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October 27, 2014

The Perfect Beginner’s Class.

Yoga class_Italy

It’s been months of deliberating and hesitating, feeling that you aren’t flexible, the scene intimidates you, and you don’t have the right outfit.

Now, you have decided to take a yoga class at your local studio.

You arrive 20 minutes early, unsure of what to expect. There is no one at the studio except for a friendly smiling person behind the front desk who greets you with a “Hello, welcome! Are you new to the studio?”

Is it that obvious?

“Great that you came so early, so you can take your time to fill out this form, and then I will show you around.”

This makes you feel a little better. When you get to the question about your health, you hesitate: Great, good, average, poor? That’s why I came here to begin with! The friendly person notices your hesitancy and says: “Don’t worry about it. We are not here to judge you. We just want to know if you have any physical challenges we should know about. Your teacher will ask you again too.”

Relieved, you fill out: “average, aiming at great!”

When you enter the classroom the teacher is setting up her yoga mat, but turns around and walks up to you with an extended hand. “Hi, I’m X” she says warmly. “I will be your teacher today. What is your name? Have you practiced yoga before?”

You want to say “yes” and pretend you know what you are doing, but then you remember reading somewhere that being honest is part of the yoga practice too. As if she is reading your thoughts, X points out that there is no need to feel intimidated. “Anyone can practice yoga. This is not a fitness class. And I don’t expect you to stand on your head today”.

Despite yourself, you chuckle. Maybe this isn’t going to be so bad.

X adds: “Today the only thing you need to do is keep breathing. If you cannot follow along with all the postures, that is perfectly fine. That will come with experience. Right now, just focus on your breath.”

You sit on the mat that X has handed to you, waiting for the class to begin. Other students now start to fill up the space. Luckily the studio isn’t packed. Everyone is quiet and seems to be absorbed in their own world. At least they are not eying your outfit!

Your teacher suggests that everyone deem their mat as their sacred space “Just focus on your breath, rather then on the people around you. You are here for yourself and it is nobody’s business what your practice looks like from the outside.” Then class begins.

“Close your eyes, or keep them open gazing down to the floor, if you prefer”. You feel grateful for this permission, as you feel slightly uncomfortable closing your eyes. “Notice your breath. Notice your in- and exhalations just as they are”.

Notice breath? You don’t feel anything. “And if you don’t notice your breath, just notice that you are not noticing anything”. You are starting to like X more and more.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor is hard though. Your hips are tight and your knees are nowhere close to the floor. X walks over to you and softly suggests you sit on a folded blanket to lift your hips higher than your knees. This way you are able to sit more comfortably with a nice straight spine.

You wonder how she knows all this stuff. You are drifting off in thought. Somewhere in the distance you hear X mention something about the sound of the universe. Suddenly you hear the whole class make a noise that sounds like home. You make a mental note to pay better attention next time.

As the class carries on, you find yourself in animal shapes like Downward Dog, Cobra and Camel. You are not sure if you are doing it right, but now and then X walks over to you and gives you a gentle assist to make sure you are not hurting yourself in the posture.

You learn to place your hands straight under your shoulders every time your hands are on the floor and your arms are bearing weight. X teaches you to keep your elbows tucked into your waist when you lower yourself onto your mat, belly down.

When you notice you have no idea whether you are inhaling or exhaling, you come down on your knees with your forehead on the mat to catch your breath.

You like this Child Pose.

Nobody seems to mind.

You notice how good it feels to breathe deeply and with awareness.

The stretching is not so bad either, although there is no way you can touch the floor when you are bending forward with straight legs. By the end of the class you do this forward stretch again, now seated. You do not understand how the person next to you gets her nose on her knees, as you stealthily glance from the corner of your eye.

X proclaims, “It is not about how far forward you come in this posture. Who cares? I’m sorry to say that you won’t attain instant enlightenment when your nose touches your knees!” The class laughs. You are laughing too. You never thought yoga could be fun!

The best part of class comes when X instructs you to lie down on your back with your eyes closed. Sleeping? You can do that!

It seems like after an eternity you hear X’s soft voice ask you to deepen your breath and wake your body up. As instructed you draw your knees into your chest, roll over to your right side and come back to a seated position. You are proud to remember to sit on your folded blanket.

“Notice how your body feels.”

Open and spacious.

“Notice your breath.”

I can feel it now!

“Notice the quality of your mind.”

Quiet.

“And notice what word wells up from your inside to describe how you feel in this moment.”

Relaxed. Wow! Super relaxed! Never better!

Before leaving the studio you give a heartfelt thank you to your teacher. You will be back tomorrow.

~ Marije E. Paternotte

 

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Marije E. Paternotte