is wrong with this picture?!"
She replied "pretty sure its illegal to text in church. Put your phone away before the lightning strikes!"

So now what?

thumb twiddle, hair ruffle, nail bite...

And then... I came over all Liz Gilbert.

I actually found myself what can only be described as praying...eeeeekkkk!
Well, I like to think of it more as sending out some pleas into the universe in the hope that the mighty universe may offer up some answers.

Thank goodness the choir rolled in on time or I may have signed up to weekly bible study if I had been left any longer!

The choir was (yes I know its over used but its the best word I can think of) AMAZING!
They sang, and I quote form Madeleine's email:

"All over the World - the scary arms one
Take on Me – the scary turning one
Mr Blue Sky – the one where we all sing when we’re meant to be quiet one
Walking on Broken Glass – the rather good one
True Colours – the lovely one
Something inside so Strong – the bring a hankie one"

It was rousing and inspirational, thoroughly enjoyable and hopelessly emotional.
A bright eyed, predominately female group of 50 or so singing their hearts while madly trying to step touch in time to the music and make their fantastically charismatic choir master proud.
Of course, I cried like a girl from beginning to end. The song choice was fantastic, the enthusiasm was boundless and the audience was completely enthralled.

The weirdest bit for me and the reason why I blubbed (even through Aha's hit song "Take on Me") was because, as if by magic,  each song seemed to hold an answer to the big asks I sent out into the universe a few moments earlier.

By the time we got to "Something Inside so Strong" I had to slide my sunglasses over my eyes to shield my embarrassment. I mean a pink blotchy tear stained face is not a good accessory to Sunday Best!

I left church feeling uplifted and bouncy, and to tell you the truth a little changed.

Maybe I should talk to the universe more often. 

Or maybe I should just spend a little time each week not working, not chatting, not emailing, not doing yoga, but just sitting, contemplating, putting stuff out there, and seeing what I get back.

It's worth a try isn't it?!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Muff and Meat!

"Don't stray off your mat Babe!", Terri, my trusty companion and fellow yoga tourist whispered as we walked into the studio at Bikram Soho. With that I looked down to see that instead of the usual wooden or rubber studio floor, we were walking across a floor made of what can only be described as a scrabbly mess of curled up rubber coated wire. Terri continued, "Imagine the horrors that lie in the cells, hair"
"Scabs?" I chimed in!
We tiptoed from that point on, eager to place our mats in the correct place, right up against the painted line, as per the diagram on the studio wall, so as not to offend the Bikramites!
When in Rome and all that...
Not all of the students had the figure to be wearing tiny Lycra shorts with ruched sides and microscopic bra tops that barely covered nipple let alone fleshy bosom,  (I looked like I was dressed for the arctic in comparison with capris and vest!) but it didn't seem to bother them. And even the stereotypical 6 foot tall, bean thin yoga gods and goddesses were struggling to hide their modesty in such postures as dancers pose where the lady in front of me advertised her Calvin Klein thong that had shifted in flight to expose a very well groomed Brazilian!
Hard to focus on your ujaii breath when all around there is "muff and meat"!
The smell of stale sweat was almost overpowering as the man next to me flapped himself from side to side trying to get into salabasana. It was all I could do to stay in the room! The thing is I don't think the smell was coming from him. I think there was a vague aroma as I stepped with trepidation into my first Bikram studio in 3 years. But as the class went on and the room heated up the odour definitely got more powerful and unbelievably anti-social!
The thing is, your senses tend to become heightened when you practice yoga and I must have been working extra hard because my nose was on overload!
Now it sounds as though I am not a fan of Bikram. Let me clarify by saying if it wasn't for Bikram I wouldn't be where I am today. I was a complete Bikram obsessive for more than four years. I loved the heat and the challenge and the competitive nature of the discipline. Plus I loved the large and airy Florida studio that never smelt!
As soon as I started studying yoga more deeply and started my teacher training I got to see that Bikram was fairly restrictive in its 26 postures and then after discovering vinyasa yoga and ashtanga I understood that you can actually create your own heat.
Anyway, I digress...
Terri and I were hoping for a teacher who had experience in other yoga styles. Our instructor seemed to have experience but she was definitely a Bikram robot, sticking religiously to the script and doing so with the smiliest of faces and chirpiest of tones. At any moment I expected her to come out with " Go back, way back, fall back...and please fasten your seat belt as we shall shortly be landing in Calcutta!"  She was Channeling her inner air hostess - Virgin, not BA!! (Terri, you may be the only one laughing at that!)

Smells aside (there is always an uncontrollable farter in every Bikram class!!) it was a really enjoyable class.
Hard to believe from these ramblings I know!
I felt fantastic afterwards and it certainly took me to a depth of posture that is hard to find without the November in England!
I was completely spent after the ninety minutes not to mention a little emotional and after a long savasana I was happy to slide across the now slimy floor out to the coolness of the studio reception. After a rugby shower and a discussion as to why all the skinny birds parade around naked in the changing rooms for hours after class doing their hair, checking their phone, discussing the advantages of a flax seed only diet with other naked birds, we grabbed our shoes at the door and headed into China Town.
Now you have to check out Y Ming on Greek Street. The greatest crispy Duck pancakes on earth and noodles to die for.
Terri and I put the world to rights over one too many beers, all the while garnering very odd looks from other "normal" colour diners in the restaurant.
You could see them trying not to stare, thinking "Radiation poisoning?" , "Allergic reaction?"
"No, I have a beetroot face because I spent an hour and a half doing seriously hard exercise in a bloody sauna...of course!"

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Which word could I use to describe last week...Interesting? Challenging? Difficult?...I've got it, Shit!
Yes, a big steaming pile of it that dances under your nose wafting its nauseating aroma at regular intervals!

It really all started on Monday morning when I took over a yoga class at a local gym. Now the reason I was offered the job was because the existing "Yoga" teacher (and I use the word yoga in its loosest possible terms) had sworn rather violently at the manager for whom I think this was the final straw after a chapter of unacceptable behaviour.

Now you see why I put yoga in inverted commas. Yoga promotes harmony and balance within people, it embraces non-violence and respectfulness.

Anyway, turns out that the "coven" as I have now named the loyal followers of swearing lady were more than a little put out that their fierce leader had been let go. What they failed to realise was that I was not the one who had pushed her out, or asked her to leave or stolen her job.
My only crime was to accept a job offer!

I was the completely innocent party in "yogagate"!

I was therefore totally unprepared for what turned out to be the most awful experience of my yoga teaching life so far. As I introduced myself to the class they physically turned their noses up, they heaved and sighed and commented loudly to each other that it was totally ridiculous having a change of teacher half way through the term....since when do gyms run on terms?!

Anyway, I ploughed on with a smile on my face even when I had several ladies challenge my integrity, my knowledge and my patience, with one woman making a huge fuss and leaving mid balancing sequence, and two of them cancelling their entire gym membership after the class.

These are grown up people!!

I stewed and stewed over this class until Wednesday. What could I have done? How could I have made a better class for them? Should I change what I do to make it more like the last teacher?
Then on Wednesday night I had an epiphany. In fact it was less an epiphany and more an email from the lovely Julie Bealey who taught a class there the next night. She told me that there were a couple of women raving about my class, not knowing that Julie knew me.
So I looked up from my computer and the light bulb dinged above my head...Sod 'em!
For the three or four women who weren't happy there were equal amounts that obviously thoroughly enjoyed the class. 

I have spent a really long time discovering my style in yoga and although I am very aware that part of my job as a yoga teacher is to be able to adapt postures for people who have physical limitations whether temporary or long term but should I really have to adapt my style too?

And after a long and hard think over a large glass of Shiraz, the answer came to me.


You have to be true to yourself right?

I like to flow, I love to play music, I enjoy the challenge of an arm balance. And because one or two don't completely share my tastes, I appreciate they have the choice to simply not come to my class. Like dance there are so many different kinds of yoga. You don't go to a street dance class and complain it should be more balletic!

So the week rolled on to Friday where I faced my second audience with the coven. I plastered on my biggest smile, channelled my inner warrior and strode confidently into the studio, where to my complete surprise I saw 11 happy eager faces. Phew! A couple of which I recognised from the class from hell but mostly all brand spanking new and no coven!

I guess the word had circulated that there was a new kid in town and they wanted to check out my class.

The class was pretty brilliant even if  I do say so myself! There was a positive energy buzzing about as well as some great heavy breathing and a good amount of dripping sweat.
At the end of class there were still 11 people, they were still all smiling and you know what, they even all thanked me!

Faith in the human race restored!

Now the real test will be next Friday if they all come back! They could just have been coming to check out the new girl of course!

The thing is, I got myself into such a state about these women and took everything very personally. What I failed to realise until later was that it wasn't personal at all, well not to me anyway. How could it be, they never gave me a chance. I wonder if those women will look back on their behaviour towards me and feel uncomfortable or remorseful? I wonder if they will ever realise that yoga is not just about stretching yourself on a mat but more about living a life of harmony and balance with yourself, with the universe and all the people in it?

Namaste Freedom Junkies!