I attended my first Hatha Yoga class last Sunday.
I had to shove all of my body, skill and fashion-based fears aside and come to terms with the fact that I am not Gwyneth Paltrow. You know…doe-eyed; rake thin; ultra-cool; effortlessly chic; clad head-to-toe in ‘Stella McCartney for Adidas’ gear; with matching yoga mat, tucked under my toothpick arm – hanging out of my ‘It Yoga Bag of the moment’…
I left the kids with Grandma to enjoy their own bliss – junk food and anarchy – and headed into the unknown.
I took the “loose, comfortable clothing” instruction literally. (Who are they kidding? I’m a mother of two young boys – that’s my entire wardrobe). I was relieved to see that everyone else in the class were literal too. No pretense, not a designer label in sight. Not one BYO yoga mat either. It was a wildly different experience from arriving at a gym class where there must be a sign on the door saying “Do Not Smile or Make Eye Contact with Other Class Members, You Don’t Know Where They’ve Been”; everyone was casual, relaxed and friendly.
The experience level of the class ranged from complete novice (Yours Truly among them) to very bendy 10- year veterans. That Lifer Yogi set – teacher Annemaree included – exude such grace and elegance. Like a small posse of blissed-out ballerinas; so serene, their eyes so clear with eyeballs so white! They were incandescent. If you squinted you could read by them in a dark room; stick them in a corner and enjoy a romantic dinner. I DEFINITELY want some of that!
During the entire class, Annemaree gently urged and subtly reminded us to move gracefully throughout and between the poses and stances. Easy for her to say! If there is such a thing as a “Gracefulness Spectrum”, Annemaree and the Light-Bulb Bunch swim in the “Gene Kelly / Fred Astaire” end whilst I, and a smattering of others, flail about in the “Edna Everage / Basil Fawlty” beginner’s pool.
Having a complete blank on my ‘left from my right’; falling over occasionally; bumping into the odd classmate; and wondering why the whole class was looking at me quizzically during a stretching exercise, I bless Annemaree for not singling me out. I eventually got it after her repeating “to the class” – in gentle crescendo – “Left leg over right and look left…And look left…And look left. And LOOK LEFT!”
The lack of pretense within the class and encouragement from Annemaree gave us all the good grace and humour to giggle and get on with it. The stuff-ups made the class all the more enjoyable – contrasting wildly with my previous experience “Grape-vining” right while everyone else went left. Step Classes? Don’t even go there.
Through the week leading up to my class I was moved by a blog article from zenhabits.com on “The 7 Steps to an Effortless Life”. Amongst the others, two steps stayed with me – to “Do Less” and to “Have Less”. They became like a mantra each time I found myself slipping into the mental twilight zone of Mother/ Wife- guilt, about not doing enough, or being enough,or doing it right or not doing it like everyone else seems to do it. To close the class we did a deep, blissful relaxation-exercise and one phrase Annemaree murmured within it struck a chord; “Let go of the actions and behaviours which no longer serve you”.
As a recovering “highly intelligent, over-achieving, perfectionist, control-freak”, I immediately thought she was referring to my love affair with wine, drunken faux pas, and penchant for a cigarette or eight. But as the words sit with me now, I think it’s deeper than that. I think, for me anyway, it’s about letting go of that comfortable but harmful thought pattern of not doing enough, or being enough, or doing it right, or not doing it like everyone else does it. Basically, I need to shut the hell up. I AM enough.
I came home from that first class feeling lighter and brighter. However… before you think I’ve swallowed The Little Book of Calm (just like Manny did in an early episode of Black Books) and had some sort of divine transformation – I came home and had a glass of wine and a fag like they do in the movies after great sex. What can I say? I’m still a work in progress. I’m no longer seeking perfection, just inner peace and mental quiet. I will be going back for my next slice of ‘Incandescence Pie’.
P.S. Check out www.coolcalmandcollected.com.au and meet Annemaree. You may not be aware that this is her blog and she has been trusting enough to throw me the keys every fortnight to share my journal with you.
(Contributing writer, student and ‘eternal work in progress’ – Anita Quigley Atherton).